The human brain produces a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. How we deal with these emotions affects our lives in ways we sometimes don’t even realize. Over the weekend, I saw two movies in theaters that had a strong focus on emotions: Disney’s Inside Out and Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Although the movies were very different from each other at first glance, it made me think about how we deal with emotions every day. Inside Out and Southpaw both help us learn to handle these emotions better so that we can grow our mindset and mature.
Inside Out is a story about 11-year-old Riley, a young girl who loves hockey and whose mind is dominated by the emotion Joy. Four other emotions, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness, all seem to take a backseat to Riley’s sunny outlook on life thanks to Joy, who works hard to keep the other emotions in check. Joy often wonders why there would be any use for “negative” emotions like Sadness, whom she has to keep a strict eye on to keep her from tainting Riley’s memories. However, when Riley is uprooted from her Minnesota home and moves with her family to California, Sadness sets off a chain reaction that vaults her and Joy from the control center of Riley’s brain, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust to run the show.
Inside Out shows us that in order to grow and mature, we need a balanced set of emotions. Though we may not like feeling negative emotions, they are necessary for development. The movie has a message that happiness isn’t everything, and when we try to navigate our lives with only positive emotions, we’re missing out on what our other emotions can offer us. A healthy mindset has all of these emotions working in tandem, with Joy leading the way, not dominating.
The movie Southpaw is quite a contrast from Inside Out, but it deals with the same lessons on balancing our emotions and avoiding letting negative ones dominate us. Southpaw is the story of Billy Hope, a champion boxer who lets opponents beat up on him in order to awaken a Hulk-like rage inside, which lets him win the fight in the last minute. Hope’s wife, Maureen, sees how this is damaging his life, especially his relationship with their little daughter Leila. Hope eventually loses his family because of his anger and has to learn proper boxing defence techniques from his coach in his fights in order to win without his horrible rage.
Southpaw shows us exactly how powerful anger can be, and how it can ruin our lives if we let it reign over us. Hope’s character realizes the destructive nature of his anger too late, but the movie also shows us that one can redeem themselves from this kind of life. Discipline and humility lead Hope to a better way of living, and with the balancing of his emotions, he’s able to turn his life around.
The one message that rings perfectly clear in both movies is that in order to live a healthy life, we have to have healthy emotions. This includes both positive and negative emotions. By training ourselves to feel each emotion but react in a positive way, whether it be allowing ourselves to grieve or letting go of pent up anger and frustration, we become the person we were meant to be: happy, healthy and balanced.