Multi-Tasking Versus Single or “Mindful” Tasking

multi task yoga woman

I used to be so very proud of myself for being such a good multi-tasker and at some levels I still am. It is needed and valuable when the situation fits, but many  times single tasking or “mindful” tasking is better. Our daily hectic life styles make if feel like we have to multi task. Lets take a look at both. And then see how we may integrate these different approaches in our daily, realistic lives.

Definition of Multi-Tasking: Performance of multiple tasks at one time. (Merriam-Webster)  A person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Multi-Tasking: Ability to getting more done within a time frame. Potentially achieving more with the time you have. It can be a helpful tool if you are in certain emergency situations.

Cons of Multi-Tasking: Not fully being able to focus and give full attention to something or someone. The risk of not doing something well, but only partially doing a task. Errors and mistakes increase the more you are multi-tasking. It can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not completely connected to the projects or people you are working with. You may find yourselves more blunt and less patient with others as you multi-task. What you do accomplish may not be your best.

mindful animated man with lots thoughts and dog with simple thoughts

Definition of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Bearing in mind: aware. (Merriam Webster)  Giving attention. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Giving your full attention to something or someone allows you to use your full intellect and emotions to accomplish what you want to do. Focusing on one thing at a time gives you the ability to give something or someone your best. Weather it is communicating with someone who you care about or completing an important task for your business. This full focus can allow you to potentially save time if this is your goal.  Focusing on one thing at a time feels less stressful and more peaceful. Our bodies are not really intended to be in a “red alert” multi-task framework for long periods of time.

Cons of  Single or “Mindful” Tasking: You may feel you are not getting enough done. You have all this “stuff” going on and you are only doing one thing at a time. You may wonder am I doing all I can. At times you may feel you have no realistic choice but to be doing multi things at once.


An Integrated Approach to How We Manage Our Time

As I was writing this, it occurred to me, you can truly only do one thing at a time. It is HOW you choose to do each thing or interact with each person you have in front of you. You do have CHOICES as to how much time and focus you spend on something. And you do have a choice on which thing you focus on first.

Yes there are some realities of performance on a job or making sure all the basics happen at your home or with your children. It may be at times you make a choice to spend less time on something and it be a bit less  perfect. Or you may choose to take time for a conversation as you feel it is more important in the long run than something else you are working on.  It is really all about choice and what you choose to focus on and for how long. And what you view as most important to you.

As a therapist, I would have to weigh in on mindful single tasking as to relationships. Doing more than one thing at a time as you spend time with your partner or child normally does not work well. And of course there are exceptions. But in general without attention and focus, relationships suffer and problems develop.

multi task versus serial chart

So in summary, my take on this issue is . . 

  1. Decide each day what is most important and focus on that.
  2. Be ok with letting go of stuff that does not really matter.
  3. Multi-task when you must, but limit this to when it really has to happen.
  4. Do be MINDFUL or give full attention whenever you can.
  5. Remember your relationships will grow and strengthen with full attention and focus.
  6. Let your mind rest and “be with” whatever you have chosen to focus on, letting go of all the “other things” that are waiting on your “to do” list.

Good luck in finding the best balance with how to manage your time for yourself, your professional life and your personal relationships. Keep in mind you are more than your “to do” list!

Bixby “Pumpkin Patch” – A Fun Family or Couple Activity

pumpkins with people and counry in background at pumpkin patch IMG_7755 (2)

If you have not been to Bixby’s Pumpkin Patch in a while, you should go check it out. We had not been in a couple of years and were surprised at the wide variety of things to do. This would be a wonderful fall break activity or any time in October. Their last day is October 31. So you have a few more weekends to have a bit of fun in the Bixby countryside. For those of you that do not know, Bixby is South of Tulsa, going straight out on Memorial. Bixby is known as one of Oklahoma’s strong produce areas due to its rich dark soil, being close to the Arkansas river.

