Riley From Inside Out Can Teach Us A Lot About Emotions

Thomas FusilliBlog

Riley from Inside Out

Today, I am continuing my tips from Disney character series with Riley from Inside Out!

I live with three very strong, beautiful women. 

Each day, I am treated to every emotional expression ever portrayed. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can even get multiple emotions at the same time from different people on the same issue!

I am learning to recognize these changes and am able to respond appropriately (most of the time). It has even helped me discover and manage my own strengths and weaknesses along the way.

I have recently tried to see inside my daughters’ minds through Riley from Inside Out.

Riley Anderson is around their age and is going through a lot of the changes that they are dealing with: new situations, new schools, new friends, and potential puberty talks. 

Here are a few things I have learned as a dad from my daughters and from Riley from Inside Out herself:

Emotions are Real, Complex Things

joy and sadness at Epcot

Meeting Joy and Sadness at EPCOT! Image Courtesy of Thomas Fusilli

Riley has five main emotions at her core: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Joy is the dominant emotion for the first portion of Riley’s life. 

These feelings are not just isolated to five characters fighting it out; they intertwine and loop together in and out of her memory bank.

For instance, when Joy is looking at the sad core memories, she starts to cry.

Sadness reminds her thatIt was the day the Prairie Dogs lost the big playoff game. Riley missed the winning shot, she felt awful. She wanted to quit.”  

Joy rewinds the memory and sees that the reason that everyone “came to help [was] because of Sadness.”

We need to recognize that our children’s feelings aren’t as simple as they may appear. Sometimes a displayed emotion could stem from multiple feelings.

How We Respond To Emotions Matters

riley from inside out screenshot

It’s okay to get mad! Image Courtesy of Disney

I tell my daughters all of the time that it is okay to have emotions. Have a temper tantrum. 

Be angry that pineapples “ruined pizza” (but actually don’t be… some people love fruits on their pie).

If Sadness needs the moment to cry so that she can “slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems,” then sometimes we have to do the same. I let them have that moment

When the outburst is complete and they have settled down, I then get to have a conversation with them.

Talk It Out

riley and family inside out screenshot

Having support is important. Image Courtesy of Disney

Riley benefits from Family Island and the comfort that it provides.

As she matures, she begins to suppress her emotions. The longer they stay internalized, the more troublesome the response.

When she returns back home after running away, she opens up and everything she suppressed finally spills out. 

Talking things out helps to sort out what needs to be dealt with. The more interaction with the issue, the easier it is to respond to it.

Listen and Support

riley from inside out

Riley has a lot of different emotions. Image Courtesy of Disney

When Bing Bong quickly recovers from his loss of Imagination Land, Joy wonders what Sadness did to help. Sadness doesn’t “know, he was sad, so [she] listened to what” he had to say.

Riley can only be open and honest if she has parents that are willing to listen, which is why it is so important to show your genuine concern and interest in what your children are dealing with.

I have to be aware when my daughters need to talk. I need to put all other things aside (like technology) and just focus on what they need.

It really doesn’t matter as to what I feel at that point either. They have feelings, and I need to listen to be able to hear them.

If I’m lucky, I can take a really sad core memory and provide an opportunity to allow it to become a more comforting one.

Get To The Root of the Issue

riley from inside out and broccoli

The root of the issue here is that Riley doesn’t like broccoli. Image Courtesy of Disney

Until Riley gets to the root of the issue, she continues to be lost in the emotions. 

She starts losing her islands of personality; she loses Hockey Island, Goofball Island, and anything else that she cares about.

While Joy and Sadness attempt to return back to the mainframe, the other emotions are left to resolve everything.

It is only when Joy and Sadness return that Riley can start to express what it is that is bothering her.

This requires time and patience. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, because learning how to get to the bottom of things will help later when my girls get older. 

The Need For Healthy Outlets

riley from inside out playing hockey

Riley has hockey as a healthy outlet. Image Courtesy of Disney

As Joy says, “You can’t focus on what’s wrong. There’s always a way to turn it around … try to find the fun.”

Find those ways to allow for an emotional release and to have fun, like:

I hope that these tips from Riley from Inside Out help you a little bit. Be warned, though: I don’t know what’s going to happen when the “PUBERTY” button gets pushed! 

Speaking of emotions—I am so happy with the positive feedback I’ve received about this character study series! 

Halloween is creeping in on us, which is why I will be starting a new series on Disney Villains and Spooky themed articles.

Do you have any recommendations of who should be featured? Let me know on Instagram—I look forward to hearing from you!

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About the Author

Thomas Fusilli

Thomas is an avid Disney enthusiast, visiting the parks 2-3 times a year and filling a lot of his free time with Disney related entertainment. In between Disney adventures, Thomas teaches high school English and coaches wrestling, and is a proud husband and dad. Follow Thomas on Instagram.