big-five-personality-traits-300x300 I feel about Inside Out the way Paleontologists feel about Jurassic World.  You’re thrilled when you first hear it’s happening, filled with dread the more you learn about what the filmmakers have in  mind.  But in the end, it’s still about the thing you love, and everyone else loves it too, so how can you hate it?  (Am I going to have spoilers?  Not really sure.)

I stumbled on this image that happens to use the same colors of the emotions in the movie, but you’ll immediately note that the traits don’t fully fit the emotions.  That’s because personality is generally described as encompassing 3 dimensions, only one of which is feelings.  The other two, thoughts and behavior, are merely alluded to in Inside Out.  It’s a bit like one of those Star Trek episodes where the action centers on engineering rather than the bridge.

Something I talk a lot about is how to classify what goes on in the psyche (meaning everything studied by psychology).  The thing is, classification is exceedingly messy even in the solid realm of biology (as in plant, animal, fungus, protist, bacteria, cyanobacteria and so forth.)  Being animals, we have perhaps overemphasized animalish things in our classification systems, like morphology, symmetry, what you eat, and how you make babies.  In psychology, the danger is in emphasizing our classification around pathologies, particularly social ones.  And so we overlook important aspects of normalcy, such as our beneficial bacteria, and in taking an antibiotic to get rid of one problem, cause ourselves several others.

Gettting into specifics (possible spoliers ahead)

One critic I read questioned why the personality islands were separated from headquarters by the hazardous and fragile bridges, and why the abstraction hazard between reality and imagination.  And I have to say that the personality islands were a part of the movie I really liked, as they tended to follow Kelly’s constructs and Mischel’s situational personality theory.  Emotions may power the personality, but like all power sources, they are somewhat hazardous, or at least not functional without something like a transmission.  Even without personality theory, most people have heard of defense mechanisms that keep our raw emotions from interacting with the world around us.  That there would be some kind of impassable wall between imagination and reality makes sense to me, even without any psychology coursework, though I thing the abstraction hazard made more sense to me as a linguist.

So we only hear of glimpses of the cognitive processes as the train of thought goes past them, mostly as a deja vu joke.  While behavior, on the other hand, is everything we see happen outside Reilly’s head.

What is the function of Sadness?  This is a question I had been primed to ask by someone else’s blog before I went.  I guess she lets people slow down and think.  I experienced this after I didn’t get into grad school last year.  She is also part of accepting change, probably as a function of grief.  What we also see when Joy is looking at the core memories is that Joy and Sadness are almost two sides of one coin.  All joy holds within it the threat of its loss, and all sadness holds with it in the hope of relief.

My own experience has been that depression is not pervasive Sadness, but a struggle to escape it.  Sadness, Anger, or Fear.  And this is what drove the psychodynamic arm of psychiatry, that feelings are not good or bad, they just are.  So in the end Joy allows there to be core memories with all the colors.

So what if you have autism?  Is digust in charge, or is mission control somewhere else (like the abstraction tunnel).  Maybe you only have the one personality island, or your train of thought doesn’t erase its tracks.  I’m not really sure.  My suspicion is it resides in those places that were only described in passing.


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