Have you ever wondered if the movie Inside Out might actually be real? This is one of my all time favorite movies, because it does an amazing job of showing something true about how we work on the inside. If you saw it, you watched a little girl try to live her life, while colorful little people with the names of her emotions competed for control of her brain.
If you didn’t get to see Inside Out, the trailer does a great job of getting the point across. The times when Disgust is in charge are so much fun. I personally love seeing into what the parents are thinking.
What’s going on inside your child’s head?
Have you ever wondered what is going on inside your child’s head? I do. Sometimes I even wonder about what is going onside my own head. It definitely feels like my emotions compete for control.
We can all agree that we can behave very differently from our normal selves when certain emotions take over. And for most of us, that’s as far as we take the insights in the movie. Except there is a lot more to it than that, because inside the brains those are not disembodied feelings, they are little people who act like managers.
For a long time now, scientists have found mounting evidence that we are not a single consciousness. It looks like each of us has multiple consciousnesses inside our brain. You know, like multiple versions of our personality, or sub-personalities.
And that is exactly what Dr. Richard Schwartz, the discoverer of the Internal Family Systems model of psychotherapy thinks. When I interviewed him for my blog on Psychology Today, he shared some amazing insights with me.
In “The Voices in Your Head,” Dr. Schwartz explained that not only do we have sub-personalities that he calls “parts” inside us, but that they operate a lot like family does. That shows up in the movie too: when the parts are fighting for control things go haywire, but when they work together like a family things go well.
You’ll never forget the story of how Dr. Schwartz first discovered parts and our inner family. When everything he’d been taught as a doctor of psychology failed, he started listening to his clients and what he heard amazed him.
He told me about the three types of parts we have inside, and how most of time adults live their lives from a “manager” part. This part keeps us acting like adults, but has a way of keeping us from facing deeper needs, or experiencing joy. He also told me about something deeper than parts, the Self with a capital S. He’s claiming we all have a pretty ideal person already inside us, that just needs to emerge. You’ll learn how to start letting that self emerge when you read the article.
My second post in the series, “Do You Ever Wonder What’s Going On In Your Child’s Head?” considers how Inside Out explains a lot about our kids. Sometimes our kids behave strangely, like when toddlers ask for something and then get upset when we give it to them. Or when we ourselves behave out of character and say “I wasn’t myself.”
Is it true that “I wasn’t myself?” Yes, according to IFS, I likely did something I regretted because a part inside me called a “firefighter” showed up and took over. It sure feels like sometimes a red cartoon man named Anger takes over inside me and blows his top.
So how is this useful to us as parents? Dr. Schwartz shared with me a simple exercise to begin understanding what’s going on inside our own head. I hope you’ll read it and turn your own head inside out.
©Alison Escalante MD
Disclaimer: This article represents general education and does not constitute medical advice. My ideas are mine alone.