How the Film "Inside Out" Increases Emotional Intelligence

How the Film "Inside Out" Increases Emotional Intelligence

I started writing this review last summer and never finished it because I didn't feel like I was on the right track. Initially I wanted it to be about how the film portrayed a false message; emotions control you. I wasn't satisfied with what I was writing, so instead of analyzing my work, I pushed it aside and tried not to think about it. When it came out on iTunes last November, I thought about writing it again, but still pushed it aside. When it won the Oscar for best animated feature this year, I again thought about getting back into this review. It kept coming to my mind, but nothing came of it.

I lost my connection to the film...until last week. During a training program I was leading I had my group take an emotional intelligence test. Emotional Intelligence is defined simply as the ability to perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions. I forgot I had a clip from "Inside Out" in my presentation under the heading "Emotions Work Together". I added it to the slideshow immediately after I saw the film last summer, but never played it for a group because we would usually run out of time. This particularly class was ahead of schedule though, so I played it. It was the concluding scene of the film where Riley,12, comes back home from running away and reveals to her parents how much she missed her old life in Minnesota. She embraces her sadness fully for the first time in her life and breaks down.

As I was watching this clip, I started to remember the films's impact on me a year ago...and started to cry! In front of the entire training group here I was, their leader, crying my eyes out. It was my "Puppy in a Cup" moment. Luckily, some of the women were crying too.

But as my lip quivered for the fourth time, it came to me. I repressed writing this blog just as Riley repressed the emotion of sadness. The movie is about repression not about how your emotions control you. Repressing an emotion is just as bad as allowing your emotions to govern your actions, which is why I always cry at the end of the film "Warrior".

Emotional Intelligence
Emotions can get the best of us, not only at a young age as they are developing. Adults repress emotions all the time allowing them to build up and explode over the most innocent of victims, like a sweet old lady or your two year old daughter after she asks you to play "Let it Go" for the one millionth time. We will give into these repressed emotions at one point because the load to is too heavy. This is where emotional intelligence comes in.

Emotional Intelligence is something you can begin practicing now and "Inside Out" provides a visual guide to help you achieve it. There are five stages to developing EI (Emotional Intelligence); Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Self-Motivation, Interpersonal Communication, and Emotional Mentoring. I want to focus on just the first two, SelfAwareness and Self-Management, to make my point in this review, but encourage you to read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 to help you achieve a higher emotional quotient for your own personal development.

Self-Awareness is the most important step. It involves simply becoming aware of what you are feeling and allowing yourself to feel an emotion physically. You cannot repress the emotion, which is what Riley was doing for the first two acts of the film. She repressed Sadness, I use a capital "S" because emotions are characters in this film. Sadness was being repressed by Joy the entire movie. Joy did not allow Sadness to help Riley through her daily life. Sadness became a repressed emotion for her. On her first day at a new school though, that emotion exploded.

While Riley was introducing herself in class, she had a "sadness spurt". Overwhelmed by Joy's  pressure to constantly fill Riley with happiness, a wave of sadness came flooding in. She started to cry in front of her class mates about how much she missed her old life (Puppy in a Cup Again). Even Sadness, the character, said she had no control over what she was doing when she started turning all of Riley's bright yellow joyful memories into soft blue sad ones.

It sounds childish, but is actually very accurate to what happens internally when we repress an emotion. I am a very patient person, but my patience comes with emotional repression. I grew up repressing my thoughts and feelings because I was never taught otherwise. I've seen my brother repress his anger for years at some of our family members because he was never taught how to handle emotional crises.

Several months ago I saw a father scald his 8 month old son for crying at the zoo. He lifted his son off the floor and said, "Stop crying! Men don't cry!" Sadly, this parenting mentality still exists and teaches children to repress their feelings at an early age. No wonder men have so many commitment issues!

Self-Awareness is all about feeling. There is nothing wrong with feeling an emotion, even if that emotion is fear or anger. The whole point of feeling the emotion is so you can decide the appropriate response to it. If you cannot feel an emotion you cannot react to it properly. Think of a glove and a needle. Have you ever tried to sew with a glove on? It makes it very difficult to thread the needle because you cannot feel it. We tend to wear emotional gloves over our hearts that make it difficult for us to thread the needle of our emotional responses. Consistent repression leads to emotional numbness and this is what happens to Riley when her emotions go out the tube... literally they go out a tube and into another facet of her brain.

As Riley's emotional numbness sinks in, she starts making poor decisions and acts out of character. She talks back to her parents, she steals her mother's credit card, and ultimately tries to run away. She begins to lack Self-Management. Plainly stated, Self-Management is the ability to manage your emotions, control impulses, and shake off bad moods. If Self-Awareness is the  needle, then Self-Management is the hand croqueting your emotional decisions. Without this technique, it is very difficult to act decisively.

I always see a pattern when I give others their emotional intelligence test. Many have high self-awareness scores, but low self-management scores. There is a connection between the two because the more you allow yourself to feel the more emotions you will have to manage appropriately with increasing difficulties. If we are an open door to emotions then we must learn to sleep on big emotional decisions before making them. Riley is an emotional door because she is a child. Children are still learning how to respond to emotions and that is why they take over her so often. Joy tries to become the ultimate emotional manager for Riley, but ends up repressing other emotions that don't make Riley happy rather then manage each individual crises.

Emotional Dictators

Why does it seem like the emotions are controlling the characters? Because there exists a lack of self management here especially within the adults. Riley's dad showcases this when he loses his temper with her over dinner. Without much conflict he allows his anger to control his decisions when Riley talks back. The emotionally intelligent thing to do would have been for him to ask why she was acting out of character rather than allowing his anger to fuel hers. The film can be read that our emotions control us and there is nothing we can do about it.

However, we are not our emotions. We are so much more than that. Emotions can be great enablers for our lives, but they are not the final decision maker in our lives. There is something higher that allows us to freely choose to act on an emotion or surpass it, just like desires. If we ate overtime we felt a little hungry then we would be eating all the time. If we had sex overtime we felt the urge, we would be in a lot of trouble. We have to learn how to control desires and most of us can do that.

Emotions are no different than those desires. We first must ask ourselves where is the emotion coming from, what am I feeling, and most importantly,  why am I feeling it? Emotions are not the dictators in your brain, if that were the case you would be enslaved by them. You know people in your lives who are enslaved by emotions.

I really enjoyed this film from the inside out. I even liked how the emotions themselves had emotions. It showcases a world of intrinsic beauty inside each human person. I believe watching this film with your child and explaining it to them opens up the door for a natural and authentic relationship about emotions and the things they are feeling. A child may use this film as an excuse whenever they act out of anger though. So, they must be taught that feeling anger is okay, but they have the choice to manage it rather than repress it. And you must provide them with the tools to do so.

Further reading on Inside Out and Emotional Intelligence
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