Warning: This article contains film spoilers.
It tends to be a tradition of mine to change my mind about what I write about for Mental Health Awareness week at the last minute. Watching a video from YouTube Channel Cinema Therapy gave me inspiration for this piece.
For those who don’t know Cinema Therapy is a YouTube Channel that is run by licensed therapist Jonathan Decker and professional film maker Alan Seawright. In each of their videos, they take a look at a variety of films and break them down. They break these movies down by searching the characters, themes and plots to find things you can use to improve your mental health and your life.
I came across their channel this year and have found their analysis on each of these videos to be truly fascinating and insightful. The first one I really watched was their one about signs of gaslighting shown in the film Tangled. I was in a relationship with someone who gaslighted me years ago so it hit home and their analysis was incredibly accurate. I watched their video where they look into Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and hearing Cinema Therapy’s thoughts on this was interesting.
Before I go into what Cinema Therapy say, I will give my thoughts on Inside Out. I really enjoy the film, it was the first thing I saw in mainstream media that made me realise that it’s OK not to be OK. When I first saw this, I didn’t realise at the time but I was experiencing an inner battle that would eventually lead to my worst mental health breakdown.
The premise of the film focuses on five personified emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear – inside the head of ten year old Riley who help her as she and her parents adjust to their new surroundings after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. When I first watched this, there’s a part at the beginning where Joy explains how she doesn’t really know what Sadness‘ role is when helping Riley navigate through life and I must admit, I agreed with her at first when watching this.
This opinion changed however throughout the course of the film Joy realises because of Sadness, her team mates come to comfort her after loosing a hockey match. It’s then when Joy realises that Sadness’ role is to alert others when Riley becomes overwhelmed and needs help. When Riley acknowledges she feels sad that she misses home and everything there, I felt that relief with Riley as she offloads and her parents comfort her.
I walked out of the cinema having learnt something and actually made me question a few things. If a film like this had been released when I was a child, would it have shaped how I approach things? Would I have asked for help sooner? Probably but I understand I can’t change the past. All I know is that it did help me. Helped me realise that it’s OK not to be OK and it’s great this film is out now teaching future generations.
Onto the analysis from Cinema Therapy itself. Their analysis on the film was great and they pretty much hit the nail on the head with most of the points they make. There were some that I hadn’t even thought of before. I have picked out a few quotes from their analysis that stuck out me personally and my personal thoughts.
“We think the main goal of the story is to be happy but we then realise that happiness isn’t the goal.”
This was very interesting to me. Up until this film, every animated film I had seen had happiness as the main goal. This was the first film I had seen where acknowledging and feeling sadness was the key to feeling better.
“Positivity is a wonderful thing, as long as it’s real.”
This is so true. It’s so easy to tell others you are doing OK but actually you’re not. For me personally, it has often been in case I am met by the well-meaning but unhelpful phrases such as “just stay positive” or “others have it much worse”. Over the years, I have found it to be so helpful to be brutally honest with my feelings. I wrote a piece about it previously which can be found here.
“This is what depression feels like for me, the control panel greying up and not being able to feel anything. I know should be able to feel something but with depression you can’t.”
For those who haven’t seen the film, Riley’s mind has a control panel that the different feelings have control over. There is a part where it starts to go grey and the emotions can’t make her feel a thing. I don’t have depression personally, I know others who have and I have experienced that feeling numb where I can’t feel anything.
“It teaches us to embrace sadness as a means of being close and to develop compassion and empathy.”
This is most certainly what the film did for me. I taught me that feeling sad is OK and it actually can be hugely helpful. In my first therapy sessions, I did feel that sadness yet relieved as I felt my feelings being acknowledged. From that point on, I started being more open with my feelings about things.
The video is below if you wish to watch it, I recommend you do. If you like the video, you can check out their YouTube channel by clicking here.
I would also recommend watching the film itself. It tells us a hugely important message through a great storyline, fantastic attention to detail and colourful characters (figuratively, and, some of them literally speaking)
Words: Lotty Whittingham
If you or someone you know is effected by mental illness and/or mental health issues, the author recommends the following websites:
MIND The Mental Health Charity – A charity that offers information and advice to people with mental health problems and lobbies government and local authorities on their behalf.
Samaritans – This is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. They have a 24/7 hotline which is 116 123.