Heading to the movie theater this weekend to see Inside Out, Disney Pixar's smash hit of the summer?
The flick shows the journey of main character, 11 year old Riley, as she manages five emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger - living in her head, embodied by small characters. Eventually, they all exist in harmony.
Dr. Richard Schwartz, a psychotherapist in Brookline, MA, says this concept mirrors a true mode of therapy that he developed after working with countless individuals and families. "As I watched the movie, I was pretty blown away," he says. "I was very excited because I think it's going to help people understand the phenomena better."
"I have been working with what I call 'parts of people' for 30-plus years. I have been developing this idea that we actually all have these sub-personalilties that interact in amazingly similar ways to the way those five emotions did inside Riley's head," he says, of his model called Internal Family Systems. "Eveyone has these different personalities and it's possible to actually have conversations inside with them...these aren't just little bundles of one emotion. In fact, the movie shows Joy also has frustration and pain sometimes - gets very tired. And Sadness has a lot of talent."
Schwartz further explains: "When I work with someone, I'll first help them access this place that I call The Self. Immediately, they start to show all these C-word qualities - confidence, courage, compassion - and when they're in that state, they're not that flooded by the different (negative) parts of them and they can begin to interact with these parts in a healing way."
When Schwartz works with a client - helping them to get in touch with their feelings - he often sees them shift into a state of mindfulness regarding their emotions: "Not just observing them - which is what mindfulness is usually about - but actually being able to interact with them from this more open-hearted place and have a kind of wisdom about how to change the ones that are extreme inside."
If folks achieve this, Schwartz believes they will live happier lives.
Schwartz says he contacted the movie's producers who were also excited about this real-life connection.
Click here to learn more about Internal Family Systems.