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5 Shows And Movies To Learn More About Our Emotions

by Chloe Lee. |

As humans, we are emotional beings. Although we are well aware of the existence of our emotions, we are taught very little about it: why do we feel what we feel, or how to regulate how we feel (especially negative emotions). More importantly, our emotions play a huge role in influencing our choices and behaviours. For example, we choose what we eat based on how we feel (which is why “comfort food” exists to cheer us up when we are sad), we also tend to be more generous/helpful when we are in a good mood.

There are many resources you can access if you would like to be more in touch with your emotions, but let us start by looking at these five interesting displays of emotions from shows/movies that we can learn from:

Spoiler alert: this article contains details to the plots of the shows/movies mentioned.

Trigger warning: some shows/movies have explicit scenes portraying violence and/or mentions of depression.

Inside Out

Official Trailer

Inside Out is an animation that creatively and beautifully portrays what is often invisible with very tangible experiences. The little voices in our head come to life in this movie with Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust – who are all main characters in this film. It shows a journey of how these five emotions take turns “being in control” of their owner, Riley, and try to help her through a very difficult transition in her life.

This movie is very intentional in how it expresses its emotions, and even gives us a glimpse of how our mind works: we want to be constantly feeling happy, and wanting Joy to be in control. We see how Joy also tries to push Sadness away, making sure that none of Riley’s memories are tainted with even an inch of sadness.

In this movie, we get to watch a literal “brain freeze” (where the control room of the mind turns into solid ice) when Riley drinks a cold soda, as well as an actual “train of thought” – which were all very funny and smart translations of what we don’t usually see, but experience or feel very often. Other than these quirky analogies, this movie is very reflective of what we think our ideal life should look like: being happy 24/7. However, it sends a powerful message about how Sadness has a role to play – and not all sad memories are bad things (we will touch on this topic a little more soon).

Riley had a memory of her losing an ice hockey game. To protect Riley, Joy has kept this memory as far away from her as possible. However, this sad memory was followed by a happy one – where Riley’s teammates all came to cheer her up and encouraged her for being such a good team-player. Although it started as a sad memory, it was followed by a meaningful and happy event; and by withholding it, Joy has actually neglected an important part of Riley’s life. It shows us that bittersweet experiences are key in our lives, too.

Inside Out also addresses the different types of emotions that we have –

Primary emotions, which are the instinctive reactions our bodies give out when faced with a stimulus; happy, sad, angry; whereas secondary emotions, which are then emotional reactions in response to our primary emotions; such as shame or regret. With such obvious characteristics in the movie, it has been adapted to be used as teaching material to help children understand how they feel. Upon watching this movie, here are some guides you can reflect on to help you identify your emotions:

  • How does Sad feel to me?

  • Do I have any Sad memories that are actually Bitter-sweet?

  • How can I turn these bitter-sweet memories into motivation to improve?

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Official Trailer

Other than the brilliant Oscar-worthy performances by Seo Ye-Ji, Kim Soo-Hyun and Oh Jung-Se, the plot introduces a spectrum of emotions we can learn from. Before we proceed, here are two things to take note of: (1) Some of the portrayals of the conditions in this show have been dramatized, so do remember to do your own research if you would like to find out more; (2) The drama revolves around a love story where two people began to experience healing upon starting their relationship – do remember that healing is a choice you (and only you) get to make daily for yourself and is not dependent on finding “the one”.

There are many things we can learn from, but I would like to direct your attention to the emotion cards that are being used in the show. Oh Jung-Se plays a character with autism, Moon Sang-Tae, and although individuals with autism can understand emotions and are often very emphatic, they do find it difficult to read certain cues. As such, he puts a lot of effort into memorizing facial expressions and linking them to the ones he sees on the emotion cards, for example, the arch of eyebrows or curve of smiles.

This illustrates the importance of non-verbal communication and cues we use to express how we are feeling. For most of us, these come naturally to us: frowning, smirking, or biting our lips; however, some people don’t recognize or identify emotions as well as we do. So, the next time you come across a person who is socially inept, do try to be patient with them.

In one of the fairytales that author Ko Mun Yeong (actress: Seo Ye-Ji) wrote, The Boy who Fed on Nightmares, it also talks about the importance of bad or negative memories and how it shapes our outlook in life: “Only those with such memories buried in their hearts can become stronger… Remember it all and overcome it.”

