Posted by: Patient Advocate Summer Katz, M.A., NCC, LMHC
Sometimes, we’re especially impacted by a particular film. One such movie was Pixar’s “Inside Out” (2015), which I caught at the theater this summer. I was truly moved by the incredible creativity and powerful themes explored throughout the movie. Perhaps you’ve also had a chance to watch it?
Some of you may remember seeing another Pixar movie, “Up” (2009), which explored topics related to grief and loss, attachment and letting go. In similar form, “Inside Out” encourages opportunities to explore and welcomes consideration of emotional acknowledgement using clever animation, character interaction and therapeutic metaphors throughout the story line.
Simply put, we all experience continuous thought and emotion based on a number of changing events throughout life. These movies offer great reminders that we are supposed to allow and occasionally “sit with” the emotional experience, as opposed to concluding that we have to do anything possible to avoid feeling.
Of course, we are unique beings with different values, expectations, and interests – which allow us to choose our own version of entertainment, coping style, or even catharsis. It has been said, however, that we are actually more similar than different. I believe that this is mostly related to the foundation of our human emotional needs, as well as our intrinsic pursuit of health and happiness.
The question becomes, how do we get comfortable enough to just “sit with” our emotions? The first thing to consider in answering this question is acknowledging whether your initial response to stress is to ask yourself, “Why?” If you do react with the why question, consider what it would be like to recognize that the answer to that question actually may never be adequately answered.
Changing this question to a statement encourages you to become more honest about your thoughts and feelings. The statement “I don’t understand” is a phrase I hear quite often in my counseling work, which essentially becomes, “I don’t/can’t accept that.”
So, in considering the difference… Can you allow yourself to feel the emotion without blame; pushing it away or distracting yourself from it? It may help to stop and recognize that anything that exists outside of you is completely outside of your control. This includes other people, their choices, external circumstances and the eventual outcome attached to the developing situation.
So, when you recognize that your thought and emotion is a reaction that truly means “I don’t/can’t accept that”… take a step back and acknowledge the fact that you are not responsible for the external and begin to focus more on what is happening inside of you. We need to recognize that all feelings are valid and that it is ultimately “OK to feel.”
What matters is what we end up doing with those feelings and learn to deter reaction to certain emotions to then utilize healthy coping skills (i.e., take a needed cooling-off period) to respond instead. When you are able to say, “I am… sad, angry, annoyed, or even content, happy, excited”… then take a deep breath and know that it is actually OK to feel these things.
My desire for all of us is that we can grow and develop improved insight through reflection of our genuine emotions, just as much as we need to give ourselves a break from being vulnerable to feeling. Remember, it is ultimately up to us to reach out and pursue the desired or needed tools, techniques and guidance to best support our emotional acknowledgment and coping needs.
We can always take advantage of the readily available self-help resource options (online tips and insight-oriented books). And we should certainly reach out for the support of others (such as family, friends, or even professional mental health treatment) if we are struggling to process difficult thoughts and emotions on our own.
Here’s an article I came across by Mary Ryerse on, “Twelve Ways to Use Inside Out to Teach Emotional Intelligence,” which shares additional tips on helping children recognize the benefits of “allowing themselves to feel.”
Hope this helps for those times when life feels “upside down.”
Summer Katz, M.A., NCC, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment. It does not necessarily represent the views of HHCS Health Group of Companies, Cystic Fibrosis nor Freedom Pharmacies.