What ‘Inside Out’ teaches us about anger
In Disney’s movie “Inside Out”, we see Riley’s emotion of Anger depicted as a red, brick-shaped, literal hot head. He is impatient, scowls, pounds his fist, flames burst from his head, and he yells…A LOT! Early on in Riley’s life, we see tantrums and outbursts because of Anger. How dare someone suggest NO DESSERT!!!
These moments can be quite amusing to watch because, let’s face it, we can all relate to having angry outbursts!
Anger is many times perceived as the ultimate negative emotion, however “Inside Out” gives us an interesting perspective that could teach us a few things. When Joy introduces us to Anger, she describes him as someone who “cares about what is fair.” If we really think about it, most of our anger is the result of feeling as if we have been wronged by someone or when a situation does not go as we feel it should.
Children and teens who are dealing with an illness, injury, and/or hospitalization have MANY reasons to feel as if they have been put into an unfair situation. They are missing out on events with friends and family, missing school, having to endure sometimes painful and scary procedures and experiencing so many things that they have so little control over.
The first step in helping kids cope with anger is to acknowledge why they feel angry and to let them know they have a right to feel angry about a difficult situation.
Big life changes and overwhelming situations can shake up our emotions and cause them to go into panic mode as they try to make sense of what is happening. This is what we see with Riley’s emotions when her family moves away. However, when Anger is able to fully take over Riley’s control board, she makes an impulsive and unsafe decision to run away in an effort to feel better and to fix what she sees as an unfair situation. She breaks her hockey stick, rolls her eyes, yells at her parents and is disrespectful. When children begin to show these negative behaviors (even when they are sick or hurt), they need clear reminders of what behaviors are not acceptable while validating the feeling behind them. Say to your child, “It is OK for you to feel angry. It is not OK for you to hurt yourself, hurt others or be disrespectful.”
But if we are going to remove the only way they know how to express anger, we must replace it with an acceptable and healthy outlet. Some simple activities may include punching a pillow, pounding play dough, breaking ice cubes outside, participating in sports or outdoor activities, taking deep breaths or tearing up paper. Providing these options prevents anger from being bottled up and eventually blowing up!
Is there a positive side to Anger?? Definitely. Anger is strong, determined, passionate and protective. Those are all things we want children to be. Children can learn to see things that are not fair and stand up for themselves and others. Anger can be an excellent motivator for change and reaching solutions. If we can teach a child to use their anger in a positive way, we can empower them to overcome difficult situations.
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About the author
Angie Bradley is a Child Life specialist at Cook Children's. We know that a child’s illness or injury can impact a family physically, emotionally and financially. Fortunately, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. We provide a growing number of services for patients and families, all designed to help support, heal and encourage you through every step of your journey.