Brain and Behavior

Learning to Accept Our Emotions: Lessons from Disney’s ‘Inside Out’

I recently had the opportunity to see Disney Pixar’s latest animated feature, "Inside Out." I didn’t need much prompting: it's a movie about feelings, and I'm a psychologist. It did not disappoint.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the film’s premise (spoiler alert): An 11-year-old girl named Riley moves cross-country with her family. A move is a huge transition, especially at such an impressionable age, and she experiences a gamut of emotions as she leaves her home, friends, and hockey league behind. Riley's feelings -- the main characters of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust -- provide a glimpse into the workings of Riley’s mind as she navigates this life-changing experience.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Psychology Around the Net: May 9, 2015

This week's Psychology Around the Net focuses on teachers and psychological concepts in the classroom, how exercise relates to your career, how we're "allowed" to enjoy movies about mental illness, and more.

The Most Important Psychological Concepts for Teachers to Apply in Classrooms: A new American Psychological Association report outlines and explains 20 psychological concepts to enhance teaching on the elementary and secondary school levels.

Continue Reading


9 Quotes about Life from ‘Garden State’

"Garden State" is a comedy-drama movie featuring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman that captures the state of transition young adults experience in a refreshing light. The narrative features psychological undertones.

Andrew Largeman (Braff) has been medicated since he was 10 years old, resulting in his emotional detachment. He is simply going through the motions of day-to-day life. Sam, a vivacious 20-something with problems of her own, inspires Andrew to start really living.

Following are some thought-provoking quotes from the film (along with my own interpretations).

Continue Reading


Lessons from ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet as a teacher … and if you are prepared, most of all, to forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you. ~ Liz Gilbert

If I’m seeking an ‘emotional cleanse’ of sorts, I watch the film "Eat, Pray, Love." Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, the movie documents one woman’s quest to heal, find peace and restore balance in her life, as she travels through Rome, India and Bali. Her ventures bring forth painful lessons, self-discoveries and resonating truths.
Continue Reading


Movie Review: Frankie & Alice

It's been 57 years since The Three Faces of Eve premiered in move theaters. One of the first cinematic portrayals of serious mental illness, the movie starred Joanne Woodward. She would end up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance portraying three different personalities in one individual in the film.

Enter Halle Berry and her performance in Frankie and Alice. Although first released to very limited audience in 2010, it garnered Berry a Golden Globe nomination in 2011 for her lead role in the film. In it, she portrays Frankie, a go-go dancer in the 1970s who experiences blackouts she can't explain.

Finally released more generally this past week, it's an interesting and engaging addition to the film category of movies portraying multiple personalities.

Continue Reading

Brain and Behavior

Why Are We Drawn to Horror Films?

My relationship with horror films is one massive contradiction. On the one hand, I can’t peel my eyes away from the screen. On the other hand, I know that I’m surely going to be spooked in the aftermath (the more paranormal content, the creepier it is). And yet, I’m drawn to frightening movies anyway, in dark rooms and late at night. (Go big or go home, right?)

“Lauren, why do you do that to yourself?” family members ask, after it’s apparent that my vivid, disturbing dreams are probably a byproduct of the storylines I watched before sleep: John Cusack spends the night in a haunted hotel room and loses his mind. He escapes the room, physically, but does he ever really leave? The spirit of a murder victim lingers around the Yankee Peddler Inn -- she’s seeking vengeance. Religion turns dark and exorcisms occur. Ouija boards just encompass freakiness.

Why are we so drawn to things that scare us?

Continue Reading


When You’re Running Toward Something

I had run for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours.
~ Forrest Gump

Apparently, I’m a bit behind on the Forrest Gump bandwagon. After viewing the film in its entirety recently, I knew I had to flesh out a concept that was thematically addressed throughout -- running. Whenever I think of ‘running’ from a psychological standpoint, I conjure up images of people trying to escape life, avoid their problems and mentally recharge elsewhere, without coping effectively.

However, when I saw Forrest run (“Run Forrest run” is the famous line), I gathered that he wasn’t running away -- he was running toward something. In fact, maybe the notion of chasing your dreams isn’t such a cliché after all.

Continue Reading


A Few Valuable Life Lessons from ‘Pocahontas’

Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
~ Pocahontas

I love Disney films. Those who know me probably wouldn’t be surprised if I started to serenade them with Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” or the Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World.”(I tend to sing a lot, and I suppose my selections usually pertain to tunes about the...
Continue Reading

Ethics & Morality

Become Your Own Superhero!

I was giddy like a schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert when I went to see the movie 'Man of Steel' the other day. You see, I'm a big fan of Superman and this was the movie I'd been waiting for all year. (Thankfully, the film was great and I loved it.)

It also got me thinking about what we, as mortal humans, can learn from the life journey of Superman to help us become our own superhero. Clearly, I’m not suggesting that you go out and get yourself bitten by a radioactive spider or spend millions on a cool black suit with a utility belt to become a superhero; no, nothing like that.

What I’m suggesting is that there are many moral dilemmas which Superman faces that we can learn from.

Continue Reading


The Value of a Romance Movie

“No matter how many years go by, I’ll know one thing to be as true as ever was.”
~ Dear John

If I got paid for every time I tried to convince someone to watch Dear John, I’d probably have quite the sum of money. Honestly, all it takes is hearing the theme by Deborah Lurie, and my emotional state heightens at the possibility of something great, even with the lingering undertones of hurt and heartache.

Whether it’s Dear John, The Notebook, or other romantic flicks that require Kleenex, I appreciate films that showcase what many deem as “unrealistic” narratives.

Continue Reading


Oscar-Winner Jennifer Lawrence Speaks Up for Mental Health

You may have missed the Oscars on Sunday night, but you surely haven't missed all the talk about them since their aired.

One of the things you may have also missed, though, was Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence speaking about mental illness and the stigma and prejudice that still surround people with a mental health concern.

In the movie she won the Best Actress Oscar for, Lawrence plays a character who befriends Bradley Cooper's character, who has bipolar disorder. Her performance is simply wondrous, and given her age at the time of the filming -- just 21 -- also quite extraordinary.

"I think that there's such a huge stigma over it [mental illness], that I hope we can get rid of, or help... I mean, people have diabetes or asthma and they have to take medication for it. But as soon as you have to take medication for your mind, there's this instant stigma. Hopefully we've given those people hope, and made people realize that it's not--"

Click through to watch the interview...

Continue Reading