Here are the “basic’s” as to info on the Pumpkin Patch:

What: “The Pumpkin Patch”, which is associated with Carmichael’s Produce on South Memorial (but not at the same location)  has pumpkins of all sizes, colors and shapes , plus other decorative fall produce and corn stalks. Animals (lots of babies and mamas) of all kinds. Camel Rides. A Cane Maze. A Pony Go Round with Live Ponies. Hay Bale Climbing Area. Wagon Ride.  A Concession Stand. And more.

Where: 17137 S. Mingo, Bixby, OK (South East Corner of 171st and Mingo). Steve Carmichael suggested I remind folks that you will need to go down Memorial and over the Arkansas river into Bixby before you can access Mingo in the Bixby area.  This is slightly into the country. Yahoo! The best contact number is: 918-366-4728. This is Carmichael’s Produce number and they are best able to answer questions for you about the Pumpkin Patch.

When: Current – October 31, 2015. 9:00 am – 7:00 pm   Monday – Saturday   &   10:00 am – 7:00 pm Sunday

Why: For a Very Fun Fall Family or Couple Activity. For all ages.  And there is no entrance fee.

Come take a picture tour of some of the things to see and do at the “Pumpkin Patch”

goat mama with two babies one nursing pumpkin patch

Mama Goat and her Babies

sheep pair at pumpkin patch

A Pair of Beautifully Marked Sheep

porcqupine at pumpkin patch close up

A Gorgeous Porcupine

rabbit close up at pumpkin patch FullSizeRender (21)

A Pretty Rabbit

There are many more animals to enjoy, but too numerous to include. You will find chickens, pigs, horses, camels and more. So if you are an animal lover, you will love this. Many of the children were enjoying feeding all of these sweet creatures.

pony carosel with real ponies at pumpkin patch

A Fun Real Pony Carousel

tanna in maize maze at pumpkin patch

Enter the Cane Maze

This was actually much larger than we realized. It was so much fun to weave in and out of the paths. Scare Crows were placed throughout the maze. A fun walk for a family or as a couple. So hope you will consider this fun venue that is only open in October. Here is to lots of fall fun!

Five Ways to Create the POSITIVE Person YOU Want to Be

sunshine riverparks

Do you want to feel positive with a sense of well-being? Most of us do. It makes sense to want to feel lighter and calmer. Others will like you better when you are showing this side of yourself. They will find they feel positive and uplifted as well. It is such a lovely chain reaction.  So how do we get to this “happy place”?

Here are Five Basics for Creating the POSITIVE Person YOU Want to Be.

1. Be Mindful of Your “Thought Life”

One way to start the process of becoming a more positive person is to listen to what you are saying to yourself and to others around you. How positive is your thought life? Of course no one is positive all the time.  We are all human and we will have upsets. But this is really the first step in assessing where you are in your path to becoming a more positive person. So make a point to really hear yourself. Are your thoughts and feelings what you want?

2.  Stress Less – It’s All in Perception

When we are stressed, we open our self for negativity to set in. It is hard not to be negative when we feel overwhelmed or that it is just all too much. So finding ways to lower your stress level is a foundation piece. Many times it is our perception of how we view what is going on around us that makes a situation stressful. If things do not go the way you planned, it is normal to feel frustrated and lean toward feeling negative. But if you can stop and know it is all ok. It will all fall in place. Maybe just not in the way you planned. It will feel better.  If we expect perfection from ourselves or others this too will cause upset. As we all know none of us are perfect and we all do the best we can. Be kind to yourself and others. Trying to remember what is really important in the grander scheme of things can help.  When we remember that we can choose our feeling state and our reaction to something, it is very freeing and allows us to move in a confident, positive manner.

