Inside Out 2

Jul 2, 2024

In June of 2024 Disney and Pixar released their sequel to the now classic 2015 hit Inside Out. In this new version Riley is now 13 years old (two years later) and the film opens with Riley playing hockey and her emotions, Joy, Anger, Fear, Sadness, and Disgust are all working together in a cooperative manner. As noted in my review of the first film, I found that the emotion-based characters often operated like parts. So here we see the parts in harmony – a great start!

Inside Out 2 continues the tradition of its predecessor and explores the complexity of our interior world in a creative and insightful way. This film goes further and deeper without being tedious. In a rather masterful way, this film, like the original, informs and delights all at once. There is plenty of material here for all sorts of interesting discussions between adults and between adults and children.

One of my central criticisms of the first film was the absence of a spiritual center or any concept of self. I’m excited to share that this film introduces two important new components of Riley’s inner world: Beliefs and a Sense of Self. We learn that Riley’s beliefs about herself, “I’m a good person,” for example, influence her Sense of Self. The Sense of Self is represented as a star/orb -like glowing object that sits on a platform in headquarters. Beliefs exist in a room with multiple strings, like musical instrument strings, hanging down from the ceiling. When you touch the string, it glows, and you hear the belief, for example, “I’m kind.”

I would argue that although oddly impersonal, the Sense of Self, does have a spiritual quality. On some level it comes across as her “heart” and is depicted as glowing. It informs, at a deep level, who Riley is, what kind of person she is. The initial description of Riley is rather innocent and simple: she’s a good person, she is kind, she is smart, she likes hockey, and she loves her family and friends. By the end of the story, and as she works through complex developmental milestones, Riley’s Sense of Self becomes more complex and more nuanced. The old beliefs still hold true but now she incorporates beliefs that acknowledge she can make mistakes and need the help of others.

Although there is still no concept of Intellect, Reason, or Will, the story does explore issues of ethics, morality, and conscience. At the beginning of the film, Riley is willing to take social risks for the good of others and in so doing she makes solid and meaningful friendships. Later, she abandons her old friends and many of her principles to be more popular. When Riley is about to make a seriously wrong choice, Sadness appears as a kind of conscience warning Riley against it. You might recall that in my review of the original film, I felt that Riley lacked any deep expression of remorse for her actions. I was happily surprised that at the end of the film, Riley asks for forgiveness from her friends. This film depicts Riley as a person who can feel empathy for others and who struggles when she makes selfish decisions.

In a rather brilliant way, the new character of Anxiety introduces concepts such as self-doubt, self-consciousness, worry, and future-tripping. We get to see the interesting interplay between anxiety and false beliefs, and how anxieties can become compulsive and overwhelming, often causing us to violate our own principles.

We also learn that characters such as Anxiety, much like our manager and firefighter parts, are trying to protect us, even if in a misguided or maladaptive way. Without a coherent sense of self, we become vulnerable to false beliefs and fears of not being accepted or not being good enough. These fears can influence our moral choices. It isn’t until we rediscover the kind of person we are, our true sense of self, that we can make good and healthy decisions again. It isn’t until Riley learns to love herself properly again, which includes acting with integrity, not just expressing one’s emotions, that she can find internal harmony and love others authentically. In my opinion this is a radical improvement from the original film. Perhaps it reflects the new developmental stage Riley finds herself in, but I think it also reflects greater sophistication on the part of the film’s creators.

WARNING TO READERS! MULTIPLE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The major developmental milestone that this film addresses is puberty. In a rather brilliant and humorous way, the film shows how puberty causes a major demolition to occur in headquarters as everything is taken out, replaced, or rewired. Immediately we see Riley become more emotionally sensitive. And in telling this story, the sequel in my view portrays even more examples of an explicitly parts work model compared to the first film. With the onset of puberty, new emotion-based characters show up: Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, Ennui (Boredom), and even a brief appearance by Nostalgia.

As the new emotions interact with the old ones, we see Riley experience social struggles in the outside world. It becomes clear that Joy is not so cool and that she causes Riley to be seen as a kid. Riley hears other girls describe her as immature. Meanwhile Anxiety kicks into action and helps Riley make friends with the older girl Val who is also captain of the upper school hockey team.

When Riley chooses her new friends over her old ones, Anxiety throws away the current Sense of Self (the star/orb like object) and sends it down the tube where all the past unwanted memories go. We hear Anxiety proclaim, “Let’s change everything about you!” to the dismay of the original five emotion-based characters. Suddenly Riley is being rebuilt with new beliefs, influenced by Anxiety, such as “I won’t be alone.”

