Today I went and saw the new Pixar film, Inside Out. If you haven’t heard about it yet, here’s the gist: You are witnessing the emotional life of an 11 year old girl from the inside of her brain. Specifically, you are watching life in her Limbic System and Hippocampus. You are watching personified emotions-Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness.  Each emotion takes turns “driving the bus” that is this young girl’s brain reaction to her circumstances, and watching these experiences be solidified and stored.

Anyone who has ever taken a child to an animated feature film surely knows that so much of the dialogue is humor aimed at adults and complex metaphor. This adventure follows that formula in an interesting and thought-provoking way.

For example, memories are depicted as semi-fragile marbles of different colors that are stored in a kind of memory “vault”. Purple represents fear, disgust is green, red is anger, joy is yellow, sadness is blue.  This girl’s memories are mostly yellow-joy, but anger and sadness are close seconds. Her primary emotions are made up of primary colors.

As I watched, I thought about what colors make up my memory banks. What color are my marbles? Five emotions wouldn’t be near enough to represent the complexity of my feelings, thoughts, and memories.

For a start, I would add gray marbles for disappointment, sky blue for gratitude, and orange marbles for confusion.  Some of my marbles would be chipped and broken. Some would be lost to the annals of time. Maybe some of my marbles would be marbles I borrowed from others but thought were my own.

Most of my memory marbles would not be made of individual solid colors; they would be a mix of two or more. There would be many that would be swirls of yellow and blue, and I would call them “bittersweet”. I would notice a number of marbles of orange, with twinges of purple: fear embedded in confusion.

If these marbles represent not just our memories but our reaction to life, I want my marbles to be heavily weighted to sky blue ones. I want my primary response to life to be one of gratitude. Sky blue marbles attract yellow marbles, and I want to cultivate joy.

If eating disorder prevention had a marble vault, what would it look like? It would have marbles of all the colors. A rich and emotionally diverse life is paramount to a well-lived life of balance. It would also contain the most valuable marble of all, which would be a marble with all colors swirled within it. A rainbow-colored marble. This marble, which would represent the human experience, would be named hope. With hope, there’s always the promise of growth and change and both are at the very heart of prevention.

What You Can Do: Take a minute to think about what colors are most predominant in your own marble vault. Do the colors represent a life you are happy living?

What You Can Do Today: Imagine that the colors of your marbles are visible to the world at large. What colors do you want others to see? Consider ways you can begin to make this a reality.


About the author:


Stephanie Haines, M.Ed., CHES, is the prevention education specialist at Walden Center for Education and Research. Her role is to provide prevention education to school communities including students, teachers and administrators regarding eating disorders, body image and related topics.

Before joining Walden, Stephanie was a senior health educator and prevention specialist at the nonprofit organization Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) Educational Services in Newton, where she provided education to students in 50 countries about the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. Earlier in her career, she was a licensed occupational therapist in the Newport, N.H., school district.

Stephanie earned her master’s degree from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she served as a graduate assistant to Margaret Burckes-Miller, founder and director of the university’s Eating Disorders Institute. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Granite State College and an associate’s degree from New Hampshire Technical College.