Conversation Starters from Inside Out

I love Pixar and their creative power in great story telling. So when Pixar released Inside Out, I was thrilled. Inside Out depicts the emotional world of 11 year old Riley. The film follows Riley through a cross country move and her new life in San Francisco. All the while, the viewers get an inside peak into Riley’s brain, run by Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger, with special appearances like the Thought Train, Abstract Thought, and her old imaginary friend, Bing Bong. The film is chock-full of great insights that help us integrate our emotional world into everyday life. Here are a few ways you can use Inside Out to start a conversation about emotional well being at home:

  • What is each emotion's job?

Throughout the movie we come to see the vital role that each of the emotions play. Even Sadness, who is often neglected by the other emotions, comes to play an integral role in Riley’s adjustment to her new life. Our emotions are like a thermometer, alerting us to something important. At home, brainstorm each emotion’s job is in your life.

  • Who’s driving right now?

Each character in the film has a go-to controller of their emotional command system. For Riley, this is Joy. Because each emotion has a job, it is important to listen to them all in balance. We don’t always have to listen only to sadness or only to fear or only to joy, let each emotion have their voice. Throughout the day, check in with yourself and ask “Who is driving right now?”

  • Develop a new emotional language.

In our culture we don’t use very many feeling words. “How are you” is more of a greeting than a question expecting a response. Now that you have noted the importance of each emotion, it’s time to practice identifying & sharing feeling moments. Make this fun -- maybe use Uno or create color cards, be creative!  Each time you play a special card, share a moment when you felt the emotion correlating to that color: sad, angry, joyful, fearful or disgusted. With older kids, you may even share complex emotions where two or more emotions co-exist in one feeling.

  • What are your personality islands?

Riley has 4 main personality islands (family, friends, hockey, & goofy islands) formed from important core memories. Ask your family for a tour of their personality islands, asking “what is most important to you here? What memories come up on this island?” For extra fun, pull out some art supplies and draw each island.

Inside Out provides a non-threatening way to talk about our internal world, a place that can often feel nebulous or intangible. Use the characters and themes of the movie to start these important conversations at home!