The five original emotions, Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust are sent to the vault where all the secrets go to become “suppressed emotions.” Here we meet “Bloofy” the imaginary friend from her childhood along with Lance Slashblade, a video character she used to like, and Deep Dark Secret, a mysterious character who is bound to show up in a sequel at some point. The five original emotions go down the river “Stream of Conscious” to retrieve her original Sense of Self, which is now at the back of her mind.

Meanwhile, with Anxiety in charge of headquarters, Riley becomes an overachiever trying to be the best possible hockey player to make the upper school team. With her new friends, she begins eating foods she doesn’t like and denying things she formerly enjoyed. She develops a new Belief, “If I’m good at hockey, I’ll have friends” and “As long as I like what they like, we’ll have all the friends we need.”

The original emotions get frustrated in their attempt to find the Sense of Self. Joy is accused of being delusional and she realizes that Riley doesn’t need them as much as she needs the new emotions. In an interesting turn of events, revealing that the emotion-based characters are more than emotions, Anger actually comforts and motivates Joy to keep moving forward.

On the other hand, the new emotion-based characters are now building a new Sense of Self which glows orange and is somewhat misshapen. The old emotions get stuck in Imagination Land which has changed considerably and is now dominated by the Rumor Mill. Meanwhile Anxiety is busy at the console in headquarters managing every possible mistake, anticipating everything that could go wrong. Imagination Land’s workers are now overwhelmed with worry. Joy tries to insert good imaginations, i.e. possible positive outcomes. To stop this, Anxiety sends in the Mind Police to capture Joy. Interestingly, Anger supports Joy in cheering positivity. The five original emotions escape and join the Parade of Future Careers.

Anxiety instigates Riley to do something she would never have considered before. She decides to break into the coach’s office and steal her notebook which contains information about Riley’s performance and future prospects. Sadness tries to intervene, acting in some way like a conscience, but Riley ignores her and learns that the coach does not think she’s ready for the team. Riley is suddenly overtaken by all the Bad Ideas that Anxiety concocts to deal with this distressing news. One Big Bad Idea makes it through and is added to the console at headquarters. As a result, Riley adds a streak of red to her hair like the older girls and takes a new fierce competitive attitude to the next day’s scrimmage.

As a result of this Big Bad Idea and the work of Anxiety, Riley develops a new negative belief: “I’m not good enough.” This new belief is now louder than the old “I’m a good person” belief. Under Anxiety, the declarative “I’m good” becomes the conditional, “If I do X, I will be good enough.” Meanwhile, Joy laments that she doesn’t know how to stop Anxiety. She’s afraid that when you grow up, you feel less joy. Nevertheless, the old emotion-based characters charge on trying to get her Sense of Self back to headquarters. Anger calls on “Pouchy” for assistance. They end up using dynamite and an avalanche of old memories to flood Riley.

Riley, however, is now acting uncharacteristically aggressive, she hogs the puck in the hockey game and even causes one of her old friends to be injured. She’s sent to the penalty box. Anxiety continues to lay on more and more pressure. The Belief “I’m not good enough” is getting stronger and stronger. You see as Anxiety, at the console in headquarters, is feverishly and desperately trying to manage the situation.

The five original emotions, with some help from the other new emotions who now realize Anxiety is out of control, manage to work together to take out the new orange Sense of Self. Anxiety is stuck in a numb state at this point and Joy struggles to stop her. Joy exclaims in a soft but firm voice, “You don’t get to choose who Riley is. You need to let her go.” This works and Joy reestablishes the original Sense of Self and the Belief “I’m a good person.”

Anxiety apologizes and remorsefully says, “I was just trying to protect her.” The Sense of Self, however, transforms all the Beliefs in the belief system. The old Sense of Self is then ripped out and a new complex multi-colored Sense of Self emerges with new and more complex and nuanced beliefs such as “I need help sometimes.” All the emotions old and new come together as Riley adopts the new Sense of Self.

In the external world, Riley apologizes for being a jerk and becomes vulnerable with her old friends and asks for forgiveness.  When she rejoins the hockey scrimmage, she summons Joy to the console. We hear the words, “Joy, Riley wants you.” Joy works the console and Riley plays the rest of the scrimmage with a sense of fun; she is present; she is herself. She’s in what I would call “the zone” and feels truly alive. Riley can now act with more integrity and honesty. She realizes she can’t control everything. We learn that Riley is still smart and creative, but she is also capable of making wrong choices. She is not perfect, but the film ends on the note that we can love all of her, even the messy aspects.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

I enjoyed seeing how this second film portrayed a more explicit parts work intervention (in line with Internal Family Systems) in action. When Joy is summoned to the console, Joy becomes a self-led part. This was in direct contrast to Anxiety running the console in an altered, and frantic, and of course blended state. When Joy tells Anxiety that she doesn’t get to choose who Riley is, the process of un-blending occurs. We learn that Anxiety is just a maladaptive protector. In the end Anxiety becomes integrated into Riley’s personality in a healthier way.

