I took AP Psychology my Senior year of high school.
We learned terms and theories throughout the semester, and, a few weeks before the AP exam, our professor thought it would be a good idea to watch the new Disney movie Inside Out.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed Psych, the concepts we had been studying seemed highly clinical to me. “If someone has depression, their serotonin is affected.” Great, but what about how those serotonin levels make that person feel? Where does emotion fit in and how do those feelings correlate with one’s psyche?
As someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past, I fought with the notion of the “science” of psychology. The process of test taking and term reviews began to feel methodical, and I started to lose the tinge of empathy I had for the meaning behind the words I was learning.
That was until we saw Inside Out. Now a cult classic Inside Out gave words like “happiness” and “sadness” emotive qualities that extended well beyond a page in a textbook. Though arguably juvenile, the movie grants the viewer access into the mind of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley. What makes the movie so revolutionary, is that the plot unfolds in her brain. The focus shifts from conventional physical character development to emotional and heartfelt maturity that is experienced through how Riley chooses to handle various situations using her available resources – namely Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
From a student of psychology’s point of view, I saw emotions as rival pairs. For example, when I viewed feelings such as “happiness” and “sadness” I imagined them as opposing forces who consistently contradicted each other. However, in reality, these emotions work in tandem to form feelings that are much more difficult to define such as “happy-sad”, “fearfully joyous”, and “lovingly angry.” Inside Out teaches how, when dealing with emotions, it is the opposition that allows them to work together.
The complexity of human beings is a difficult subject to teach in a classroom. It is nearly impossible to convey empathy and understanding via words on a page, and that is a hurdle Inside Out succeeds at jumping. It boils emotions down to their essence and makes them conceptually basic enough to grasp while still leaving room for the gray that always accompanies human expression. It is movies like this that fine-tune and hone a more creative and self-aware generation of feeling, expressive, and complex adults.