The Real Inside Out

Pixar has just released a new animated film, Inside Out, which takes place largely inside the mind of an 11 year-old girl. Pete Doctor, the director, decided to personify 5 major emotions—joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. These are shown as 5 characters struggling to control what the girl feels and how she acts. It is a sweet film, showing the importance of family, the difficulties of growing up, and also how each emotion has an adaptive side as well as a difficult side.

I highly recommend Inside Out for children, and, for adults who enjoy animation, it has many interesting references, too. There are even more cool things in the film, like how it represents memories and important themes in a person’s life. If you know someone who is new to the idea of parts (subpersonalities), the film could introduce it to them in a fun way.

The director got some help with the science behind the film, but he mainly looked at the understanding of emotions from psychology. Unfortunately, it seems that he didn’t explore what is known about the mind from psychotherapy. He didn’t realize that he could have done much more than just creating cute personifications of our emotions, that our minds are actually made up of sub-personalities, sometimes called parts, which really are like little people inside us.

If he had looked into psychotherapy, he would have seen that there is a rich history of approaches to therapy that work with sub-personalities–Jungian Analysis, Psychosynthesis, Gestalt Therapy, Voice Dialogue, and Ego-State Therapy, just to mention a few. And Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is the latest and most sophisticated of these approaches. Parts are far more than just emotions. Some parts try to protect us from pain or keep us from getting hurt. Some are child parts that are in pain from the past. And so on. By working directly with our parts, we have the power to engage in deep healing of psychological issues and make important changes in our behavior to get what we want in life.

The film could have been even richer and more accurate if it had been based on IFS. But nevertheless, it is a great film, and I take my hat off to Pete Doctor and Pixar for venturing into this territory.