Want to Visualize Emotional Intelligence?

After hearing about Pixar's new animated movie, I knew I had to see it immediately!

Inside Out is a film about 5 emotions coming to life: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. (While Pixar identified only 5, there are actually 7 core emotions; Love and Hope don't make an appearance.) Still, it's amazing to see how Pixar's animators turned feelings into characters who vie to control the "Head Quarters" of an 11-year-old girl.

What a brilliant way to introduce both children and adults to the idea that each of our emotions has a powerful role to play as we learn and grow from our experiences.

The movie also provides us with a visual vocabulary for understanding emotional intelligence. The best way to explain this is to share a story told by the director of Inside Out, Pete Docter, in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air.   

Docter describes some astonishing feedback from a co-worker at Pixar who brought his son to an early screening of the film:

"My son has been taking swimming lessons and he's been afraid to dive off the diving board. It's just too high and he's scared so he just hasn't been able to do it. Yesterday, after seeing the film, we went to lessons and he dove off the diving board. Everybody said 'Yeah! That's great! How did you do it?' And he said, 'Well, I just felt like fear had been driving, so I asked him to step aside.'"

By showing emotions as characters operating the mind with a console, the movie demonstrates that one emotion is "driving" in any given moment. The son used that visualization as a tool for coping with his fear. He imagined that he could ask fear to "step aside" so another emotion could take control and allow him to accomplish his goal!

That's self regulation--recognizing what you're feeling and making a conscious choice about where to go with that feeling.

On this weekend that's all about freedom, take a step toward taking control of your emotions! Go see Inside Out! Bring friends and family members, and once the movie is over, start a discussion around these 3 questions:

  1. In your "head quarters," which emotion is "driving" most of the time? (That is what I call your "emotion set point.") 
  2. What triggers the other emotions to take control? 
  3. What choices can you make to trigger the emotion you want to feel next?

By using this movie as a tool to visualize and increase your awareness of your emotions, you'll not only be able to recognize the emotions that are holding you back, you'll be ready to direct them instead of letting them hijack you.

Celebrate your freedom! Happy 4th of July!