Source: TWText

As seen from the drama, allowing ourselves to feel what we need to and being able to be honest about our emotions is actually very helpful. If you would like to be more in touch with your emotions, try a Thought Record:

Frozen 2

Official Trailer

I believe this movie needs no explanation – it is an animation that features the princesses of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna, and their musical adventure. In the song, The Next Right Thing, both the scenes and the lyrics give us a very deep picture of feeling sad, even depressed. Disney has never shied away from important lessons or messages in their movies, this is no exception. After Anna lost her sister (and her snowman friend, Olaf), she found herself in a physical and mental cave; instead of just fast-forwarding through her grief, Disney powerfully portrayed her journey to overcoming this darkness: one step at a time.

Depression can sometimes feel very crippling – where people struggle to get out of bed or to perform their normal daily tasks. The lyrics speak for themselves:

I've seen dark before, but not like this

This is cold, this is empty, this is numb

The life I knew is over, the lights are out Hello, darkness, I'm ready to succumb

Our mental states or mental well-being has been ignored for centuries simply because it is not a visible condition that we can make sense of. However, these invisible experiences actually influence our physical functions. For example, sometimes when we are angry, we have the urge to punch a wall. As such, if we do not reconcile the disconnection between the mental and physical, we would just end up hurting ourselves.

This movie and this song are amazing because it describes the conditions in such a relatable and real way, but also presents an action-oriented method to overcome it:

Take a step, step again It is all that I can to do The next right thing I won't look too far ahead It's too much for me to take But break it down to this next breath, this next step This next choice is one that I can make

The Umbrella Academy 2

Official Trailer

This is a hilarious show about 7 superheroes (not very good ones) who try to save the world. Jam-packed with gory action is a series that has the perfect combination of humour and sensitivity. It deals with an array of emotions: from regret, to trauma and abandonment – although in a light-hearted and witty manner. There is one particular scene I want to zoom in on that talks about anger: Allison is able to “rumour” anyone to do whatever she tells them to. For example, “I heard a rumour… that you gave me a hug” will automatically earn her a hug.

She went into a diner and “rumoured” a racist waiter to serve her coffee. Drowned by her anger, she kept asking him to pour her even more coffee, even though it has overflowed and started burning his hands. She snapped out of her anger and regretted it almost instantly.

Being angry is not necessarily wrong, but allowing ourselves to act out of anger and being impulsive often leads to outcomes we would regret. We do not have superpowers that could harm people, but our words, actions and behaviours can also be hurtful. We can learn to view anger as a superpower: we can turn it into motivation to fix the injustice we see in this world, or we could use it to hurt others – it is our choice to manage, train and control it to use it for good.


Official Trailer

In two hours, you learn about the life of Alexander Hamilton, have your ears blessed by musical geniuses, and get mind-blown by incredible raps. There is so much I love about this musical, and the narrative I felt was beautifully portrayed was the idea of forgiveness. Although forgiveness is not an emotion in itself, it is a process or a choice that includes the letting-go or adopting of certain emotions. For example, letting go of hurt or anger, and adopting joy. The song, It’s Quiet Uptown, is about how Eliza (wife) and Alexander Hamilton felt after their son died (which happened after he cheated on her).

They do not disguise how difficult it is to forgive:

Forgiveness. Can you imagine? Forgiveness. Can you imagine? If you see him in the street, walking by her Side, talking by her side, have pity They are going through the unimaginable

It is never easy to forgive someone who has hurt you, and no one can ever ask of it from you – it is an almost unimaginable thing to do. Forgiveness looks different for everyone and for each situation: it could be an intentional decision, a change in behaviour, an emotional experience or a combination of all of them. We may feel like certain people in our lives do not deserve our forgiveness, but the choice to forgive is for our healing and recovery more than it is about your abuser.

Understanding how we feel is important. It allows us to identify the root causes of negative emotions such as anxiety or depression and helps us work towards actionable steps to accept our situations or resolve our problems. Acknowledging how we feel also allows us to be more resilient and builds level-headedness that will be useful when we try to solve big problems. If you are not very familiar with allowing yourself to feel and express yourself, it’s okay to take your time to start understanding this aspect of yourself. Take your time, be more intentional and aware about your mental-wellbeing, and take it one step at a time.

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