As I’ve told probably most of my friends, Inside Out was my favorite movie of 2015. If you haven’t seen it, I seriously recommend it. If you think it will be a silly movie only meant for children, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Honestly, I’ve wondered what kids even get out of it. I enjoyed it immensely as an adult for reasons that children wouldn’t understand. I won’t ruin it for anyone reading this that hasn’t seen it, I will only say that the movie centers around five “emotions” that preside over the actions of an 11-year-old girl going through a hard time. Those five characters are: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.

After seeing the movie, I began to wonder what my five characters would be, sitting at the console of my mind, subconsciously making my decisions and therefore steering the course of my life. At first I was overwhelmed by the myriad of emotions that immediately came to mind, before realizing that the catalogue of feelings I experience on a daily basis, when stripped to their core, come down to only a few fundamental emotions.

  1. FEAR. Fear has been a prominent character for me lately. In the past few months I’ve undertaken a few big life changes, and I wasn’t expecting them to be as difficult as they have been. Buying my first car, getting my first apartment all on my own, becoming a Wisconsin resident, all immediately followed by tax season. I have been stressed, to say the least. I have felt Stress, Numbness, Anxiety, Fear, Doubt, Panic, Instability, Dread – in a constant rotation for several weeks. It’s overwhelming. It’s depressing. It’s oppressive. It was too much. I was looking for ways to cope with the toxicity of being consumed by these feelings 24 hours a day. And then it occurred to me that everything I was feeling had an inception in Fear. I’m afraid I won’t be able to support myself with all of my new expenses. Even if I can scrape by and pay my bills, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to support the life I want for myself – one full of travel, adventures, family, dogs. I am afraid of ending up lonely. I am afraid I’m not good enough. I am afraid I will fail.
  2. HOPE. I think that Hope is another one of the tenants of my mind. Hope might also be known as Joy, Gratitude, Humor, Faith, Resilience, Endurance. There is a lightness to Hope. She is funny, and doesn’t take anything too seriously, doesn’t let anything get her down. Even during the darkest of my days, during times of the deepest depression I have felt (which, I know, is not nearly as dark or consuming as some people have felt), I have always been able to recognize that the feeling is temporary. I have been able to see through the darkness to the other side, because I had been through this before. And I can always find something, in the midst of despair, to be grateful for and hold on to. Even if it’s only the numbing pleasure of binge watching Netflix for 10 hours in a row. There is always a small part of myself, always something there to remind me – that this too shall pass.
  3. ANXIETY. Even though I know that Anxiety is rooted in Fear, he has such a presence in my life that I think Anxiety holds his own place at the console. He is Fear’s first cousin. We all grew up together, the two of them holding court in my mind many times over the years. I experienced plenty of anxiety growing up, taking shape as performance anxiety when I was still playing the violin. For the last couple of years of my performing days, I began taking medication during performances, and it helped immensely. I decided to get this prescription after going through one of the darkest times of my life, one that left scars that are still visible, and one that unleashed the full power of my Anxiety. Suddenly, he was present in all areas of my life. He was with me always. It was like he had been restricting himself and only showing his ugly face when I was onstage, but now, this horrific experience had unlocked his full potential, and he is powerful. I’ve developed enough of a relationship with him now that we can co-exist somewhat peacefully. He is still there, and still powerful, but I have grown and changed and become more powerful, also. Hope is really good at talking Anxiety and Fear down. I think she is more powerful than them both.
  4. GUILT. Ah…. Guilt. I’m not Jewish or Catholic and I didn’t grow up in a household where love was conditional or people used If/Then statements or anything like that, so even with the education in Psychology that I have, I can’t really figure out where Guilt came from and how he was given a seat at the console, but alas. There it is. As I write this, I am trying to conjure up images of these characters – what gender they are, what their features might be. Initially, “negative” emotions (I know Fear, Anxiety, and Guilt are given a bad rap, and it’s not for no reason, but they can serve a helpful, positive purpose as well) came to mind as male, while “positive” emotions came to mind as female. This is sexist, obviously, and it just goes to show how strong gender roles and stereotypes can be, even in someone like myself, and I consider myself to be “open-minded”, “progressive”, “nonjudgmental”, etc. Anyway – I realized this is unfair. And while Guilt immediately came to mind as male, as I began to think about it, I realized Guilt could just as easily be female. Guilt is subtle, it has to be done with intelligence and finesse. Now, in my mind’s eye, Guilt is sexy. Kind of like Cruella de Vil, but played by like Jessica Chastain or something. Anyway, Guilt is at the console, she is hot, and she doesn’t take any shit.
  5. SEEK. This isn’t an emotion, exactly, but it’s absolutely a driving, decision-making force in my psyche. Seek is what causes me to travel the world, exploring new cultures and meeting new people and getting far outside of my comfort zone. Seek is what inspires me to be on a constant voyage of self-discovery, and to meditate, and to ask the hard questions, and deal with the answers, no matter how unpleasant. Seek is also the impetus for my need for Expression and Creativity. I’m an artist, at my core, I can’t deny that anymore. Even if I don’t always make a living through the arts, there’s no question that I strive to express myself through creative means – writing, making music, photography, dance, Harry Potter coloring books. Seek helps me find Energy, Calmness, Kindness, and loving ways in which to deal with Fear, Anxiety, and Guilt. Seek is the mediator, as well as the momentum for me to continue on, day by day.