A Review of the brilliant new movie, “Inside Out”

A Review of the brilliant new movie, “Inside Out”


Oct, 2015 – The new, brilliant, Pixar film, “Inside Out” surprised the heck out of me in the best way possible: Hollywood of all places actually made a big, commercial film about one of my favorite subjects – neuroscience! How is this possible?!

Equally fascinating is that somehow or other the writer-director, Pete Docter, managed to create something that was thoroughly entertaining not just for a neuroscience geek like me, but for the average Joe and Average Joe’s kids.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Reviewers loved it, and Rotten Tomatoes (film reviewing site) gave it a 98% ‘thumbs up’ score and used these adjectives to describe it: “Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving”!

The two main areas the film focuses on (from the neuroscience aspect) are Emotions and Memories. I’m going to “get Emotional” with you for this article. (I’ll write another article specifically on the Memory aspect).

But first.. A bit about the plot.

A Sneak Peak

The film follows 11-year-old Riley, a super cheerful and awesome girl, as her family moves from joyful Minnesota… to the miserable, hovel-ish and ultra-urban apartment life in San Francisco. The move, in addition to Riley being a ‘tween’, turns her life from cotton candy and rainbows… to basically one big, nasty Mind Loop. The cool part is we get to see from inside her brain how that emotional hell manifests neurologically.

As we journey through her brain, we get to visit stunningly imagined areas of the mind. Four of my favorites were:

Imagination Land…


Riley’s Dream Production Studio…


The dangerous tunnel of Abstract Thought…


And of course, we can’t forget the awe-inspiring Subconscious:


Emotions Take Center Stage

The main characters other than Riley, are five emotions vying for control in her brain: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. The clever scriptwriting makes all the Emotion-Characters both captivating and likable (which is more accurate than making Anger the baddie, for instance).

The film also expertly illustrates the interchangeability of emotions, and how they all mesh and work together. Because when you think about it, how often do you feel Anger all by itself? More often than not, Anger is underscored by Fear, or mixed with Sadness or Disgust.

One thing the film expressed so beautifully about emotions, is this: 

All emotions are worthwhile and valuable.

We have this belief that to feel good (ie, “Joy”) all the time is the goal. First of all, if that’s the goal, we’re in for some drastic disappointment since we know life just isn’t set up that way. But also: Doesn’t Anger sometimes provide a sense of empowerment and strength? Doesn’t Sadness create a feeling of empathy and love that can be far deeper than Joy accomplishes alone? All emotions have their place in our lives.

The problem with emotions is when we get stuck in them. That’s when Mind Loops are taking over and we can spiral way out of equilibrium.

Or from the other end of the spectrum, we completely deny what we’re feeling. In which case, you just know that emotion you’re pushing down as hard as a trash compactor is going to pop out when you least expect it.

At the very least, a negative emotion can be “contagious” and picked up by others by spilling out through the tone of your voice or the choice of your words or the not-so-subtle rolling of the eyes. Eww… Right?

You’re Feeling… ‘Weird’?

Feelings and Emotions are so important, and so deeply interwoven with Mind Loops, that they have their own special category in my “9 D’s of De-Looping” system. In fact, the 5th“D” of De-Looping is Determine, as in “determine what the heck emotion you’re actually feeling right now.”

While there are 4-7 primary emotions (depending on which research you read), humans experience a gazillion nuanced emotions – literally over 100. Yet even with all those choices, most of us can’t accurately determine and name the emotion we’re feeling.

For years, when someone could see I was disturbed in some way and asked how I was feeling, I’d answer: “I feel weird.” They’d nod as if they understood what that meant. Finally one day someone asked a follow-up question: “Weird, huh? Well… What does ‘weird’ mean? What are you actually feeling?”

Whaaat? You mean I have to define ‘weird’? I was stumped. I had no idea how to. I couldn’t determine what I was feeling.

How about you? Do you ever respond to “How are you feeling?” with any of these words:

I’m upset… stressed… numb… overwhelmed… feel yucky… weird… moody… okay… fine.”

If so, it’s time to expand your vocabulary. Because seriously: What on earth does “I feel yucky” mean?!


Your Challenge This Week:

Determine what you’re feeling at any given moment, and put a name to it! How exactly? Read on…

1) Whenever someone says, “Hey! How are ya doin’?” Answer them however you want (including the banal but socially acceptable “Fine”). But afterwards, ask yourself, “Okay, now that I said that BS answer, how am I reallyfeeling?” Tune in and do your best to determine the precise word for however you’re feeling.

2) Do the same when you have moments by yourself, such as when driving to work, just before sleeping, walking from the car to your workplace, walking the dog.

3) To get a broader view of ways to express how you’re feeling, take a look at the chart of emotions expanded from “Inside Out” that I have included at the bottom of this article. Or go online to see charts other people have designed that display all the GLORIOUS emotions we as humans get to feel!

This week, “How am I really feeling?” is your Magic Phrase.

And finally… 

“Why Should I Even Care About This?”

If you’re asking yourself why you should even give a rat’s booty about knowing specifically what you’re feeling, here are a few very good reasons:

• Blinders don’t work: You can’t change what you don’t notice. If you often find yourself looping on a negative thought, or stuck in depression or anxiety,something’s going on. The first step is to start observing both your thoughts and emotions.Determining what you’re feeling at any given moment gives you incredible insight into who you are and what is driving and/or blocking you.

• Respond vs React: Simply by noticing (andDetermining) what emotion you’re feeling can help you deal with whatever’s going on inside of you more gracefully. It’s a way of detaching just enough that you’ll actually have a chance to make a conscious choice about how you want to respond – instead of simply react.

• Relief! + Who loves to be a Butt-Head? Umm… Not me: Emotions aren’t just going to go away because we’re sticking our fingers in our ears, shutting our eyes and yelling, “La-la-la-la-la!” at the top of our lungs. They’re still going to affect us, even if it’s unconsciously. Yessireebob. SoDetermining what you’re feeling actually lightens your load. Ahh! Relief!And… you won’t be as much of a butt-head to those around you, accidentally.

So that’s your Challenge this week!


If you want to add another, super fun piece to your Challenge: Go see “Inside Out”! Afterwards, send me a quick email with your personal review. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. And if you go with a ‘tween or teen, tell me what they thought too. I went with a 14 year old and it created an awesome post-movie discussion.

Here’s to a weird but not too yucky week!

Love, Barbara the Neuroscience Geek



Feeling Yucky?

Barbara the Mind Loop Mentor can help! I mentioned the 5th “D” of my De-Looping system (above). The 6th “D” is awesome-sauce itself. It is: “Dissolve,” as in ‘Dissolved a Stuck Emotion In Your Body.’ Yep. It’s ultra powerful.

As one client said:

“I was feeling bewildered and in a funk for the past few weeks. After we did your technique, I felt SO much better. I didn’t know it was possible to accept feelings this way. I’m going to sleep well tonight!!” (A.W., Seattle)

If you’re stuck in an unwanted emotion (Anger, Sadness, Hurt, Betrayal, Guilt, ETC), contact me for some emotional un-sticking: 

email: newmindloops@gmail.com  •  phone: 805.364.4466

all photos from “Inside Out”, courtesy Disney/Pixar

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