Disney's Inside Out. Suddenly it all makes sense!

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Mad as a sack of ferrets!
HEALTH WARNING: The wordsmith has struck again. This verbal vomit is over 2000 words. Largely comedy, but I suggest you grab a cup of coffee and some biscuits, then settle into a comfy chair and read this on your tablet instead. Or move on and find someone with less to say.

OMG. I've had an epiphany. I have reached the end of my road to Damascus. I am enlightened and have found Nirvana. I... have watched Disney's Inside Out. And suddenly, it all makes sense. Everything. I considered myself to have pretty good insight into my mental health, but this has revolutionised my understanding.

If you haven't seen it, you should. I don't care if you don't like Disney and think animated films are for kids. Do as your told and consider it therapy!

The basic premise - we have five little characters living inside our heads, whose personalities epitomise our main emotions - Fear, Anger, Disgust, Joy and Sadness. On a daily basis, they trundle off to work in a little operating centre we call the brain. Collectively, they dictate our interpretation of the world around us: our responses, emotions and behaviours. And as with all teams, sometimes they work harmoniously and sometimes they don't. And the more dominant characters largely determine the psyche of their human.

Our formative years and other key points in life generate Core Memories, reflecting the emotion they evoked (although they can become "polluted" and changed by different emotions). Other memories get filed in storage and occasionally cleared out by cute little minions, who suck them up with an industrial hoover and toss them over a cliff, forgotten as they evaporate into the sands of time. With me so far? Core Memories create Islands (think Islands of Adventure in Florida) that embody the most important things in a person's life. They flourish when nurtured and fall into disrepair when compromised.

In addition to the main features of the human mind, there are other wonderful concepts such as the Train of Thought (a literal train that chunters round shifting stock (thoughts) and ceasing to operate while we're asleep; a dangerous nuclear bunker for abstract thought; a movie studio where more little minions film hastily written, appallingly acted soap episodes that translate into dreams. Throw in imaginary friends and the subterranean cavern of subconscious thought and it's like Psychology 101. Henceforth, I'm going to start a one-man crusade to advocate that all mental health specialists watch it. It's a veritable work of genius.

So how does that help me understand myself? Well for a start, my team is chronically dysfunctional. Joy ruled the roost as a kid, then my delightful mother, neighbours and school bullies crushed Joy underfoot, giving Sadness the upper hand. I've decided Sadness probably shares much in common with Miss Trunchbull, from Ronald Dahl's book Matilda: looking suspiciously like a wrestler in military drag, scary as hell, not to be messed with and absolutely calling the shots. I've succeeded in hiding a couple of Joy's Core Memory's from this evil transvestite but he/she has managed to track most of them down and replace the vast majority with bleak, oppressive substitutes. Miss Trunchbull seldom lets other emotions near the control console (unless it's Anger, with whom she shares sleeping quarters - I dread to think who's on top!) and occasionally Disgust, whose venom is reserved for things such as celery, most public toilets and my boss' extortionate salary.

Joy - bless his cotton socks - has a rather weak constitution and has been relegated to sweeping floors and washing the windows when I cry. But he's not broken yet. He's an optimist. There's no glass half empty / half full nonsense with Joy. He's just grateful to have a fucking glass! Meanwhile, Fear was made redundant some while ago. Largely because my self-esteem and the value I place on life is so low, I don't give a shit about reckless or dangerous things. There are things I should fear. But I don't because I don't care if I come to harm. Occasionally he's drafted in on very brief-fixed term contracts for things like horror movies and certain theme park rides, but that's largely agency work to cover lunch breaks etc. His lack of presence also enabled me to go hand gliding a few months ago, so it’s not all bad.

Anyway, my Islands. Tough call...

FAMILY ISLAND: This is a very small, but much loved, close-knit island community with cosy dwellings, full of character and connected by strong bridges. There were a couple of assholes but we threw them into the shark invested waters years ago (aka lost touch)! It's absolutely the best island to visit for good food - especially my Dad's place.

MARRIAGE ISLAND: One could argue that this should be part of Family Island. But it's more than that. It's elevated, almost in the clouds yet with solid roots that reach so far down you can't see them. It looks intimidating to outsiders - fiercely defended by barbed wire and sentry guards. But that's because they have much to defend - a beautiful country mansion, filled with opulence, comfort, laughter, good wine and occasional debauchery, lol. This is my retreat, my sanctuary and the most prized of all islands.

