Lessons on Emotions and Parenting from “Inside Out”

by Teal Swan | August 25, 2015 1:43 pm

In today’s world, most parenting advice ignores the world of emotion entirely. It focuses on how to correct misbehavior whilst disregarding the feelings that underlie and cause the misbehavior. Regardless of how far we have progressed, it would seem that the goal of parenting is still to have a compliant and obedient child, not to raise a healthy adult. The goal is to raise a child who is “good.” Our justice system takes the exact same approach with regards to misbehavior. We are concerned with correcting misbehavior and creating good citizens whilst being unconcerned with the feelings that motivate such misbehavior.

Of course there are rare exceptions to this rule, but over the course of human history, the emotional climate of a household has not even factored into the idea of good parenting. Today, we are emerging from a new dark age. We are emerging from the dark age of emotions and feelings. And what we are awakening to is that it is possible to be a good parent to a child on a physical level and a terrible parent to a child on an emotional level. This has vast implication when we acknowledge that emotion is the core of our life and the heart of our relationships. Good parenting involves emotion. Good relationships involve emotion.

Recently, a new film was released called “Inside Out.” “Inside Out” is an animation film all about emotion. It is an imaginative triumph, an artistic depiction of psychology as it applies to emotion or should we say five emotions: fear, disgust, anger, sadness and joy. “Inside Out” is a must see, with one caveat. The film itself requires abstract thinking because unless you can grasp the idea that it is a film made for entertainment value as an artistic depiction, it clearly conveys the idea that emotions control you. This could be a detrimental message to send young children. In the film, the main character, 11-year-old Riley, is depicted as merely a machine being driven by her emotions, emotions she has no control over. Until a child is old enough to conceptualize of the idea that the true self is beyond thought and emotion and therefore not powerless to emotion, it could in fact make a child feel totally powerless.

In the film, five primary emotions control the every day life of Riley. In the beginning (mirroring the beliefs of our current society), it is clear that sadness seems to serve no positive purpose. In fact, sadness is downright unwanted and thus resisted by happiness. But the moral of the story casts sadness in an entirely different light. In fact, the film conveys that sadness is essential to the integrity of Riley’s personality structure. Numbness is in fact the ‘villain’ of the tale. Which spells one thing for the world: Society is waking up and human consciousness is evolving. The overall message of the film is to embrace emotion, even the ones that don’t feel positive.

There is a key moment in the film, when Riley’s mom tells her daughter to cheer up and her father punishes her for her attitude and it only serves to make matters worse. By the end of the film, the parents undergo a kind of parenting makeover as it applies to emotions. Instead of remaining highly un-attuned to their daughter and requiring Riley to be happy because they have determined she “should be” happy, they allow her to experience negative emotion. They receive it and even use it to form a deeper connection with their daughter.

The bottom line is, emotions matter. We would do well to see the importance and value in each other’s feelings – to respect each other’s emotions and to listen for the feelings behind the words. We would do well to open ourselves to being understood and open ourselves to understanding others. And we can’t forget that we are in a relationship with ourselves first and foremost. This means our own emotions need to matter to us. Instead of dismissing and disapproving of our own emotions, we must begin to acknowledge and validate our own emotions. “Inside Out” goes so far as to teach us exactly that.

 

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