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  • Do you ever look at someone and wonder... What is going on inside their head?

  • Weve looked into this question in science and so has Hollywood.

  • Back in 1943, Disney released a short film called Reason and Emotion, which shows

  • emotions driving our behaviour beyond the control offered by reason or logic.

  • Skip forward 70 odd years and Disney Pixar's Inside Out gets up close and personal with some of our emotions: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger.

  • The film mainly takes place inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl, Riley, as she struggles

  • with her family moving from the Midwest to San Francisco.

  • So we spend a lot of time with what we often call negative emotionsthink sadness,

  • fear and anger.

  • But, are they really negative? Is there such a thing as negative emotions?

  • In the 1960s, American psychologist Paul Ekman suggested that people have six basic emotions

  • happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. Ekman's research took him

  • from Japan to Brazil to a remote part of Papua New Guinea where he found that emotional expression

  • stays the same across cultures. It's universal.

  • He was inspired by Charles Darwin's 1872 book, The Expression of Emotions in Man and

  • Animals, where Darwin suggests that our emotional expressions are determined by our evolution.

  • For example, a fear reaction leads to a response of, say, running away from a predator that in turn, ensures your survival. Hopefully.

  • Although some psychologists have argued the way that we experience emotions is more individual.

  • And others have suggested that the basic emotions of fear/surprise and anger/disgust should be combined, because

  • they're biologically similar.

  • Still, Ekman's theories have been really influential over the past 50 years, so much so that Inside Out adopted five of his six basic emotions as pretty adorable characters.

  • Which was probably helped by the fact he acted as a scientific consultant on the film.

  • Though Inside Out shows us the power of what we normally describe as negative emotions.

  • Namely, sadness.

  • It's often culturally and socially reinforced that there's something wrong or shameful about

  • feeling sad. We tend to have this cultural bias towards valuing positive thinking.

  • But studies have shown that those who try and suppress negative thoughts actually experience

  • more of them, which can lead to overeating and stronger stress responses.

  • Another study found that people who experience happy and sad emotions at the same time, like

  • "I'm sad or disgusted that there's broccoli on my pizza but happy because it means I can

  • experience new things" show improvements in mental well-being over the next few weeks,

  • even if the mixed feelings were unpleasant at the time.

  • Inside Out shows us that our negative emotions can guide our rational thinking. Sadness is a

  • trigger for seeking comfort and bonding. We're often tough on sadness, but it's important

  • to our understanding of who we are.

  • In his 1621 work "Anatomy of Melancholy", Robert Burton wrote in experiencing melancholy,

  • "increaseth sorrowincreaseth wisdom." Even those emotions that we consider as negative

  • can help guide us to good, rational decisions.

  • So even if you're riding down or inside out the emotional roller coaster, remember that

  • your positive and negative emotions can and do team up. There's always an upside.

  • And if you don't already, make sure you subscribe to BrainCraft! I have a new brainy episode out every Thursday.

Do you ever look at someone and wonder... What is going on inside their head?

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A2 UK sadness negative anger disgust fear melancholy

The Power of Sadness in Inside Out

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    Rose posted on 2015/08/18
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