PLEASURE ISLAND: Neither a theme park, nor a sex club! It's just full of all the things I enjoy and I've worked really hard to invest in some renovation work and further construction. There's a grand library and a sumptuous theatre for culture and relaxation; a concert hall and a games arcade that remind me of Vegas; stunning natural vistas as far as the eye can see, sprinkled with country pubs selling cask ales and excellent grub. Chocolate grows on trees and consuming it burns calories. It's just heaven. There used to be a gym, but we came to our senses and burnt it down! They try to reopen every January, but democracy rules and thankfully I'm intelligent enough to ignore my conscience!

MISERY ISLAND has to one of them. Nearly a fucking continent if you ask me and growing with the all-pervasive presence of cancer. Or Starbucks. What can I say? It's a bit like Skull Island from the King Kong movie. Dark, impenetrable, shrouded in fog and populated by a colony of inbred Neanderthals. They're a miserable bunch but frankly who can blame them? Despite this, they're tenacious and progressive, constantly applying for planning permission to develop ghastly high rise platforms that allow them to shoot flaming arrows and fling shit into all but Marriage Island. Thankfully, they're not all that bright, so when they're not hunting or sleeping, we sedate them through the careful application of covert medication; although evidence suggests they are beginning to develop an immunity to this, so a change of tactic may be necessary.

ASYLUM ISLAND: Thankfully, quite unconnected with the unfortunate exploits of desperate refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean, this refers to the other type of asylum, à la "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and it continues to fascinate me. An island of two distinct halves, connected by neurone bridges. The folks on one side are fun loving and entertaining; they spend all day rampaging around a colourful soft-play zone, ever the child at heart, daft as a brush and constantly pulling practical jokes on one another. But despite this frivolity, they also live in fear of the deranged lunatics that roam a dark, surrealist ghetto not far away. There is no understanding or ruling these dangerous psychopaths (reminiscent of the Cenobites from Hellraiser). They breed like rabbits and most attempts at population control have failed. Furthermore, their unpredictable and reckless behaviour is starting to influence their more naive and impressionable neighbours. Watch carefully and when not engaged in futile guerrilla warfare, they can be seen self-harming and essentially killing themselves by all methods imaginable. But they're regenerating and invincible, so rather than actually dying, they just become more experienced and determined. Houston... we have a problem.

So that's an overview of my islands. Others, come and go - like WORK ISLAND. Sometimes it's a thriving industrial metropolis; lately it cancelled the staff reward scheme, made everyone redundant and filed for bankruptcy. That's not to say I'm without a job. I have one. It's just shit. And as for a FRIENDSHIP ISLAND, I'm not sure I've ever had one. That's not to say that I don't have friends; I do, but not many because I'm not great at forming close relationships or investing time in them. So the most it's ever been is small archipelago of associates, occasionally deteriorating to little more than a muddy estuary, with no-one to blame but myself. But hey, we all have our faults. That doesn't mean I don't care for my friends immensely. I don’t have a SOCIAL MEDIA ISLAND (probably the largest for most people in this sad, sorry world) and I don’t want one thank-you very much.

As for the other features of my brain; my Train of Thought is like the Japanese bullet train. High tech and very fast indeed, but unfortunately compromised by several broken storage containers that scatter random thoughts everywhere. In addition to which, there are few stations and it runs 24/7. Which, at four in the morning is immensely unhelpful: all you want to do is sleep, but for some reason a movie you saw last year, work tasks for the morning, winning the lottery and the recipe for carbonara sauce seem to be more pressing concerns (I don’t even like carbonara!!). Introduce a Taylor Swift ear-worm and it's a living hell! Aaarrrrrghhh! If only it would go on strike at least once a week, like national rail.

