I came into the world screaming with a voice meant for outdoor sporting events and an energy level rivaling a teenager filled with Red Bull.

With this gregarious personality also came a sensitive little spirt that was hell-bent on rescuing every wounded animal. This was how God made me, but it didn’t quite fit into the tidy world where “ladies” were supposed to be polite and quiet. And ladies were NOT supposed to be bubbling over with buckets of tears.

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So I learned to zip myself up into the person the world was comfortable with while stuffing the emotions down into a dungeon covered by thick bars and an unlockable chain.

Now I am learning to chip away at this armor that I believed once protected me and in reality only left me in fragmented pieces.

Here I am in my 40’s struggling to become a whole person who can ride the waves of emotions without guards threatening to send this part of myself back into the dungeon.

What would have helped me? What would have possibly prevented me from a life of compartmentalization, an eating disorder, and depression?

A movie like Inside Out. (Images from Google Images)

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This movie  is offering exactly what every young person trying to understand their own selves’ needs.

  1. An ability to understand and accept emotions and feelings that are the fibers of being human.
  2. A safe place to fall and find repair when these emotions begin to wreak havoc on the body and mind.

The young girl, Riley, in this movie is trying to make sense of her life after moving to a new city. Pixar’s adventurous and creative storytelling so poignantly shows us how she is offered these two simple yet lifesaving things.

Emotional intelligence is one of the biggest prevention strategies we can offer ourselves and our children to needing an alternative coping skill to having emotions.

These days, academics, education researchers, principals, and teachers are discovering—or maybe rediscovering—that reading and math alone may not be enough. “We know that the emotional piece is really very important in terms of a child’s overall well-being and capacity to learn and grow,” says Dr. Jerlean Daniel, deputy director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and chair of the Psychology in Education department at the University of Pittsburgh.”Scholastic News 

Riley experiences the range of emotions that everyone experiences and then is offered a safe place (her parent’s arms) to land in the process. A place where she is free to be herself, to have her own feelings without someone telling her to “stop crying” or “get over herself”.

Within this literally cerebral tale, there are clowns, vacuum hoses, glassy globes, a unicorn, a being that cries candy out of his eyes, and a literal Train Of Thought. But there’s no intruder. Nothing in Riley’s mind is ultimately tagged as not belonging or not wanted, because nothing in her mind can be separated from who she is. She is made up of the same things that cause her sadness, fright and disgust — those little emotions are her and she is them. There’s nothing to defeat; if anything, what Riley is fighting against is the impulse to exile the feelings that embarrass her.” –  NPR

I didn’t understand this as a child, and it most definitely harmed me. Now I am having to radically  accept this idea that emotions are for feeling, not for stuffing and it is healing me. The same is true if we offer this to our children.

As someone who works in this field of mental illness and has struggled with it, I can tell you that what this movie is teaching is lifesaving if you can implement it in your own homes with your children as well as allowing the waves of emotions in your own life.

This means being real and vulnerable and letting people in.

It also means learning to tolerate your children’s distress without trying to fix it, change it, or make it what you want it (or them to be).

Why it is crucial for your chidren?

1. Feeling understood triggers soothing biochemical; that neural pathway you’re strengthening each time he feels soothed is what he’ll use to soothe himself as he gets older.

2. Children develop empathy by experiencing it from others.

3. You’re helping your child reflect on his experience and what triggers his feelings. For little ones, just knowing there’s a name for their feeling is an early tool in learning to manage the emotions that flood them.”  – Aha Parenting 

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(Yes, I was the one sobbing loudly at this scene where her parents embrace her. The kids around me were staring. Oh well :).)

These are crucial skills we all need to learn, even in preschool and kindergarten. And common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

Here are a few more resources on this topic:

Child Parenting – Teaching Empathy and Emotional Intelligence 

NPR – Why Emotional Literacy May Be as Important As Learning the ABC’s

Can you do this? YES! You can. Let us all be the messy-creative-emotional-human-people that God created us to be!

In the meantime, go see this beautiful, profound and deeply impactful movie Inside Out

Xo

Lee

 

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