Inside Out and the Permission to Feel

Recently I saw the movie Inside Out, which features 11-year-old Riley (and her family) as they move across the country. Her personified emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger navigate Riley through her days, but everything goes awry soon after the move–leaving Riley irritable and wishing to return to a time when life seemed to make sense.

For many reasons, it is a wonderful film–entertaining, clever, and more moving than I even anticipated. Weaved in among all the other positive qualities, I also found it strangely freeing. 

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Feelings and emotions are tricky things. It can be hard to show them at times, hard to know if it’s safe, if it’s wise, if it’s acceptable to be vulnerable enough with people to show them how we’re really feeling. At its core, one of the most important messages of Inside Out is that feelings are okay. Big feelings even, the startling kind that make us take a step back and try to figure out where they’re even coming from.

Riley moved across the country, and I moved a few mere miles, but having feelings about moving is not bad or something to be ashamed of. Moving is a change, and changes can make us feel happy or scared or excited or mad or any combination of any or all of those, plus about a bazillion other emotions–but we don’t need to be afraid of them.

Keeping feelings in indefinitely, trying to pretend they don’t exist, helps no one.

Admittedly, I probably have a few more feelings than the average person, but I’m beginning to be more okay with that. It’s part of how I interpret and process the world around me.

Granted, there are different ways of expressing feelings–some good and healthy, and others are destructive and unhelpful. Learning to express our emotions, in the right ways and in the right spaces and to the right people, is incredibly important. Inside Out was a poignant reminder of the necessity of acknowledging our feelings and working through them, instead of ignoring or running away from them. It’s not easy, simple work, because emotions are complex and shifty things–but it is good and needed work.

Maybe Inside Out will free others to feel their feelings too. 

Til next time…


p.s. What are healthy ways you’ve found to express your emotions?


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