April 28, 2016

Atheist Mama: "Inside Out" and accepting your emotions

There was a lot written about Inside Out when it first came to theaters, but I only recently got around to watching it with the kids, so I'm adding my voice to the din.

Being a child under Christian parents can be trying. It restricts your emotional range because you're expected to always bear appropriate fruits. This is rooted in part in Matthew 7:16:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

It's pretty self-explanatory, I'm sure, but the idea here is that you'll know people by their actions. What do these fruits look like? Galatians 5:22 - 23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Showing anger or fear or sadness is, in most circumstances, bearing fruit that you don't want to. As a child, this translates into never showing "attitude" or questioning. For someone struggling with a mental health issue, it can be especially impactful, because the idea of the fruits of the Spirit give you yet another area to feel like a failure in.

I struggled with major depressive order for years before being diagnosed at seventeen. Growing up in Christian churches that preached this doctrine, I felt like there was something fatally flawed in my own character, because no matter how much I studied and meditated on scriptures, I could never shake the sadness or periodic bursts of anger.

Coming from this background, Inside Out was an interesting movie to watch. It reminded me that any number of emotions you can name are actually perfectly natural--even necessary in many ways.

One scene that particularly struck me both in light of my childhood and looking at my parenting today was this one:

By way of synopsis, Riley is having a hard time adjusting to her new life following a move. A conversation with her father around the dinner table quickly escalates, with anger taking over the interaction on both ends.

As a human being, I'm going to have emotions. It took a long time to accept that happy is not my default setting as a person. But as a parent, I often find myself butting up against that revelation and realizing that I still have to manage those emotions. The ability to de-escalate a situation is an important skill.

I'm still working on it. It's been helpful to track my own triggers, and I've had success reminding myself to ask for help too.

It's equally important to give myself a break and remember that sometimes I'm going to screw it up. It's just part of parenting--learning how to handle it when you mess up.

It's a journey.

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