Inside Out and Jumbled Up

I never expected that an animated movie could make me feel so much. That it could reach so far into my heart and find emotions and feelings that I thought were either gone or buried deep. Turns out they were just under the surface, waiting to be triggered. And maybe they will always be there.

The movie I’m talking about is the new Pixar film Inside Out, which is about an 11-year-old girl (Riley), moving from her home in Minnesota to San Francisco. A lot of the movie happens in her head, where we see the different emotions (joy, sadness, disgust, fear and anger) personified as individual characters. It is beautifully made and I was blown away by how imaginative, creative and magical it was.

I was equally impressed with how the filmmakers portrayed her emotions, how they dealt with sadness and how they showed the importance of acknowledging all emotions – because they all play a role in shaping who we are and how we live our life. It showed that sadness is not an emotion to ignore; it’s not something bad and shouldn’t be stigmatized. Sometimes all you need is to acknowledge the sadness, sit with it and let it out. Then you are more likely to find comfort and see the beauty and joy around you.

When we ignore sadness or push it down, we don’t address it and often other emotions/ reactions come out instead – fear, disgust and anger. As Riley struggles with her emotions during this new transition she becomes confused, lonely and angry. Confused at how jumbled her feelings are, lonely without friends at her new school and angry that she was dragged away from her home and her friends.

As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), this movie resonated with me in a way no other movie ever has. I felt like I was watching my story on screen. And I know my TCK husband felt the same. We felt the sharp ache of goodbyes; the deep loneliness of having no friends and eating lunch alone while others talked and laughed around you; the anger and confusion of being torn away from everything familiar and loved. But mostly we felt the sadness… And we were both caught by surprise at the intensity of our emotions.

I’m now 30 years old, and I had a very healthy TCK upbringing. My parents were always supportive, they prepared us for every move, gave us closure and allowed us to grieve. So I thought all those emotions were sorted and neatly packed away in ‘long-term memory’ as the movie showed us. I never expected them to resurface so easily and to overwhelm me the way they did. But when Riley finally admits her sadness to her parents and says how much she misses home, the emotion was so raw, so real and so familiar that my heart overflowed… And so did my tears.

But the beauty of the movie, and of life, is that once you acknowledge the sadness you can address it and you don’t have to deal with it alone. From there it’s uphill because you’re not fighting against it anymore and more importantly you’re not fighting alone.

The movie shows that as Riley strengthens her relationship with her parents, makes new friends and slowly finds her place until this new location becomes home. And that’s how it worked every time for us – once you get past the heartache, loneliness and sadness, you make friends and you make a new home… At least until next time.

I don’t regret this life and despite feeling such raw sadness, I loved the movie. It has so much wonderful humor and such poignant, touching scenes. It wasn’t a sad movie, but it also didn’t shy away from the sad moments. It embraced them and showed how they’re an important part of the bigger picture. I’m grateful that someone took the time to make such a movie and to make it so eloquently and beautifully.

Words cannot really do it justice, so I would recommend this movie with all my heart. If you’re like me you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think, you’ll be amazed by the magic of the movie… You’ll leave feeling inside out, upside down, jumbled up and moved to the core.

But you’ll also leave feeling warm, buoyant and just a little more lit up inside.

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8 thoughts on “Inside Out and Jumbled Up

  1. Now I am going to have to go watch this movie. It sounds like I need to take a box of kleenex with me and forget the popcorn. I may have to make it a homework assignment for my TCK clients as well. Thanks for the review, it is the nudge I needed to go watch it.

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    1. Thanks, Lois. I hope you enjoy it (and that I didn’t oversell it!). I thought they did a fantastic job with the storyline and with the beautiful creativity of the characters/emotions.

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  2. I too saw this flick as a TCK and felt like it reflected back my life. It was just wonderful. I really loved to the embracing of sadness- how it’s a part of life and that it actually has a positive function in creating balance and emotional well-being.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Diahann. I agree – they did such a wonderful job of showing that sadness has an important role to play in emotional well-being and balance. I thought they handled it in such simple, yet powerful ways and the scenes were touching. I enjoyed the movie so much, from beginning to end.

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  3. I loved the movie and your write up about it. I have had several families I work with “re-excited” about creating their own emotion stories based on their travels/moves after seeing this movie. They had found coming up with a ‘sad’ emotion story was easy but now they wanted to re-write their story with a new view on sadness. I think it is a great movie for TCK’s of all ages.

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    1. Thanks so much, Julia. I think that’s a great ‘exercise’ to re-write or re-visit your memories and see them in a different light. I know the movie sparked a lot of conversations between my husband and I – both TCKs but with pretty different TCK experiences/ upbringings. The filmmakers did an amazing job portraying the emotions in a way both young and older could connect to, and I loved that.

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  4. Wow, another thoughtful and insightful post from you! I don’t know anything about this movie and I tend to shy away from anything animated, but now I want to see it. As you know from past conversations, we have similar views that come from very different perspectives, and I can see how I could possibly relate to this movie too. For you, missing home was a place; for me, home was a person. I will put this movie on my list (is it on Netflix??) and thanks for yet another beautifully written piece. : )

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    1. Thank you for yet another lovely comment, Paige! I know you’ve often understood and connected with the emotions I express, through your own set of experiences. I very much understand the notion of home being a person – as TCKs, with our physical home changing so much, true home ends up being about people. It’s where my family is, where my husband is… In your case, I can only imagine how much that person was home for you and how you must miss them/the home they represented. The movie is still showing in cinemas, so I don’t know if it’s on Netflix yet, but I definitely think it’s worth seeing. If you do end up watching it, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I always look forward to reading what you have to say and I know you understand what I write, no matter how different our backgrounds. Experiences and perspectives may be different, but emotions are universal. Thanks again for your comment and I hope you’re having a wonderful summer so far!

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