3.   Acknowledge Your Upset Feelings and Move to a Higher Positive Feeling

So now you are really hearing yourself. And you can hear the negative talk you do not like or does not make you feel good. Tuning into how you feel is an excellent guide to letting you know if  you need to regroup and go down another path. When we feel good, we are normally on the path to being the positive person we want to be. So if you are feeling badly, no need to deny it. It is good to be in touch with your core feelings. Sometimes that means you will be sad or mad or anxious. It’s ok. After recognizing and acknowledging your upset feelings, you can move on to a higher, better feeling state. It is a choice you can make. You can let go of your upset and move on.  For example: You wake up and you are feeling overwhelmed. You might say to yourself. “It is all too much. I just can’t do it.” You might acknowledge to yourself your core upset and then do a shift, “Yes I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I know all will fall into place. I will do the most important things first. It will all be ok.”

4.  Create an Environment that Helps You to Be Positive

Fill your self with what is positive. Things to consider are: what you are watching on tv and the internet, what you are reading, what and who you are listening to. What we surround ourselves with makes a difference. So hang with happy, positive people, watch uplifting shows and programs, read inspirational materials. It all becomes a part of you!

5.  Focus on “The Good”

On purpose focus on what is going well, what you are looking forward to, who is bringing joy in your life.  Absorb and let all that good soak in and let it be a part of you. Some concrete things that you find helpful are: Keeping a Gratitude Journal, Writing, Speaking or Listening to Positive Affirmations, Meditation. Create a “Grateful Mindset” as this will keep you focused on all that is good in your life.

Becoming more positive is a journey. The goal is not to ignore upset feelings. But to come to a place where you honor those upset feelings and then choose to let them go and move on to a higher, better place where more calmness and feelings of well-being can prevail. Best wishes on your journey!






How to Listen So Your Loved One Feels Loved

listening couple

Of all the things that I hear most about as a therapist that is folks feeling like they are not being listened to. I hear this from adults and children alike. From couples to parent-child relationships. We ALL want to feel listened to. It makes us feel safe and protected. It makes us feel LOVED. And who doesn’t want to feel this way when we are with our loved ones.

So if I had to pick out one thing that would be at the top of my list for good relationship building, it would be to LISTEN with your heart and soul.  For seeming so simple, it can feel a bit elusive. Most of us have had experiences where some one says to us, “You are not listening!” Or it may be on the other side of the coin and we are feeling our loved one is really not hearing us or getting what we are trying to say.  Let’s take a look at the HOW TO of REALLY GOOD LISTENING.


1. “Be There” if You Want it to Count.  First up you have to BE THERE for good listening to take  place. Of course, we have to be there physically, but we have to really be there on an emotional level as well.

  •  PHYSICALLY being in the same room, being fairly close, being turned toward, being eye to eye and being in a stance that indicates you are giving your full attention and focus. This would also mean we cannot be looking at our iPhones or on our laptops or watching tv, or face booking etc. We have all gotten a bit obsessed with being “plugged in”. We have to “unplug” to really hear each other.
  • EMOTIONALLY being open to putting yourself on hold and hearing what your loved one has to say, being non-judgmental without seeing their feelings as “right” or “wrong”, but just feelings, being open to feeling what it might be like to be in their shoes.

2. Listen without Interrupting, Avoiding Advise Giving. This one is not easy. Many of us struggle with this one. What we have to remember is if we interrupt, it feels like we are not listening. And when we give advise, it might feel like we do not feel our loved one can figure it out on their own. Of it may feel we are discounting their feelings. In other cases, we may be asked for our thoughts and opinions and of course in this case we can share our thoughts for their consideration. Some folks really want this and if so enter in without being overbearing.

3. Acknowledge and Reflect What You Think They Have Said. Try to summarize what your loved one is talking about and to check out if you are getting what they are saying. This helps to do this fairly frequently along the way as it can be hard to reflect if too much is said. This is different from interrupting. Normally interrupting is to give our opinion. Reflecting is letting the person talking know you are really hearing them.

4. Ask How You Can Help. Doesn’t it feel great when someone asks how they can help. We know we are cared for and our loved one is there to support us. So by all means do ask.


