Is there any hope in “Inside Out”?

My spouse and I recently saw the Pixar movie “inside Out”. It was a wonderful movie and I can freely recommend it. I enjoy movies that are well-done, entertaining, and teach something important. Because of my vocation, the ideas of feelings and memories were not new to me. The way they were depicted in this movie were new and great!

Riley is born and the feelings and memories begin. Life changes for her when her Dad decides to start a new business in San Francisco and the family moves away from Minnesota. Then the trouble begins. Riley had been happy in Minnesota – well, actually full of joy. Joy is one of the feelings characterized in the movie. Joy is the feeling that works very hard to be in control at all times. The other feelings – anger, fear, disgust and sadness – have their place of importance; so does Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, now a long term memory. Sadness becomes pivotal in the story as she affects memories just by touching them. She shows the way to grieving that things will never be as they were back in Minnesota. Sadness is able to empathize with Bing Bong and help him move forward. Joy helps Riley imagine and anticipate possibilities in her new environment. Joy is determined that Riley always be happy and never experience the “negative” emotions. Fear keeps Riley from doing unsafe things and staying away from scary things. Disgust hates broccoli, especially broccoli pizza.

The psychologists who were consulted were very clear that they wished more feelings could be added; they struggled with the limitation of 5 characters. One of the missing feelings or emotions was hope. But hope was actually not missing at all. Hope wasn’t a named character, but hope was actually represented throughout the movie….throughout Riley’s life.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hope is the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen : a feeling that something good will happen or be true; a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.

Joy, the feeling who tried so hard to make sure Riley’s life was always happy, wasn’t only Joy. Joy asked and anticipated what might happen next – with a positive attitude – a belief that things would be just fine. She suggested that Riley go look at the new house and then her new room. Joy suggested that Riley seek out other possibilities. Joy suggested that Riley move forward in a positive manner. So that she could experience Joy. The ability and determination to move forward doesn’t usually happen if hope isn’t present. The movie was delightful, meaningful and well done. And filled with hope.

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Silliness and Seriousness: The ALS/Ice Bucket Challenge is a Good Thing

I have been challenged. And I’m a wimp. I hate cold….of any kind…except ice cream.  But I will accept this challenge, I think. Maybe. I was thinking about why I would  be willing to do this.  It makes absolutely no sense and I have an out. I can donate and not dump ice water on my head at all, skipping the need to video. But…then I wouldn’t have participated. Patrick Stewart came up with the middle ground. In his video, he writes a check and  makes himself a drink with the ice in the bucket on his desk. And his smile is great.

Many opinions regarding the ALS/Ice Bucket Challenge have been posted recently. Some writers have been very supportive and some not so much. “I just think it seems hokey and far too gimmicky and a hot trend and part of the whole ‘me’ culture of ‘Oh look at me. Pay attention to me,'” said Cameron Mitchell of New York. “The charity part seems like an afterthought.” in a post in The Challenge; however, has been very successful raising both awareness and money for ALS.  Whether the effort has been gimmicky or a hot trend; the goal has been surpassed. One criticism has been that people will participate in the Challenge, but still know nothing about ALS, a devastating and fatal disease.  I’d like to give people a little more credit; I have found that most people are both curious and compassionate. Many participants have, in fact, looked up information on ALS.

“The ice bucket challenge has shown it’s OK to be silly for a good cause,” says Brian Mittendorf, a professor at the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, who teaches courses in nonprofit finance.

“Normally the model is to find people who are passionate about a cause and then ask for donations or to educate people and then seek out donations. (The ice bucket challenge is) something that’s fun that people can do … people are taking part in it and then taking the info and donating.”

And naming the Challenge as something fun that people can do is exactly the point.  In a world where the news is difficult, horrifying and tragic, we welcome the ability to empower ourselves to do something meaningful.  The ice bucket challenge is fun and we have the opportunity to join others in a sincere effort to raise awareness and donate. Too often we hear and see events that outrage us, but leave us with a sense of powerlessness. That feeling can be overwhelming. With the ALS/ice bucket challenge we are able to join other people, which is such an important part of our humanity, to be silly and serious at the same time and know that our contribution has been more than a monetary donation. We have reached out to one another. We have collectively made a difference.


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My Heart Sank When I Heard About Robin Williams’ Death

Last night I heard the sad news that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide. My heart sank. I thought of the gifts he had brought to so many. His humor, his candor, his vocation and his advocacy for reducing the stigma of mental illness. I thought of his friends and family. I thought of the people who had helped him and tried to help him again. I thought of him. I thought of Robin Williams and his struggle with depression. And addiction. With 20+ years of sobriety, he went to rehab. He knew he needed continuous support.

Depression and addiction are insidious. Depression is constant and strong, gripping people in its throes every hour of every day. There are good days and bad days and okay days, but depression has to be managed and understood constantly. People who struggle with depression and find a deceptive relief through addictions need and deserve our compassion and hope….especially in their darkest times. It’s hard. It’s hard to support and love someone who is depressed and possibly suicidal. It’s tempting to close the door and look the other way. It’s hard and necessary to say we love you, not your addiction. And it’s hard to understand depression. And to set clear limits on addiction. But so necessary.

A friend of mine’s son committed suicide a few months ago. His sister, in response to Robin Williams’ death, wrote, “And in this tragedy, we can see that sometimes the strongest, funniest or happiest people may be hiding a great darkness. It’s time to start the conversation to destigmatize mental health and provide a positive outlet for anyone who may feel hopeless. Rest in peace to the many who weren’t aware of how bright their light shined.”

