At the risk of sounding like a movie critic, I highly recommend the movie, “Inside Out.” If you are not familiar with this film it is an animated movie. Animation or not this is a movie for all ages! One of the reasons many people come into counseling is difficulty dealing with emotions. The stories are different, the people involved may be different, the age or gender may be different but when you look down under it all, it becomes about sorting through emotions and feelings and trying to figure out what they are and how to cope. Inside Out is a movie that depicts just this subject. It’s about a young girl trying to cope with all the major changes going on in her life and the committee in her head that appears to be running the show, enter into the picture: fear, joy, anger, sadness and disgust.

Everyone has feelings but not everyone expresses or handles their feelings in the same way. My experience has been that the majority of people don’t like to feel or just don’t know how. Sometimes feelings are considered a weakness, for example the feelings of sadness or fear. Joy, anger and disgust usually are more acceptable feelings. Interestingly, as much as we want to control these feelings and often appear to control them, in the end they control us. We need the full spectrum of feelings in order to fully manage our lives. We need to be able to figure out what’s going on inside in order to function to the fullest on the outside. Feelings are just that, feelings, neither right nor wrong. Feelings should not rule our lives, but when we are able to recognize what we are feelings, they become a barometer that can help us navigate to healthy solution, to move forward and through life’s ups and downs.

So that dreaded question, “What are you feeling?” could actually be considered a logical step in trying to figure out a solution. For example, if you feel hungry, what do you do? Ignore it? Try to push it aside and not feel the hunger pains and stomach growls? Well maybe some do, but usually NO…you eat. You recognize what you feel and the solution is to eat. So if you have some kind of discontent inside maybe it’s a feeling that you just can’t name or don’t want to feel.

Throughout the movie the character Joy is trying to rule. Everything is about being happy and content and she does not want Sadness to have any part of the young girls life. Sadness on the other hand keeps trying to be part of the girl’s life and keeps getting interrupted by Joy. (At the risk of being somewhat of a spoiler alert). Towards the very end of the movie you begin to catch on to the importance of Sadness and her role in the girls life. In fact without Sadness, there can be no Joy. It was through Sadness that the young girl finally is able to move forward and process all the changes. What it took to get there was to recognize and feel the sadness.

Feelings and emotions can be powerful. Many people do not want to tread the waters of emotions. I am not saying that you need to spend years in therapy trying to figure out “what you feel.” I am not saying that you have to go from being strong to being all touchy feely. Feelings and emotions should not be driving your bus. Convictions and beliefs should be driving your bus, but emotions can be on the bus as they often can help us navigate where to go next.

By: Cindy O'Donnell, LCSW