Special Notes:

  • Not Able to Listen due to the environment, time or emotional state you are in. Be honest and open and let your loved one know you really want to hear what they have to say, but you are exhausted and want to give it your full attention when you are in a better state. Do follow-up as soon as possible.  Your children are all around you and you feel distracted, so suggest a concrete time to sit and talk when it is more private. Maybe you are very upset with the issue at hand, so you ask for a break to cool down. The main thing is to be concrete with a set time for later if you must delay.
  • Avoid Answering Your Phone or Getting Side Tracked with Other’s Interrupting. Doing this will show that your top priority is your loved one. This will go a long ways to a person really feeling listened to.
  • Remember when you listen to your loved one, they will reciprocate. Thus the basis for healthy communication.

So LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. It is the foundation for all good relationships!



Five Tips in Forming a Good Parent Teacher Relationship

teacher by chalk board and apple animated aug 2015 clip art

It is that time of year. It is back to school for your children. You may have some anxiety about what the new teacher or teachers will be like. Will they be nice? Will they be strict? Will they work with you as a parent?  We just want the best for our children. One thing that can give your child an extra boost is if you have a good parent teacher relationship. Teachers are human and they cannot help but let parents affect their view of the child in their classroom. So you may want to consider the following tips in regard to developing a good connection with your child’s teacher or teachers.

teacher parent child meeting clip art illustrated august 19 2015

Five Tips to Form a Good Parent Teacher Relationship

  1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF. BE FRIENDLY. Take advantage of all open houses, back to school nights or any event that the teacher is involved with. Make a point to have a positive conversation with your child’s new teacher. Talk about how you have heard good things about her or compliment how the room is set up, etc.
  2. BE A HELPER. BE A SUPPORTER. Teachers are so many times overwhelmed with lots to do. The more help they have the better teachers they can be and the more cool experiences they can offer their students. And the more they will see you and your child in a positive light. Plus, it will feel good to help your child’s school. And an opportunity to be in the know about your child’s school and a little more about the world your child lives in the majority of their day. There are many ways to help and support the teacher. Ask if you are not sure.
  3. TALK FRIENDLY ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER.  This would be directly to your child and while your child may be listening to a conversation you are having with another . If you are positive about your child’s teacher, it is more likely your child will be as well. In addition, when you try to focus on the strengths of your child’s teacher this will aid in a more positive relationship with the teacher.  This is not to say that we do not address concerns and problems. We do, respectfully and with some positive relationship going in that can help when working on problems.
  4. BE A POSITIVE COOPERATIVE PROBLEM SOLVER. When you hear about an issue that is not resolving itself, work with your teacher to find positive ways to address the issue. If your child’s teacher approaches you for a meeting or phone conversation, etc. try to stay calm and objective and really listen to what your child’s teacher is saying. Reflecting back or summarizing what they have said can make them feel very heard. This is always the first step in good communication is really listening and hearing one another. So after you have really heard what your child’s teacher has to say, they will be more open to hearing what you have to say about the issue at hand. Being respectful and cooperative in our responses and how we approach a problem will go a long way in gaining cooperation from a teacher. Ask how you can help. Try to gain ideas on what concrete things can be done to help with the situation. You are on your way to being a collaborative problem solver. A team working together for your child.
  5. GO THE EXTRA MILE – SHOW APPRECIATION. There is nothing more relationship building as APPRECIATION. We all want to be acknowledged and appreciated. Teachers love to be appreciated. So consider what is most appropriate for your child’s teacher. The age of your child will make a difference of course. You will have different appreciation strategies for a kindergarten teacher and a high school teacher. Some will be the same, but others different. All teachers appreciate a hand written note or card that is specific in how you appreciate them. An email note (if you have access to this) can work as well. Sometimes a note to the principal of how you appreciate your child’s teacher can be powerful  Of course, verbal praise or appreciation or acknowledgement is always a winner. Plus, for younger children’s teachers small gifts at appropriate times creates positive feelings. Traditional times for notes, cards and gifts are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentines Day. But appreciation creates good feelings any time of the year.

teacher in red cape with T on shirt illustrated clip art august 19


The key to a good parent teacher relationship is really like any good relationship. One in which there is respectful, positive communication with sharing of gratitude and appreciation. This solid foundation creates a space in which problems can be worked on in a collaborative fashion. Best of wishes in creating a positive parent teacher relationship!

