July 2015
The Importance of Being Sad

Pixar’s latest creation Inside Out is a simple story, but one that is sure to stimulate conversation.  The movie takes place mostly in the head of an 11-year old girl Riley, an only child, whose idyllic world is turned upside down when she and her parents move to San Francisco.  Riley's emotions, led by Joy, guide her through this difficult, life-changing event, but the stress of being uprooted and starting a new life in a strange city and new school brings Sadness to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley's mind, the only emotions left in Headquarters are Anger, Fear and Disgust.  The film covers a lot of psychological concepts including the complexity of human emotions, the importance of memory, and the role of the unconscious. 
Another central theme is the understanding that emotions of discomfort are an important part of our psychological system.  We are not always going to feel great about ourselves. We are not always going to get along with our loved ones. We are not always going to feel motivated.  Life is hard and full of challenges. The power of positive thinking isn’t always enough.  Gabrielle Oettingen, a psychology professor at New York University, writes about this very idea in her book published at the end of last year, Rethinking Positive Thinking.
All too frequently in our society the messaging that people get is that it's not normal or healthy to be experiencing unpleasant emotions.  Accordingly, it's not unusual for individuals to resort to alcohol or drugs in an effort to self-medicate and escape or lessen these feelings. “We live in a society that tends to be very happy-driven. So we tend to discount the importance of sadness and of frustration,” comments University of Texas cognitive psychologist Art Markman in an interview with about Pixar’s Inside Out.  
At Freedom Institute, we understand that all the emotions we experience play important roles in our lives. We accept that there are appropriate times and places to be sad and we support healthy approaches to handling these difficult emotions.  So we applaud the people at Disney and Pixar for taking on a subject of such importance and doing it in a manner than young people can understand.  It's highly possible that even some adults who accompany their kids to this movie may learn something too.

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