What I Learned About My Emotions from Pixar’s Inside Out

Posted 06.22.2015

insideoutLast Friday night was movie night for our family and I got to pick. The fact that I chose the new Disney/Pixar movie, Inside Out, instead of Jurassic World probably tells you all you need to know about me. In case you’re not familiar with the premise, Inside Out is an animated tour through the mind of an 11 year old girl who’s struggling with her family’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Five core emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust, are struggling, competing and ultimately working together to get her through a tough time in her life.

It’s a sweet and fun movie that’s sneaky in the way it makes you think. I have to confess that I probably didn’t process as much of Inside Out as I could have in real time because I was so busy thinking about what was going on with my own emotions as I watched it that it was like I was playing my own movie inside my head.

Friday was one of the rare days when I crashed with my multiple sclerosis. Most days I get along just fine with it but when the weather is in a certain state (I think it’s some weird combination of humidity and barometric pressure), I just feel like crap. My wife, Diane, has told me that I look like I’m being squeezed through a tube of toothpaste on days like that. Everything hurts and everything’s stiff. Still, we went to the movies. Diane drove and I dragged myself from the car into the theatre.

The two primary emotions in Inside Out are Joy and Sadness. As I watched the movie, I thought a lot about Sadness while I was feeling sorry for myself because I felt bad. I found the character of Anger (voiced by one of my favorites, Lewis Black) hilarious but didn’t really feel anger myself. I’m pretty much past that as far as the MS goes. I definitely related to Fear because when I feel like I did on Friday, I invariably start projecting into an “Oh no, what if the way I feel right now is my new normal?” kind of mindset. After 20 or 30 minutes of dwelling in that, a different emotion that wasn’t featured in the movie emerged in my mind. I’m not sure exactly what to call it; maybe it was Calm. When Calm came to the forefront, I remembered that over the past six years there have been days or weeks when I felt awful and they always passed. Every time they started, I started worrying that I was entering a painful and uncomfortable new normal and then, literally or figuratively, the weather changed and I felt better again.

That’s exactly what happened this weekend. When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt great. It’s Monday morning as I write this and I still feel great.

My point in this post, though, is not to give you an update on my health. My point is to encourage you this week to pay attention to your emotions. Recognize and name them. If you do that, you’ll think more clearly and likely make better decisions. You’ll be less likely to get yourself in a funk or do or say something stupid.

You may think that your emotions don’t affect you – especially at work. Or, you may think that emotions have no place at work. Whether you think that or not, they’re there. You’re going to be in much better position to manage yourself and others if you name and recognize the emotions at play. If you feel like you need to build your muscles on that front, sneak out to your local theatre and watch Inside Out. It’s only 90 minutes long so it won’t take a ton of your time. You’ll likely enjoy it and just might learn a few things about yourself.

In the words of the late, great Siskel and Ebert, see you at the movies!