What “Inside Out” taught me

“All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success.” – Fear

The family took me to the movies for father’s day, where we watched the newest Pixar movie “Inside Out”. I assumed that it would be another great movie from the folks at Disney/Pixar (and it was), with ample wisdom for my child to absorb at least a little bit of. What I wasn’t prepared for was the wisdom being one-size-fits-all, applicable for children and adults.

Here’s the premise in a nutshell (with a touch of spoiler): there’s a team of emotions steering your behaviour, and if a couple go missing, your psychological world is thrown into chaos. When we’re children, Joy is the dominant emotion and the desired state of affairs. As we age, it becomes more complex and can’t be painted with one emotional colour. Growing up means having experiences that have a multitude of emotions attached to them. You can’t just drive towards joy to the exclusion of every other feeling.

And that’s where insight leaped from child development to full-grown adult challenges. I realized that I can get stuck chasing unfiltered joy, and that’s an unattainable goal. In fact, chasing happiness that’s devoid of tinges of sadness, regret, fear, anger, etc… is an exercise in frustration. Not only does happiness elude you, so does contentment. You can’t go back to the monotone joy of childhood. And you wouldn’t want to, even if you could. The richness of human experience is built upon the totality of human emotion, both positive and negative. Take the sweet with the sour.

I’m also prone to letting Fear take the helm of my psyche, which can set the bar a little low for goals (see the opening quote above). I need to continue to work on integrating fear into the collaborative emotional team, making him a partner instead of a tyrant. Life will continue to have scary moments to it, but focusing solely on avoiding the things that I fear will keep me from some truly interesting and fulfilling opportunities. 3 cheers for less freaking out!

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