My own view is that we have an inmost self, our deep spiritual center that best reflects the image of God, and that this is a gift given to us by our Creator, God. At this essential and intrinsic level, we are good. When this spiritual center is discovered, activated, engaged, and flowing with grace, we can experience deep levels of healing, growth, and flourishing. From this ultimate place of grounding, we can act with love towards ourselves, others, and God. When this core and deep heart is darkened and inaccessible, our parts are left to fend for themselves and often cope in ways that are unhealthy and maladaptive.

Inside Out 2, however, portrays the inner self, the Sense of Self, as something that must be formed and ultimately created through one’s experiences and beliefs. It can be discarded, it can be changed, it can be lost, it can be replaced, and it can ultimately be reformed. It is the modern concept of the tabula rasa – we are a clean slate and through a process of personal experiences and choices we create our inner self. It is not a gift from God to discover; it is a thing that we must construct. This way of thinking, in my view, creates both existential and identity crises because we are in the place of God, in fact, like Riley depicted in the film, we have no access to God. We must go through the overwhelming chaos of not just self-discovery but self-creation.

In addition to this dilemma, there is still no Intellect, no Reason. So, emotions and feelings still dictate choices. The emphasis in both Inside Out films is not what is true, good, and beautiful, but what is felt, what is experienced, and what is remembered. In the second film, the important concept of what is believed is added to the mix. Nevertheless, the basis of the sense of self is beliefs formed through often turbulent emotional experiences. There is no recourse to objective truth, no recourse to reason, no recourse, of course, to the natural law or God.

Having said all that, for a secular film, it is still genius. It advances the concept of inner multiplicity, it explores complex psychological processes, it is aligned with developmental processes, opens the door for deeper discussions of conscience and ethical behavior, and it introduces the idea of a belief system that informs one’s sense of self. And it does it all in a delightfully engaging imaginative way for children and adults alike. It is definitely a film worth watching.

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An additional review of Inside Out 2

Focus on the Family’s review of this film is more extensive with commentary on multiple kinds of topics that might concern parents.  Check it out here.

New IIC podcast episode just released: Integrated Personal Formation at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress

Check out the latest IIC podcast episode, number 141, titled Integrated Personal Formation at the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress (78 minutes) Video  Audio

Tim Glemkowski and Joel Stepanek, key planners and executives for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, join Dr. Peter Malinoski on this episode to continue our series on integrated personal formation and discuss the kind of transformation you can expect at the NEC, as well as what you can do to prepare for it, both in the natural and spiritual realms. We explore how the four dimensions of Catholic personal formation — human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral — are incorporated into the NEC revival sessions, impact sessions, breakouts, exhibits, and all the other offerings. Finally, Joel and Tim offer you suggestions to help you get the most out of this experience whether you attend in person or virtually.

The Resilient Catholics Community just closed for new registrations

Yesterday was the last day to register for the St. Gertrude the Great cohort for the RCC, which will begin their programming September 15.  If you are interested in joining the RCC, get on the interest list on our RCC landing page for the next cohort, the St. Hildegard of Bingen cohort, which will open for registration on October 1 and start programming in mid-January, 2025.  Sometimes we need to fast-track a few applications to fill out companies in a cohort, and we go to the interest list for the next cohort for candidates, so there still is a (small) chance to get into the current cohort if you get on the list for the next one.  The RCC is the core of Souls and Hearts, and you can find out more about it here.

Catholic formators – including therapists, spiritual directors, coaches, and those who accompany others

Would you like to work on your own human formation with other professionals in your discipline, together?  Souls and Hearts is now expanding our Foundational Experiential Groups to offer them to coaches, spiritual directors, seminary formators, and others who professional accompany others individually (and those in training, too) and who believe all that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches.

These groups are focused on your personal human formation, informed by IFS and grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person.  We focus on your parts, your inner unity, your development, your integration.  All in relationship together.

Interested?

  • Find out more on our Formation for Formators landing page and on this downloadable PDF flyer.
  • Fill out our short form here with the days and times for the FEGs starting in September 2024.
  • Call Dr. Peter Malinoski at 317.567.9594 or email at crisis@soulsandhearts.com with any questions.
  • Feel free to share this sheet and these links with others who might be interested.

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