Next we have the Dream Studio. Now that's where the real magic happens. I feel for these guys - years of blood, sweat and tears invested in drama school (I'm gay, we love a bit of drama!) and they end up working for an incurable insomniac! Such talent, gone to waste. But what it does mean is that on the infrequent occasions I sleep deeply enough to dream, they give it 110%. With script writing shared between Mark Cherry, Stephen King and JK Rowling minions, dreams can be as disturbing as they are exciting. And worthy an embarrassing number of BAFTA (Brain & Functionality Theatre Association) Awards. Sleeping as lightly as I do, I'm also very used to lucid dreaming, where you become aware that you are asleep and in a dream-like state, but are able to take control. I'm not sure they appreciate it, because my stage direction is somewhat spontaneous and off-the-wall, but it's bloody good fun!

Memory storage. Short term is a bit hit and miss and I put that down to the little minions determining what to keep and what can go. I'd like to think they're using some sort of complex algorithm to determine the value of retaining certain information. But that seems unlikely and I have instead concluded that they're rather dozy and lacking any investment into their professional development. Which would explain the routine brain farts I experience, causing me to forget where I left my wallet/keys/mobile phone at least twice a day; put fresh apples into the freezer and inadvertently conclude a text to my boss with a kiss. Yeah, that was a fun one to squirm out of!

Long term memory is a different story. I have a sneaking suspicion that when my other emotions are asleep, Trunchbull Sadness marches down there and starts polluting the memories his/her (who knows?) colleagues were primarily responsible for. It's like Darth Vader converting others to join the Dark side. And probably accompanied by some narration from Yoda, which is "why make sense not the brain is, young Skywalker". So in the main, it's quite a bleak, lonely place. Racks and racks of glowing spherical memories, tinged a subdued blue. And this fearsome, sadistic bitch routinely bullies and overrides the minions responsible for storage management, indiscriminately tossing one or two of Joy's memories into the abyss just for kicks. I hate her. Him. It. Whatever.

I can't recall ever having had an imaginary friend. Who needs one with an imagination like this?! But if there was one, he was probably killed off by nuclear fall-out from the Abstract Thought Reactor, which sprung a leak when I was young. Not necessarily a bad thing, I suspect my internal Chernobyl accident is responsible for a more creative side that enables me to compose literature such as this, play the piano and cook damn fine food (even if I do say so myself). Voices on the other hand - I have aplenty. Not of the auditory hallucination type, just simple commuters on the Train of Thought, who occasionally roam elsewhere. If I couldn't talk to myself, you might as well deprive me of oxygen. Ironically, it helps keep me sane. For the most part, the voices and I get on great but you know you're truly on your own when even they start excluding you from conversation, which does happen from time to time. I think that’s when I'm in a depression so deep a thick fog settles in and I can't organise my thoughts or focus upon a thing.

And last but by no means least. The subconscious. I definitely agree with the subterranean cavern analogy used in the film, barred shut by a great sturdy door, like the vaults of Gringott's bank. There is some nasty shit stored down there, I'm sure. You can sense it lurking in the darkness, glinting eyes and sharp claws. And its influence subtly pervades all other places; probably the consequence of a worn out draft excluder behind the door.

The problem with the subconscious is that by definition, you never get particularly well acquainted. Unless you pay a fortune for a therapist (many of whom seem hell bent on unleashing stuff that's best left alone). So I can only imagine what's on the other side that steel facade. Regardless, I'm pretty sure they have Sadness on speed dial and convene weekly teleconferences on how to fuck with my head. But I'm on to them, the little bastards! This post, along with every other essay I've written is my personal Declaration of War!

War against the subconscious demons and in favour of whole-scale island reconfiguration. Freedom from the slavery of unbridled emotions and the creation of the Democratic Republic of Sanity. I'm staging a coup d'état.

And if thinking of my brain as I have illustrated proves helpful, then it's one more weapon added to my arsenal. The game is on...


Firing with all synapses!!
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Hahahaha @Battlecry I greatly enjoyed reading that :). I particularly liked your use of the word 'transvestite' :p it's not a word I have come across before haha!

Henceforth, I'm going to start a one-man crusade to advocate that all mental health specialists watch it. It's a veritable work of genius.
With regard your epiphany finding its way into the annals of mainstream psychology and therapy lore (as there are about as many strategies and techniques around currently as there are different garments and outfits available to wear) you might have your work cut out hahaha :D.

I must concede though, it is indeed a thrill to watch something like that - principally created, ostensibly, for children and comedy - and derive such a pivotal and paradigm changing message from it.

I wish you all the best, my friend - keep up the great work! :)
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