Inside Out Changed the Way I Looked at Sadness. The Sequel Could Do the Same for Another Emotion.


This article contains spoilers for From the inside out 2.

Every parent in America knows that teenagers are not okay. The adolescent mental health crisis is overwhelming schools and scary families. Is “The public health crisis that defines our time.”says the US surgeon general.

In this environment navigate Inside out 2. The sequel follows Riley from the original film into her teenage years and introduces a new emotion to battle Joy for supremacy in the emotional “headquarters” of her brain: anxiety. As the parent of a teenage son who has struggled with anxiety, I was curious (well, anxious) to see how Pixar would handle a plot point that directly touches on my family’s life and that, over the years of development of the film, has become something of a hot topic throughout the country. The first Inside outThe revealing description of the importance of sadness for children (and parents) It really changed the way I related to my children in 2015.. But did I and other parents of children with anxiety really want this disorder to get the full Disney treatment and be depicted as a silly orange creature with a huge Muppety mouth?

Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, may be the film’s antagonist, but she is initially presented as a solution to Riley’s teenage problems. She plans the future, she says. She differentiates herself from Fear by noting, “He keeps Riley safe from the things she can see. My job is to keep her safe from things she can’t see.” As Riley navigates the charged environment of a competitive sports camp, trying to impress the coach and older players while dealing with the news that her best friends will be going to a different high school in the fall, anxiety takes over the center console. from Riley’s brain. with a plan designed to make her succeed.

The new film further complicates the headquarters’ story, even beyond the new emotions that link anxiety with the onset of puberty: envy, shame and boredom. Certain memories are now transported deep into the subconscious, where they bubble up. beliefs—long threads representing credos like “I’m a good friend” or “I’m a hard worker” that weave into Riley’s “sense of self,” a bright, growing tangle that Joy lovingly tends.
“I’m a good person,” he says, until anxiety breaks him and sends him to the back of his mind. Riley needs to become a completely different person, Anxiety claims, to overcome the challenge of hockey camp. When Joy (Amy Poehler) and the other original emotions protest, she banishes them too. “Okay, Riley,” says Anxiety, in a moment that will bring bitter laughter to many parents of teenagers: “Let’s change everything about you.”

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While for Joy and those familiar emotions, the plot of the film is her quest to return to headquarters with Riley’s abandoned sense of self, for Riley, the plot of the film is the constant takeover of her life by part of the anxiety. At first, she manifests herself in some positive ways: she gets up at dawn to practice alone on the ice. But then, when she worries that her best friends’ transfer to another school of hers will leave her alone, she abandons those best friends to ingratiate herself with her older players. She finds herself doing things she would never have thought of, including breaking into the coach’s office.

Late at night, before a big fight, Anxiety orders the staff that makes up Riley’s imagination to come up with possible dire scenarios for the next day. She thinks she’s helping Riley avoid future discomfort, but in reality she’s just keeping her up all night, catastrophizing wildly. What happens if she trips and falls? What if her old friends play better than her? What if she does something that’s not right? I recognized a little girl pacing around, unable to calm down because her imagination is literally working overtime.

New beliefs bubble up from Riley’s subconscious, all driven by anxiety: “If I’m good at hockey, I’ll have friends.” “If I make the high school team, I won’t feel alone.” Anxiety thinks these new beliefs will intertwine to form a new, better sense of self for Riley, but he is dejected when they instead produce only a brutal self-criticism that will sound eerily familiar to some parents: “I’m no good.” . “Trapped inside Riley’s mind, Joy laments her inability to control Riley’s anxiety. “Maybe I can’t,” she says dejectedly. “Maybe when you grow up you’ll feel less joy.”

As in the first film, Pixar consulted with a child mental health professional, in this case psychologist Lisa Damour, author of Under pressure: Tackling the epidemic of stress and anxiety in girls. “There’s healthy anxiety and there’s unhealthy anxiety,” Damour told me. “Anxiety is a natural and inevitable aspect of life. It is there to alert us to potential threats and help protect ourselves. In this way it serves as a valuable and, indeed, indispensable emotion.” she has called Inside out 2 a “gift” for parents of teenagers. I know he’s on Pixar’s payroll, but I’m inclined to agree, largely because of the way he Inside out 2 resolves Anxiety’s takeover of Riley’s brain.

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From the beginning, anxiety has been a little nervous—she talks fast, moves fast, and acts fast—but the pressure of practice (which Anxiety believes will determine not only whether Riley makes the team, but, in turn, Riley’s entire future) drives them both to the edge. limit. The panic attack Riley suffers at the film’s climax is heartbreaking to watch, especially for anyone who has ever experienced one of their own or watched her son deal with a severe emotional spiral. Inside Riley’s head, Anxiety spins around the console so fast that she creates a whirlwind, pressing buttons so fast it becomes a blur. “That relates very clearly to what people describe when they have panic attacks,” Damour said. “That they feel isolated from themselves, not real, no longer in touch with the world around them.” When Joy finally takes her hands off the controls to the new emotion, Anxiety is left heartbroken: “I was just trying to protect her!”

Neither Riley’s new sense of identity (“I’m not good enough”) nor Riley’s old one (“I’m a good person”) can protect her from what she feels. Her panic attack is only resolved when Joy and Anxiety allow her to grow a new sense of self, one that encompasses both Riley’s positive beliefs and negative ones. Riley is a good friend, and sometimes it’s cruel. Riley is honest, and sometimes she does the wrong thing. To move toward a healthy adulthood, Inside out 2 maintains, is to recognize a complex multiplicity of self-perceptions that could contradict each other. What matters is not that you tell yourself a simple story about who you are, suppressing all evidence to the contrary, but that you see yourself clearly, flaws and all. “That’s what we try to accomplish in clinical settings,” Damour said: “help people recognize their flaws while still feeling like they are perfectly worthy and valuable human beings.” Faced with a moment of calm, Riley chooses joy (he chooses Joy, of all the emotions at headquarters) and goes back to skating on the ice.

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Later, we see Riley’s emotions working together cooperatively. Joy runs the show, but her anxiety is there too: she only has a special chair to sit on to help her calm down. What I liked most Inside out 2an affectionate and entertaining film, although not up to the revelatory standards of its predecessor, is its interpretation of Anxiety as not a villain but a character who believes herself to be a protector. Anxiety is helpful to Riley in small doses (when she reminds everyone that Riley needs to study for a test, for example), just as all the new “negative” emotions can be helpful sometimes. (Even Ennui helps her show the necessary coolness in front of the older star player she idolizes.) But they must live in balance.

That’s a great lesson for kids (and parents) to learn, if they can unravel the film’s complex cosmology. Not all negative emotions represent a pathology, something that requires treatment. “Psychologists only consider anxiety pathological if it is out of proportion to any real threat,” Damour told me. (I tried to imagine a version of Inside out that put Riley on an SSRI (Anxiety Stuffed Under a Heavy Blanket?) Yes, anxiety is scary, and when it gets out of control, harmful. But Damour hopes the film will help parents understand the role that even uncomfortable emotions play in healthy development. “An unintended consequence of acknowledging the teen mental health crisis is that it has left teens and their parents more uncomfortable than necessary about the ups and downs that come with being a teen,” she said. Anxiety may not be pleasant, but as Inside out 2 will remind both teenagers and their parents, that doesn’t make it any less essential as a part of growing up. above.

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