Jun 25 2015

Tracey Jackson



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Discovery, Emotions, Family, Fear



There is a new Pixar movie called INSIDE OUT. I’m not going to spoiler alert this for anyone. My advice is – go see this film. In the theatre. Big screen. Surround sound. Popcorn in hand. Get the full-on Technicolor, no distractions movie experience.

Inside Out is the story of Riley, an eleven-year -old girl whose many conflicting emotions are starting to take over. It shows us a human being from the POV of their feelings. Each emotion has an individual personality. It is truly genius.

In Riley’s emotional headquarters there is a command post where the different emotions each take turns at the controls. When you think about it, this is exactly the way we are. One minute it’s fear, the next joy, then anger steps in and makes the decisions.

The emotions that are at Riley’s controls are Joy, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Joy, up until this point has been the numero uno emotion in Riley’s life. Joy is the head of the emotional team. Which makes sense, as joy is the controlling emotion for most children. We hope. Though as we all know this is not always the case. And is a perpetually joyful state something we expect of kids? Do we insist that they are always happy? Do we not feel better if they are? And is that not an imposition? Is it practical or realistic?

Our emotions become more complex and often in conflict as we grow and start experiencing rejection at school, loss, self-doubt, fears of being accepted, acceptable, and popular. This might be the root of the grumpy adolescent’s foul and unpredictable moods.

Around eleven is often when the safe and familiar starts being tested and removed from our lives.

It is usually around this age that our more complex emotions start appearing and affecting our behavior.

In the film they talk about our core memories. Riley has her core memories safely tucked away. They are vitally important for her sense of well-being and happiness. Most of them are happy moments. Winning a hockey game. Good times with her friends and family. Cheery family life is a core memory she needs to keep in tact. Because those core memories are usually the ones that dictate how we respond in the present. If our core memories are mostly happy and positive, we tend to be content and more centered.

Joy, the emotion that vigilantly guards over Riley’s feeling state holds onto these core memories and tries to make sure that sadness or fear does not literally color them blue and take away their positive glow.

The movie is about accepting all our emotions and ultimately…No. No. No. I am not going to spoil it.

But, what I took away from this film is I started asking myself in a more visual way, (movies have a way of doing that) what memories were my core memories. Do I allow the more negative ones to influence what I feel and I how respond?

Do I replay my father picking me up at school and telling me his life was better without me and I was the worst thing that ever happened to him? Which is a core memory for me. It is much easier to access than say, the day he taught me to ride a bike and I felt like he was actually proud of me and liked me. Certainly, the first one has played a much more central role in my self-esteem and the way I respond to certain types of negative situations than the bike one has. The bike, is a nice memory, the other is core.

I started breaking them down. Which ones were cores and how negative were they? I need to start looking for more joyful ones in times of trouble or when dark moods creep in. I can’t let anger or fear take over the controls.

In the film Riley is far too young to control her emotions. Part of the lesson in the film is her learning to listen to them and not just react to them. That is part of growing up. We can’t all just let our inner Lewis Black run wild because we are momentarily pissed off: Just as we cannot let fear be the dictator in our interior land of emotions.

There are so many valuable lessons in this film. There is so much to think about.

One of my favorite scenes is when someone in the land of thoughts was sorting through things we interpret, they were little chips of ideas, they came across a box of opinions and facts. They had to put them in the right places. “We tend to get them confused. They are not the same thing.”

That was a lesson I needed to be reminded of this week.

I promise you this is not a kid’s movie. In fact the audience was full of grown ups.

It asks and presents all the right questions and it doesn’t answer them for you, which makes you walk out of the theatre and start answering them for yourself.

Pretty darn good idea if you want my opinion. Pass the popcorn. Please.



Tracey Jackson

Tracey Jackson is a screenwriter and blogger at traceyjacksononline.com. Her book Gratitude and Trust is now available.