By Sabrina Bartels – During my lazy weekends, I love to whip up some homemade pizza, throw a movie into the DVD player, and curl up under a blanket with my husband. While our pizza tastes stay pretty static, our ideal movie varies depending on our moods. Some days, we need a good action movie, complete with car crashes and flames. Once in a while, it’s a thriller that keeps us on the edge of our seats. And sometimes, when we are in a goofy mood, we find ourselves kicking back and watching some sort of animated feature.
I’ll be honest, I will blame our nieces for our love of cartoon movies. Whenever they come over, or Rob and I drive out to see them, they want to watch a movie. It doesn’t matter that they have seen Frozen more times than I count, or that they know every word to Wreck-It Ralph; a movie is always a perfect way to end the day.
This past year, we heard tons of great things about Inside Out, so we finally decided to watch it a few nights ago. (Plus, it just won an Oscar, which shows it is the epitome of excellence!)
Let me just start by saying this: Everyone needs to watch this movie. Seriously. If you are reading this blog post now, just hop over to Amazon and buy it. Or run out and get it from Redbox. It is that fantastic.
A quick summary: The movie follows the story of Riley, a middle-school aged girl who moves across the country. As you follow her journey about moving, fitting in, and finding her niche, you are introduced to her five key emotions: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust. Each emotion has its own personality: Fear panics over everything, Anger shoots flames out of his head and is constantly crabby, and Disgust rolls her eyes at almost everything. In truth, these emotions are perfect examples of what I see in my office!
The best part of the movie is that it examines each emotion and explains all of the layers that we as humans have. As you watch, you see how Riley has different sides to her, how certain emotions can take control all of a sudden, and the dangers of shutting down emotionally when things occur. It is such an intricate look at what it is like to be a middle schooler. For me, as an adult, it explained a lot about emotions, not only what I feel, but what my students must feel. And for any of my middle school students who see the movie, they not only get to laugh (and cry) at the movie, but they also get a chance to understand why they may feel a certain way. It is such a great tool when it comes to discussing emotions.
Most importantly to me, this movie now opens up the chance to have an honest conversation about emotions and mental health. So many times, people either feel the need to hide their emotions or sweep them under the rug. Having a movie completely centered around emotions shows that it is okay to express your emotions. It is okay, and even healthy, to be in-tune with them. On the opposite side, some people may feel that their emotions – especially if they are prone to feeling overwhelmed – make them weird. This movie normalizes emotions. It makes being angry and being sad okay. It doesn’t mean that you are a freak, or weird, or “different.” It shows that experiencing several emotions at once or feeling like your emotions are clashing against each other happens, and that’s okay.
In addition to watching the movie, I’ve been spending some time on Pinterest looking at some lesson plans that people have been creating to pair with the movie. These lessons span age ranges: four year olds can create masks of each of the emotions to help them express their feelings; middle schoolers can learn about how their emotions come into play with grief; and college students can use the movie to learn about perseverance and overcoming obstacles to be successful. I really encourage that counselors and teachers browse Pinterest if they are searching for lessons on expressing emotions!