Have you seen this movie yet? If not, go see it. Do it now. I’ll wait. Because I may or may not post spoilers.
It’s probably trendy to write posts about the movie right now, but I don’t care. I have thoughts about it. Thoughts that I think will help parents and teachers make the most out of their conversations with the kids. Because the little ones have thoughts about it too.
The movie was different than so many others because we can learn from it while being entertained at the same time. I’ve listed five lessons – gems – that I found the most impressive and relevant.
Gem 1: A simple illustration of psychological development
Did you notice at the beginning, when Riley was a baby, there was only one button? There were also only two emotions – Joy and Sadness. As she grew, the “control panel” and the number of emotions also grew. This is pretty close to how the brain develops.
Gem 2: A simple illustration of how memory works
Memories that last are tied to emotions. Short term memories convert to long term while we sleep. How we “think” of a memory can change over time. The movie shows the last point with Sadness touching a “Joy” memory and turning it blue – like when we’re remembering a happy time with someone who’s no longer with us, perhaps?
Gem 3: Facts and opinions aren’t always easily separated
This was a teeny tiny piece of the movie that many may have missed, but it was a “holy crap” moment for me. It was when Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong were on the train, trying to get back to headquarters. Joy did a little dance and knocked over a couple boxes labeled “facts” and “opinions”, spilling what looked like Mahjong tiles on the floor and mixing them up. Joy was concerned, but Bing Bong said something about how they always get mixed up. I think we adults can learn something from that part.
Gem 4: Traumatic events and major life changes can throw emotions out of whack
In the movie, this process started when Riley’s family moved across the country and she produced a blue (sadness) “core memory”, or those that become part of who she is. Until this point, all of her core memories were yellow, or joy-related. This threw the emotions into a panic. Joy was determined to keep the sad memory out of Riley’s core, and she and Sadness ended up getting sucked out of headquarters and into another part of Riley’s mind. Fear, Anger, and Disgust were now running the show, and they didn’t do a very good job. At one point, Riley’s control panel froze, and the emotions couldn’t do anything to influence her – likely a beginning illustration of depression.
Gem 5: It’s okay to have negative feelings
I said “oh wow” aloud at the end, when Joy gave Sadness control of the board. Riley had been struggling with the move, with the kids at school, and with basically everything else. Joy had learned that Sadness is necessary to work through things. Riley even said something to her parents to the effect of, “I know you guys want me to be happy, but I’m not.” And her parents loved on her, creating a new core memory that was both joyful and sad.
You guys, this is HUGE. If you and your kids learn only one thing from this movie, make it Gem 5. As kids grow, and their control panels and emotions get more confused, they’ll need to know that their feelings are okay. They’re normal. Everybody has them. And they won’t last forever.
If you’ve seen the movie, what were some of your take-aways?