More on Emotions and How They Work

In our continuing effort to learn about emotions and consider all the implications involved with emotions, I thought I would mention another article I recently read. This time the article has to do with the movie “Inside Out” currently in theaters, but which I haven’t had a chance to see yet. I have my grandsons staying with me and plan to take them to see the movie sometime this week. I’ve heard only good things about it, which is remarkable in itself!

The article is written by two professors of psychology who have studied emotions for decades and were asked to be consultants on the film. I’ll let them do the talking here:

“‘Inside Out’ is about how five emotions — personified as the characters Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy — grapple for control of the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley during the tumult of a move from Minnesota to San Francisco…Riley’s personality is principally defined by Joy, and this is fitting with what we know scientifically. Studies find that our identities are defined by specific emotions, which shape how we perceive the world, how we express ourselves and the responses we evoke in others.

But the real star of the film is Sadness, for “Inside Out” is a film about loss and what people gain when guided by feelings of sadness…the movie’s portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion.

First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations. But the truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.”

(This last paragraph reinforces what I once wrote about emotions in my post of 7/03/2014 titled “The Rational v. The Emotional.”  In that post I came to the conclusion that no matter how much we try to be rational, emotions govern our lives and our decisions. I also asserted that emotions are at the root of all behavior and cannot be extricated from the rational.)

In addition, the professors argue that “sadness prompts people to unite in response to loss” and that we should embrace sadness. If we apply this assertion to Martin and Louisa (and they were in the real world), we might be relieved because they have been overcome by a great deal of sadness during S6. The losses they have had to contend with include loss of independence, loss of autonomy, loss of private space, and perhaps the loss that results from the final cutting of ties to one’s mother despite knowing that she is despicable. Louisa would count the loss of affection and the feeling that she is loved by her husband. There may be additional loss ahead in S7; however, these losses, and the concomitant sadness, may lead to the sort of united response we would like to see.

As we saw in the previous post, sadness is a core emotion that can lead to a sense of relief and clarity. Wouldn’t it be nice if the sadness both Martin and Louisa have been experiencing could expedite a period of clarity followed by a stronger bond between them?

Originally posted 2015-07-14 21:13:15.

2 thoughts on “More on Emotions and How They Work

  1. Carol

    Karen, This is so great to see. I just went to see Inside Out tonight. As I was watching, (it truly is one of Pixar’s best) my mind went to Martin as it often does with emotional information.

    Read on at your own risk-slight spoiler here. One thing that struck me in the movie was how Riley at one point can not even feel her other emotions because she is not in touch with her sadness. Loss must be acknowledged for other feelings to enter.

    I think this is so true for ME. He does not often recognize his own emotions because , in my opinion, he has never come to terms with the losses he has faced growing up. I remember when he and Louisa are making up the bed for his mother and Louisa asks how he feels, he seemingly has no emotion related to his father’s death. Not shock, grief, relief, just nothing. A great example of what I am saying and what the film communicates so well.

    My own oft-stated feeling is that he must learn to name his emotions before he will make any progress toward a happy life. Maybe our Doc needs to go to the movies!!

  2. Post author

    Carol, your example is so good. That scene, in my opinion, is indicative of so much that’s going on with this couple. As you say, Martin has a hard time knowing what he’s feeling or acknowledging his feelings. He also won’t or can’t talk about them with Louisa or anyone. Meanwhile, she’s making an effort to reach out to him and he shuts her down. He also mistakenly expects his mother to leave after a few days and has not grasped her devious motives for coming in the first place. Most of us would be suspicious if our mother showed up unannounced on our doorstep after leaving under such a cloud the last time she visited. Presumably she hasn’t been in contact with him since that last visit. Now she arrives, suitcase in hand, and abruptly tells him his father has died. She acts as though she expects him to be glad to see her and to find the news of his father’s death upsetting enough to make him sympathetic to her. As you note, the losses of his childhood are hard for him to admit and he is flummoxed about how to feel about the loss of his father and the appearance of his mother, although he would have chosen to have her stay elsewhere.

    Louisa is trying to be the good wife and daughter-in-law by inviting his mother in and offering her a place to stay without recognizing the signals from Martin or his mother. It’s not long before she realizes the reality of the situation, but by then the die is cast. Having his mother arrive is a great way to stir up trouble in their young marriage and to display the difficulties with Martin’s emotions.

    I look forward to seeing “Inside Out” soon!

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