How Inside Out Helps us Understand Mixed Emotions

In the film Inside Out created by Pixar, the audience get’s a look into the varying emotions that individuals can have in many different situations. One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the reality and understanding that all individuals have emotions, that sometimes can feel straightforward while other times are mixed and confusing. Another part of this movie that can be helpful for most viewers is breaking down the emotions into chromatic colors, that help people process the emotions they are feeling.

For example, a popular tool used in therapy includes an emotions and feeling wheel. Once a person has identified the core emotion they are feeling, taking a closer look at the secondary and tertiary emotions they are feeling can get to the core of their internal state. Some examples include, if someone identifies fear as being a primary emotion some underlying emotions they could be feeling are frightened, inferior, worried, or insecure. Or, if someone is feeling joyful as the primary emotion some underlying emotions they could be feeling include proud, content, eager, delighted, or amused. As an illustration, here is a graphic I found by Christophe Haubursin:

Within the movie, an example that I can think of where Riley, the main character has an overlap of emotion is when she has a memory that flashes back to when she used to play hockey with her parents at her old house. At first, she feels joy and pure happiness, yet this memory is soon thwarted with the emotions of sadness and she remembers that what was, is no longer. These emotions are common, especially for individuals grieving the loss of something. This could be the loss from a move, like Riley went through, to the loss of a loved one, pet, job/career, home, friend, or even community. Remembering that many instances in life don’t have one singular emotions wrapped into the event can help us understand ourselves and others better.

The emotions that are highlighted in Inside Out include the following:






Understanding that these emotions play a major role in our everyday lives in how we feel internally through our cognitions as well as how we react to each other through behaviors is fundamental. Even just having a basic understanding in the idea that emotions generally guide the choices we make, can help us make more conscious decisions.

When you have an intense emotions rise up within you… what do you notice? Sometimes it might be a smile on your face without noticing, your heart racing quickly, a sense that you may start crying, your palms are sweaty, or maybe you are really tired and not super hungry. Although, other various factors may contribute to many of these physical or physiological symptoms they are some signs that could point to one of these emotions being felt.

Next, if you are in a situation and have these intense emotions rise up within you communicating them with a safe and trusted person can help you calm down, feel seen, validated, and heard in those moments. Additionally, this understanding is helpful when others are in moments of triumph or despair. We can sit with one another in some of the greatest victories and some of the deepest despairs. Knowing someone is there who can listen to these situations is key in helping you move forward, or helping someone else move forward.

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