I can’t wait for Pixar’s Inside Out to come out in Sweden. The tagline, “Meet the little voices inside your head,” is just how Internal Family Systems (IFS) describes the parts: like little people inside of you.

The characters in the picture – Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger – are the preteen Riley’s emotions (parts) as she copes with a move across the country and the new situations that brings.

It’s not just what happens inside of her own mind. It’s how Riley’s parts interact with and set off her parents’ parts, too.

Watch the trailer:

Did that scene feel a little too familiar? I know it did for me.

Meet the Little Voices Inside Your Head

What Inside Out calls emotions, IFS calls parts. Just like in the movie, your parts are like little people inside of you, each with their own wants, needs, dreams, wishes, and fears. A family of parts trying to do what each thinks is best for you.

Each of Riley’s parts have a specific purpose in her life:

  • Joy keeps her happy
  • Fear keeps her safe
  • Anger keeps her life fair
  • Disgust keeps her safe from physical and social poison
  • Sadness’s role is revealed toward the end of the movie…I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I’ll leave this blank for now.

I love how these parts are described, because they underscore the good intentions of each part. Even the parts that feel bad are trying hard to take care of us.

Parts Can Be Troublemakers, But Only When Extreme

In the clip above, you see both Riley and her dad hijacked by anger. They’re both reacting to the unfairness of the situation.

This happens when parts become extreme. We overload emotionally. We slam the table, shout at someone to shut up, or put our foot down. The aftermath can be hard to clean up.

It can be tempting to think, I don’t want to be so angry, I want to get rid of anger completely. But one of anger’s roles can be to keep your life fair. Do you want to lose the ability to keep your life fair?

Inside Out has a good lesson about wanting to get rid of parts, too. In the movie, Joy sees no need for Sadness, so Sadness is always being ignored. None of us really want to feel sad, so this can make sense. By the end of the story, Joy has learned how important Sadness really is…

…in moderation. Each of our parts are helpful when they’re in balance.

You Can Restore Emotional Balance With Self Leadership

Okay, so there are all these parts inside of us. We know they can get unruly. At times it can feel like, “Hey, who’s in charge here?”

The person in charge is the Self. One of my favorite analogies for the relationship between Self and parts is that of an orchestra. The parts are the musicians. The Self is the conductor of the parts.

The band falls out of tune when Self is not conducting the orchestra! The parts are very skilled at what they do, but they are not good leaders. Without a clear leader, the parts try to lead. Imagine the tuba player getting up and try to take control. Or the flutes sound completely flat, but nobody is outside listening to hear if that happens.

How do we get the Self Back in Charge?

The answer isn’t so simple, which is why I wrote a book about it. But, I’ll blog more about the Self soon. In the meantime, if you’re feeling hijacked, read the three steps you can take right now to ease any difficult emotion.


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