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A Passion for Creativity

One of my passions is helping people find their creativity. I often hear, “I’m not creative” or “I’m not artistic or musical” or “I like photography, but I’m not any good at it.” People have a multitude of ways of convincing themselves that they can’t possibly have a creative bone in their body. And that’s just not true. We have to look at how we are defining creativity. It’s not just a matter of being good in music art or photography. It’s really about allowing yourself to be open-minded.

In an article I read in The Huffington Post, “Scientifically Backed Reasons Why being Creativity Can Make You Happier” Shana Lebowitz says, “There’s no concrete definition of creativity, but most experts agree it’s got something to do with the ability to come up with new ideas, new links between ideas and novel solutions to problems (with or without destroying a pack of Crayolas). But here’s the kicker: Forget the image of the brooding artist alone in a basement studio. Research suggests creative people are actually happier than everyone else.”

Everyone has new ideas; they just may not think of these thoughts as new ideas. It does take some work to identify the thought as an idea that is creative. Most of us talk ourselves out of our ideas easily. Everyone can be creative, but people may express their creativity differently.

“It really has to do with open-mindedness,” says Dr. Carrie Barron, co-author of “The Creativity Cure,” who says creativity applies to everything from making a meal to generating a business plan. So the next time you are making dinner, organizing your office or thinking about your budget, remember that you are being creative. It may lead to other wonderful possibilities!

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Are You Addicted to Being Busy?

If you’re like most people, you read the title of this post and thought, “Well, I’m busy. Really busy. But I’m not addicted!” Then you thought for a moment about what your schedule entailed. Work, deadlines, children’s soccer games, music lessons, dance practice, business-social obligations, housework, yard work and the list goes on and on. And you thought again. Everyone is busy. I hear people talking about how busy they are….and I do it, too….as if it’s a competition or a race. If you are the busiest person anyone knows, someone will look at you with a smile and admiration. Several people will stop talking and gaze in wonder. You’ll smile trying to look humble and secretly thrilled that people have noticed. People have noticed how hard you are trying. But you say to yourself you’re not addicted to being busy. It’s just that it feels right and good and positive. Your endorphins have kicked in. And it’s all good stuff.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of addiction is a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something. Or an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something.

Okay, a strong and harmful need. But running to your children’s activities isn’t harmful! And competition is good! And work is important and housework and yard work are necessary. So, why is this busyness a problem? Tim Kreider, in an article for the NYTimes, wrote, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

The consequences of persistent over-scheduling and busyness are serious. We forget how to communicate; our attention span is diminished and our ability to comprehend written and spoken words significantly decreases. The stress response kicks in and the effects on our bodies begin to take their toll. It’s important to connect with people in non-competitive ways. It’s also important to have quiet time alone without the television, computer or smartphone. Making sure you have these times will be difficult at first. But as it becomes easier, you will find that you are thinking more clearly and feel better. Your communication skills and comprehension skills will improve. You will have fewer times of being short-tempered. Give it a try. You’ll learn to enjoy it!



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Who Is Responsible?

Recently, 300 kids from Stephentown, NY broke into the home of Brian Holloway, the former NFL player. This home is currently on the market and is his second home. He was able to watch the destruction from his primary residence.  Rather than pressing charges immediately, he chose to create a website where he posted photos of the party-goers. He invited the parents and the teenagers to come back and make amends by helping him with the repairs, estimated at approximately $20,000. There is no way he could put a price tag on the eagle statue that was stolen. It was part of a memorial to his stillborn grandson. Only one kid showed up to help. Instead, parents are threatening to sue him for posting photos of their children. I believe that it is important to hold people accountable for their actions. Praise them for good, reprimand or punish for bad. Appropriately.

It seems that the parents are upset that their minor children’s photos are on the internet. It seems that Brian Holloway was trying to create an opportunity for the kids to make amends in a healthy and appropriate way. Repair the damage they caused.  Teenagers are children with new found freedom, a license to drive in some cases, and a desire to experience as much freedom as possible.  They often make terrible choices.  I have heard a teenager on more than one occasion say, in reference to a classmate who was being a bully, “It’s ok, I just have to wait to get off school grounds to teach him a lesson.” and “My parents told me how to get him back.”

Brian Holloway may have erred in posting the photos of minors. I tend to take that seriously. But it is important not to lose sight of the precipitating issue. The kids destroyed someone else’s property. The owner was trying to teach them to do something good by asking them to make repairs. The parents are colluding with the children to help them avoid their responsibility and using the problem of the photos on the internet as a distraction. There are separate issues here. Next time, I guess he should just call the police.  Then the parents can worry about their children’s rights when they are in the police station.

As reported in “The HuffingtonPost” and “The Daily News”.

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The Courage to Be Yourself

Most women have a terribly difficult time being themselves. They have had years of messages telling them to be a certain way, whether that is a smaller size, better looking, a stronger or more shrewd business person or professional, a more competent mother, a more supportive spouse or a more creative artist.  Coordinating children’s and family’s schedules, and/or attending to work or school, plus trying to be intentional about communicating values is sometimes overwhelming.  There’s hardly time to remember to take care of oneself at the most basic level much less think about finding oneself or one’s own goals and purpose. It’s so easy to get off track!

Self-care is really necessary. The need to take care of one’s physical health, emotional, spiritual and mental health are paramount.  When time is so precious, how can one accomplish so much?  It’s important to make choices or changes in small bites; one difference at a time. And be sure you have support from family and friends. If quitting smoking or losing weight are important to you, those are great goals. But for now, choose something different. Something that you can just start doing without having to stop a habit first.  Think of something you have always wanted to do, but never got around to it or didn’t have the courage to ask. Choose something accessible and fun! If you would like more direction, ideas, and support, sign up for the workshop series, “Becoming the Woman You Were Meant to Be: Finding Your Authentic Self” on May 14, 17 and 21, 2012.  Contact me for more information. Celebrate your gifts!

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