Is Your House in Order? The Essential Building Blocks to a Lasting and Connected Relationship

House with hearts coming out of chiminey illustration clip art source

What are the foundation pieces for a lasting and connected relationship? Do you want your relationship to be a long-term one  that is filled with love and true connection?  Drs John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute have developed the Sound Relationship House after 30 years of research. There is much to learn from their well-built house with its layers of what is needed to have a long-term, successful relationship with high couple satisfaction.

Here are the key components of “The Sound Relationship House”.

The Friendship Quadrant (the first three stories of your sound relationship house)

  1. Love Maps – This involves knowing each other’s inner world, including both what is distressing and what brings happiness.
  2. Fondness and Admiration – Affection, appreciation and respect are shown.
  3. Turning Toward – Choosing to turn toward opposed to away or against when there is bid for positive interaction

The Positive Perspective 

This is what you feel about your relationship. The first three levels – Love Maps, Fondness & Admiration, and Turning Towards are the foundation for your perspective. Positive affect in conflict management and relationship repair that is successful also affects your perspective.

Manage Gonflict

The Gottman’s feel that the goal for conflict is “management” opposed to “eliminating” it. There will always be conflict / differences of opinion. And that is not a bad thing. It gives us an opportunity to know our partner at a deeper level and to love them in the way they need to be loved. The Gottman research indicates that 69% of problems that are continuing are not resolvable. Thus, management opposed to elimination. Regardless of who you choose for a partner there would be a set of perpetual, non resolvable problems. Understanding and dialogue and some potential shifts may occur.

  • Management of Perpetual Problems – Shifting from Gridlock to Discussion and Understanding with Acceptance
  • Management of Solvable Problems – The steps involved for these resolvable issues are: Softened Start Up, Repair and De-Escalation, Accepting Influence, Compromise, and Acceptance of What Cannot Be Changed

Making Life Dreams Come True

Creating an environment where you encourage each other and support each another’s dreams and deeply held convictions is important in a successful relationship.

Creating Shared Meaning

We have now entered the attic of the Sound Relationship House. Here you will find buried treasures for your relationship. When you create shared meaning this deepens and helps to bond your relationship. Part of this can be done by creating meaningful and pleasurable rituals that have meaning for you as a couple.

Trust and Commitment 

The two supporting walls of your home in the Sound Relationship House will be “TRUST” and “COMMITMENT”.  When your actions show you can be trusted and you have a long-term commitment to your relationship this will provide the stability that your relationship needs.


Gottman Sound Relationship House with copyright at the bottom



Source: Clinical Training Manuel for Gottman Institutes Level 2, Gottman Method Couples Training.

I had the opportunity to attend the Gottman’s Institutes Level 2 Clinical Training – Gottman Method Couples Training this last week in Dallas. The Gottman’s Sound Relationship House was presented as a way to see the total picture of what is needed for a happy, healthy relationship. You can find more information by going to the Gottman Institute’s website:

Gottman Level Two Class Photo - Dallas LV2 (3) August 2015 with Don


Creating Your “Couple’s Bucket List”

bucket with two plants closeup

Maybe you have your own bucket list, but do you have a “Couple’s Bucket List”? If not it may be a good time to do so if you are in a long-term, committed relationship. I have put together some thoughts as how to get started.

Why Make a “Couples Bucket List”?

  1. It can help activate discussion and  clarify what things are important to you as a couple.
  2. It can create a sense of cohesiveness with creating shared goals.
  3. It can build shared purpose.
  4. It is a first step toward designing a life you want together.


What Goes on a “Couple’s Bucket List”?

  • This can be shared goals. Things you have decided that are important to you as a couple.
  • This can be experiences you wish to have together.
  • This can be a place you want to go visit as a couple.
  • This could be a restructured way of living or being for the both of you.

