Have you seen the film Inside Out? It’s the story of 11-year old Riley and her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. When Riley moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions are thrown into chaos. She struggles settling into her new home away from her friends and her hockey league and has a hard time pretending to be happy for her parents.
After watching Inside Out with my kids at the cinema, I immediately thought, ‘this is what I do for a living!’ The film has some great messages but what I really like about it, is the constant reminder that all Riley’s emotions are equally as significant as each other.
Joy seems to be the leader and reminds us that Riley’s emotions have a role to play, all except one. Disgust stops Riley from being poisoned. Fear keeps her safe from danger. Anger allows her to be a better hockey player whilst Joy herself, keeps Riley happy. However, Joy fails to see the importance of Sadness.
Throughout the film, Joy is always trying to cheer up Sadness or keep her away from Riley’s memories. On Riley’s first day of school, Joy is on a mission to keep Riley happy, giving important jobs to the other emotions. When Sadness arrives, Joy draws a circle on the floor, and tells Sadness that her job is to stay in it, keeping all the sadness inside the circle.
This can be a metaphor for the corporate world. It can sometimes feel like we’re never allowed to be anything but positive in the workplace. When we feel low and we’re bombarded with “Come on! Where’s your passion? Let’s do this!” and we’re told we HAVE to be positive, it can make us feel even worse. Most of us want to feel better, but being told we HAVE to, has the opposite effect. We need to allow people the space to feel what they feel and to let them move through it, rather than resist it. What we resist persists.
The first step is to notice how we feel. How we REALLY feel and acknowledge it, rather than feel ashamed or deny it. This can feel challenging, especially if we’re being ‘told’ how we should feel.
The Rising Vibrational Scale can help with this. It really resonated with one of my clients recently. Usually, when someone asks him how he feels, he’ll say, “I’m aiming for average” and get the usual lecture from the positivity police. But on the Rising Vibrational Scale, contentment and calm are the baseline high vibe feelings, which some would describe as average. So aiming for average is in fact a positive answer! Feeling good doesn’t necessarily mean feeling pure joy and happiness.
At the end of the film when Riley runs away back to Minnesota, it’s Sadness that really helps her. Sadness reboots Riley’s headquarters so that she realises the mistake she’s making and heads back to her parents. When Joy gives the happy memories of childhood to Sadness, Riley is finally able to grieve for the loss of her life in Minnesota. Riley explains to her parents the pressure she feels under to always be happy for them. It’s one of the most moving parts of the film when they empathise with her and allow her to feel sad. We can all connect with that.
Finally being able to feel sadness is a real cathartic moment for Riley. Her childhood memories in Minnesota become both happy and sad, she feels the contrast between both emotions and she’s able to move on.
What a great message for our kids. I don’t know about you but I was often told to be polite and kind and pleasant and to resist anger and sadness as a child. But we should let our kids feel these feelings. As Riley demonstrates, forcing ourselves to be positive all the time is exhausting. We should be supporting our children, and the adults in our lives, to feel all their emotions.
My Son Charlie came home devastated when he didn’t make his football team. He was very dismissive initially, expecting the usual positivity pep talk. This time I simply sat next to him, put my arm around him and said “I bet you feel really upset and disappointed. I completely understand and it’s ok for you to feel like this. I would feel exactly the same way too.” I gave him the space to feel sad. Ok, so he blew up and banished me from his room. But 20 minutes later he was downstairs for a cry and a cuddle and he felt better.
Inside Out teaches us that it’s ok to feel sad or afraid sometimes and when we accept these feelings, we can then take steps to feel better. So called ‘negative’ emotions provide us with contrast and can allow us to feel greater joy as a result. We must acknowledge how we really feel, and understand that all our emotions are as important as each other. Only then can we raise our vibe.
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