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Inside Out 2 - Ask A Therapist

This summer’s blockbuster hit Inside Out 2 has garnered the praise of critics and captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Just as the original film did, the sequel delves into the complex world of emotions. This attention to the human experience of feelings has resonated with audiences. But what do therapists think about the movie’s portrayal of mental health concerns?

Here’s what some of our clinicians at Brentwood Counseling Associates had to say:

  • How does the movie portray the complexity of emotions beyond the basic five from the original film? What new emotions are introduced, and how do they interact with the existing ones?

Gilda Linder: Inside Out 2 provides a fuller range of emotions than the original as the main character is maturing physically as well. The emotions of anxiety, embarrassment, ennui, envy, and nostalgia are introduced to help Riley cope with puberty. Nostalgia is dismissed for later access; however, I do feel this is a missed opportunity. I recall in adolescence acknowledging the loss of childhood, symbols of youth, and innocence with nostalgia for simpler times. The new emotions seem to compete with the basic emotions until there is a realization that life’s complexities often yield mixed feelings. 

  • What scenes in the movie highlight the importance of acknowledging and validating all emotions, even those that are less pleasant or harder to understand?

Gilda Linder: I felt the scene where Joy is tossing away negative memories and sending them to be forgotten was a powerful foreshadowing of impending doom. The memories we try to ignore do not leave our system. They simply remain dormant until some connection or event resurfaces them with additional pain, distorted beliefs, and emotional overwhelm. This is highlighted in the movie as all the emotions realize the importance of the full range of emotions–none of which are bad and all of which are purposeful–and the whole person. This integrated self at the end of the movie highlights congruency and wholeness rather than fragmentation, denial and shame. 

How The Film Handles The Concept of Emotional Regulation…

  • How do the characters demonstrate strategies for regulating their emotions in the face of new challenges? What specific techniques do they use?

Gilda Linder: One tool that was demonstrated was simply acknowledging the emotion and allowing space for it. The character is allowed to cry when it is appropriate. Another technique I saw demonstrated was when the character had a panic attack and felt the bench beside her, took deep breaths, and recalled resources to ground herself. I also liked that at the end, Riley was choosing which emotion (Joy) she wanted in the moment rather than the emotions controlling the individual. This demonstrated self-regulation and mindfulness. 

Travis Moore: In the final scene, Anxiety is in a tizzy about matters out of their control.  Joy is able to refocus Anxiety’s worries onto a thought/worry that can be controlled.   When they refocus their attention onto matters within control (in that case, a Spanish test) they are able to direct that anxious energy in a helpful outlet. 

  • What moments in the film can serve as examples for clients on how to manage overwhelming emotions or emotional outbursts?

Gilda Linder: I feel the panic attack is an obvious choice. Riley tolerated the anxiety, breathed through it, felt objects near her to ground and become more present, and interestingly Joy was able to put Anxiety at peace. Choosing joy, hope, gratitude to reflect upon can also help manage overwhelming distress. 

How Inside Out 2 Demonstrates the Role of Family Dynamics and Support…

  • How does the movie depict the role of family and social support in emotional development? What positive and negative family interactions are highlighted?

Joy Lisea: As we begin to understand Riley, more, we see she has a strong desire to please other people. As she is learning more about how to fit in, the positive belief system from her family and other social supports, are slowly torn away when she begins to think negative or anxious thoughts towards herself.

How the Film Promotes Mental Health Awareness…

  • How does "Inside Out 2" contribute to the conversation about mental health and emotional well-being? Are there any direct references to mental health issues or interventions?

Gilda Linder: Using the characters in the movie to branch into Internal Family Systems is the first thing to come to mind. Having a panel of emotions with different personalities and perspectives highlights parts of the self and how they interact by managing or minimizing emotions or dismissing what is not convenient to face. I imagine referencing these characters and their actions with children would be a great tool to help them understand their emotions, “Did the angry part of you show up? What did that look like and feel like for you? What did that angry part need or want?” For adults, the movie is a lighthearted illustration to use in educating clients on the seriousness of emotional needs and past events. The memory network, core beliefs, and even the projections of automatic negative thoughts are great tools for helping adults understand the way the central nervous system connects the body and mind and the role thoughts and emotions play in our lives. 

What are your thoughts?

How do you feel "Inside Out 2" handled the topic of mental health?

  • Excellent – it provided great insights into emotions.

  • Good – it raised important points about mental health.

  • Fair – it was okay but could have been better.

  • Poor – it didn’t effectively address mental health issues.

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