Here is an example of a “Couple’s Bucket List”. This is not mine or anyone that I know. Just one I created to help you have some ideas as to what yours might look like. There is no wrong or right way to do this. It is what fits for you and your loved one.

John and Susan’s Bucket List

  1. Travel to Europe
  2. Weekly Date Night
  3. Learn How to Tango
  4. Weekend Cabin in the Woods
  5. Learn to Scuba Dive Together
  6. Totally Free Weekends with No Work
  7. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity as a Couple



bucket with two plants longshot with table and two chairs

The Steps in Putting Together Your “Couple’s Bucket List”

  1. Schedule some time with your sweetheart and brainstorm some ideas as to what might possibly go on your “Couple’s Bucket List”. Be spontaneous and carefree with your ideas. Plus,  include some time to be more thoughtful and reflective as you generate  ideas.
  2. Then go back through together and decide what is a fit for both of you.
  3. Create your list and put it somewhere where you both can see it. You might consider just for fun to put your list on a bucket shaped piece of paper you create or download from the internet.
  4. And of course lastly, begin to take some steps toward living your bucket list. You probably will not work on all of these at once. That may be a bit overwhelming, but you can choose one item that you both feel strongly about or that you feel is doable for the current time and take a small, concrete step toward this shared dream.

Variations of Bucket Lists for Couples:

  • A general list that is more long-term in nature
  • A more specific time oriented list, for example for a particular season or time frame.
  • A list of what you want to do before you have children or while you have children or when your children leave home.
  • Do as a yearly couple’s  ritual at the beginning pf the new year. After the first year it would be an updating. Your thoughts will change and shift of course with time and as you grow as a couple. Plus, it would be a great time to do a check in and see what progress you have made on your “couple bucket list”.

So what is on your bucket list???  Have fun creating your own special “couple’s bucket list”!

“The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” of the Digital Age and Our Relationships

texting at the dinner table color animated

How are we all doing when it comes to our highly digital age and our relationships? That depends. Because there really does seem to be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when it come to how the digital world has affected our relationships. I am referring to: cell or iPhones, which entails instant communication, texting, tweeting, face timing,  Then we have face book, you tube, web surfing, etc,  So let’s look at some of the positives and the negatives of fast paced, instant communication with access to lots of people with many blurred boundaries. It is hard to keep up. A stopping and mindfully looking at all of this for families and couples is so very important I think.

The Good

There are positive things about our current ways of communicating. Here are some of them.

  • We can have almost instant contact with our loved ones.
  • We can use our digital communication for the good. We can stay in closer contact with the special people in our life.
  • We can communicate with children and partners to assure us they are safe and protected.
  • We have multiple ways of expressing our affection for our children and our loved ones.
  • Children in two home families can have access to both homes via our digital world.

The Bad

  • We can very easily fall into spending more time with our iPhones, iPads and laptops than our loved ones.
  • Our children may feel ignored if we become so immersed in our face booking or you-tubing or web surfing that we are not able to focus on them when they need it.
  • Our spouses may accuse of us of spending more time with our facebook friends than with them.
  • Digital communication is not face to face and is not a replacement for time one on one, physical time with our loved ones that is needed for a healthy relationship.

The Ugly

  • Inappropriate or fuzzy boundaries when texting, emailing, face booking can lead to 3rd party relationships that can aid the beginnings of emotional or physical affairs
  • Airing martial or couple disagreements or separations on face book or other social media forums can lead to damage that is difficult to repair in a relationship
  • Online pornography addition that will strongly impact most marriages in a negative way.


How to make the good things even better AND the keep the “bad” and “ugly” in check and within boundaries . . . 

