Tomorrow, Disney-Pixar’s newest animated film, Inside Out, officially releases in theaters. Without giving too many plot spoilers… The movie centers on a young girl, Riley, whose mind is controlled by embodiments of five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. When her family moves from Minneapolis to San Francisco, her emotions try to help her manage all of the changes that have ensued.
I spoke with Premier’s Dr. Allie Wagener earlier this week to talk about how our emotions work and what we can do to manage them while we’re under duress.
Inside Out centers around five emotions, but we don’t operate using just five emotions—how many emotions are there/do we operate on a spectrum of emotions?
Dr. Allie: There is not a limit to how many emotions a person can experience. It’s pretty amazing being a human being that we get to feel an abundance of emotions that range from joy to excitement, fear, love, worry, jealousy, and disappointment to name a few. Emotions are often transient, and we may experience hundreds of emotions throughout our day—some lasting longer or impacting us more severely than others.
How do our emotions play a role in how we function? (In the movie, it seems as if the emotions control how Riley acts in everyday situations, but our emotions don’t control us, do they?)
Dr. Allie: It is easy to fall into the trap that emotions do control us because they can feel so powerful. However, we are the ones in control of what we do, what we say, and how we react. We may not be able to control what we feel or experience emotionally, but we do have control over how we respond to those emotions. For example, an athlete may strike out while batting and experience disappointment or sadness. Both are two emotions that are natural to feel after striking out. The athlete does not have control over how he feels about his at-bat, but he does have control about how he reacts as he walks back to the dugout. He can exhibit actions associated with those negative feelings (i.e. hangs his head, throws his helmet on the ground, or says out loud “I am terrible.”) or he can walk back to the dugout in a positive way (i.e. head held high, high-fiving his teammate who is on deck, saying out loud “I got it next time”).
Our emotions don’t control us, and we can’t control our emotions either – but how do we best manage them? Do you have any advice on how to, for example, calm yourself in a stressful situation?
Dr. Allie: Being mindful and aware of our inner experience (emotions, sensations, thoughts) and allowing room to experience those emotions without judgment can enhance our abilities to be kind to ourselves and respond in a favorable way that is consistent with what is important to us. Learning what triggers you to react in unhealthy ways is key. Monitoring yourself throughout the day to gauge where you are at emotionally can help inform you when you need a break or give you cues that talking to a teammate or engaging in a relaxation exercise may be a good idea. Mini mental check-ins can be easily placed in throughout your day to help keep you in tune, both mind and body.
Any sort of change presents its challenges—Riley’s main change is her move from Minneapolis to San Francisco—what are some techniques that we can do to help us respond to change most healthfully?
Dr. Allie: Change can be difficult but maintaining a positive perspective and finding the value in the change can be useful. Hearing different points of view can also help ground you. Finding a routine or some consistency within your day or life can help you feel more at ease. Also allowing some flexibility within that time period of change to be free flowing would be helpful. Change can mean growth, even if it is painful at times—it is through pain that we often find our values and what is important to us. Connect with those things that are important to you during this time period.
Inside Out premiers in many theaters tonight. It looks like a great movie—especially since it centers on what goes on inside our minds. Be sure to check it out—we know we will!