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Lions Roar : January 2016
Many of us tend to dismiss anger, fear, sadness, and disgust in favor of positive emotions like joy. We fight against or avoid these emotions because we don’t see their use. But not giving our emo- tions room to be felt fully leads to act- ing them out in unconscious, rigid, and harmful ways. Valuing these “negative” emotions means understanding how they can lead to positive outcomes. For example, mak- ing room for anger allows us to clearly see injustice and act against it with a sense of purpose. Fear and disgust help us see danger and avoid harm. Sadness is perhaps the most impor- tant emotion to meet with full awareness. In the movie, sadness acts as the vehicle for the maturation of Riley’s personality. It colors happy memories with the inevi- tability of change and loss and allows Riley to reengage life with openness, curiosity, and energy. Sadness and joy work together to create a fully nuanced personality. Inside Out is very clear about the dif- ference between sadness and depression. At one point, the characters Joy and Sadness get locked out of the control room. Without the steadiness of these two basic emotions, Anger, Fear, and Disgust go into panic mode, and eventu- ally they’re also shut out of the control panel. Then we see Riley descend into depression, a state of apathy and despair, because she is disconnected from the vibrancy of emotional intelligence and connection. After you’ve considered the message of the film for your own life, you’re ready to use it as a way to talk about emo- tions with your children. In dis- cussions like these, it’s often best to let them take the lead. So after watching Inside Out, you could ask them what they liked about it or what disturbed them. If you have very small children, they might say they liked the humorous, exciting story or felt reso- nance with a particular character. You could then engage in some roleplay by asking them to take on the personalities of the different emotions. Having a child act out Anger, Fear, or Disgust can be liberating. Your task is to welcome these feelings as natural, even exciting. The lesson here is that everything your child feels is normal. With older children, you can talk about some of the questions that you have asked yourself. You can also ask them: • What emotion is the strongest in your life? • Are there some emotions that you try to avoid? • What happens when you do that? • Do you, like Riley, try to be good and cheerful even when you are feel- ing sad, angry, disgusted, or fearful? What does that feel like? Riley doesn’t have an easy time in the movie. She experiences transition, loss, desperation, and shame. You can ask your older child if he or she has had similar experiences. It’s possible that you’ll hear stories from school or friend- ships that will surprise you. Do your best to listen with attention and com- passion, without trying to fix your child or give advice. The final lesson of Inside Out is that joy and sadness are a pair. Together, they help us connect to each other with love and understanding. Note your own, your partner’s, or your children’s resistance to any of these primary emotions. Remem- ber that allowing everyone to feel what they feel, without mind- lessly acting on those feelings, can be liberating for the entire family. ♦ BIG SCREEN DHARMA Intentionally or not, lots of movies do a great job of illuminating Buddhist ideas, giving us an entertaining way to contemplate the dharma. Here are some of my favorites. I Know Where I’m Going (1945) This little-known cult classic, from the renowned filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is about the impos- sibility of control and the delights of the unexpected. Fearless (1993) Starring Jeff Bridges and directed by Peter Weir, this is a cautionary tale about the danger of losing ourselves in the limitless possibilities of emptiness ungrounded in form. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) In Michel Gondry’s fable of love and con- nection, reality and memory are in flux, and true love triumphs beyond the limits of space and time. Lars and the Real Girl (2007) This tender film, starring Ryan Gosling and a blow-up doll named Bianca, reveals the healing power of community and the acceptance of grief and humanness. The Lego Movie (2014) An animated exploration of the dangers of conformity and joyful possibilities of creativity. Plus, “Everything is Awesome!” —Melissa Myozen Blacker ©DISNEY/PIXAR SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 22 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE