I took my two children to see Inside Out on Friday night, the latest Pixar movie. Pete Docter's film tells the story of 11 year old Riley who is an only child living with a mum and dad who love her more than anything else in the whole world. Riley's 11 years on the planet has mainly happy, precious memories of fun times spent with family and friends. Riley loves Ice Hockey and plays in a team and spends lots of time skating on the ice with her mum and dad. The amazing thing about this film is that it shows us the inside workings of Riley's mind and shows how all the emotions work to help her make the right decisions. I love Joy voiced by Amy Poehler -she is the happy emotion, the optimistic one who always, no matter what tries to look on the bright side of life. She constantly battles with the other emotions to ensure happiness always wins through and most of the time, until Riley moved that is, she succeeds. The other emotions, fear, anger, disgust and sadness were always in Joy's shadow, she worked hard daily to ensure all the memories Riley banked each day had a bright yellow glow.
What I loved about this film is that it embraces our emotions and teaches children (not to mention adults) how important our emotions are in our lives. It also helps us see how we can change the emotional content of our mind by being more mindful about how we feel, simply by paying more attention. When Riley moved to San Francisco her world turned upside down. Her home was no longer warm and welcoming, her father was stressed at work leaving less time to spend with her and school just wasn't the same. She had no friends and even lost her temper when she tried out for the ice hockey team. Riley was going through a bad stage in her life and like most children struggled (emotionally) to deal with it. Inside her mind we witnessed her core memories starting to fall apart. Riley had five core memories, goofy island (where she played and was silly with her mum and dad), family island, friendship island, hockey island and honesty island. These were the 5 most important things in Riley's life and the things she held dear to her at all times. However, when life didn't go the way she wanted it to go her core islands were destroyed one by one.
As a teacher this film is an exciting educational tool to help children understand how important it is to build core beliefs and find out what is important to them and encourage them to ensure they keep them safe and secure. We all have core memories - the things in life that are more important to you than anything else. We have to work hard to treasure and protect them. What I loved most about the film is that Joy didn't save the day, sadness did. It showed us, as well as Joy, that although happiness is a vital ingredient for a good life we also need our other emotions. They need to work together as a team to help us get the balance right. Sometimes the anger we feel reminds us what is really important to us and helps us make positive changes in our lives which will, over time, make us much happier. Sometimes fear is needed to keep us safe. Sometimes fear can motivate us and can give us a great sense of achievement because even though we were scared we carried on regardless. Sometimes periods of sadness brings us closer to the people we love, as it did in Riley's case. Sadness can help us and lead us down a much happier path if we can just learn to embrace it.
I like to call it riding the wave. At 11 I saw my dad take a stroke in front of me, something I will never forget. My teenage years were the hardest years of my life so far nursing my dad through 10 years of illness so you see I understand the importance of riding the waves and accepting that life isn't always great and that is ok. You have to take the highs with the lows but you can learn how to cope with the lows better. You can remind yourself that it is not always going to be this way, that things will get better and the good times will always far outweigh the bad so you always have lots to look forward to. I don't believe in helplessness. We all have the responsibility to make our lives better every day and making sure your little ball of optimism in your head can be heard will make all the difference.