  1. Mindfully use today’s technology to strengthen your relationships. Use it to connect more, but not in place of physical connection. We need touch and physically seeing and being with one another. Texting, face booking, and cell phone conversations are nice supplements, but they are not a replacement for the “real deal”.
  2. Really listen to your loved ones about their feelings about your time spent on social media or texting, etc. Not only what they are saying but tuning into their body language and behavior in relationship to all of digital communication.
  3. Develop firm, healthy boundaries to protect your relationships in regard to whom and how you communicate with others. 
  4. Set the tone for what is healthy and what is respectful in your home with your children and teens when it comes to all of their electronic devices. Be a good model and follow through with rules you have put in place.
  5. Take a break from technology when you are having family or couple time.  You can really focus and “be with” your loved ones when you do.  You might consider meal times as a “no phone” time in your family. Or when you have special family or couple outings.
  6. Consider the bedroom as “off-limits” for all electronic devices. Our bedrooms can be our sanctuary away from the world and a special place to be with our loved ones.

laptop and person in bed



I have to say we are all in a wave of more and more electronic communication and are feeling our way as to what is most helpful and healthy for us. I think the key is to thoughtfully “choose” what is best for us and our loved ones. We do have a choice. Best wishes with your own, choices to create a balance that includes your loved ones.


“Inside Out” Movie – It may not be what you think . . .

inside out feeling control panel

I decided as a family therapist I should go check out the new movie, INSIDE OUT. As I knew I would have children talking with me about what they saw and their reactions to it. Plus, a nice lead in as to talking about feelings. What I found is that INSIDE OUT is probably really suited  best for older children and adults. I found lots of adult couples taking the show in the day I went. And for good reason, the messages are really best for those with some abstract reasoning.

The show is coming from the perspective of 11-year-old Riley’s feelings. The “stars” of the movie are: Joy, Fear, Angry, Disgust, and Sadness. Riley’s mind or “command center” is directing her actions. Riley has just moved to a new city due to Dad’s new job.  Riley’s past experiences have been happy ones in general and the move and transition to a new city and new school has her confused and upset as she tries to transition to her new life.

You might ask so what are some of the core messages that someone might come away with? Well for me I found the following:

inside out joy and sadness looking at memory globe

  1. All feeling are helpful. It is sort of interesting that in this movie, Sadness  turns out to be the hero and saves the day. We sometimes feel we have to work hard not to be sad, when really we need to let our children and loved ones know it is ok to be sad. That sometimes acknowledging the sadness can help us back to the happy feelings we want to have. And yes, there is a time when we need to move past sadness and move on to more positive feelings. Our feelings let us know if we need a course correction. And sometimes this is a bit of a journey.
  2. We are constantly making memories and those memories will have our own individual filter, which may be different from others.  I think that as parents we have to remember our children and for that matter our spouses or partners will not always see things as we do.
  3. “Being With” our loved one is one of the most important things we can do when they are going through a hard time. I do think that in the end this message comes through with the 11-year-old Riley connecting with her parents and beginning to feel better.
  4. It is never too late to process our feelings and make sense of them.  Even if we have gone through a hard time and things are not going well, we can always shift gears and come back and understand what has happened and work through it.

I like to tell my clients (children and adults alike) that feelings are our friends. They are our emotional guidance systems. They help us know what is really going on with us and what we may need to do to get back to where we want to be.

All this said, this movie is not a light, happy-go-lucky movie. And some feel it is sad or a bit dark. I had an elementary aged boy tell me recently he thought the movie was sad. When I asked which part, he said lots of parts. This was his individual perspective. There are some fun, humor parts. Some of these parts of intended for children and some for adults. The movie does has more depth than some folks would anticipate though.

I did feel the movie probably over simplified how memory works. And put a bit of a dark spin on it. Even though I do know that negative memories do have more affect on us than the positive ones. One reason we want to try to keep the happy memories at a much higher level to keep them in place in our brains.

inside out riley and her family is an organization that can be helpful at times in giving some thoughtful insight for parents in movies that come out. Some of the parents on this site who reviewed this movie had some concerns about the incident were the main character 11-year-old Riley steals her mom’s credit card and runs away and when she is re-united with her parents that they do not have a discussion with her about these actions. Another reviewer talks about preschool children crying over sad incidents in the movie. Most of the positive reviews tended to come from parents who had older elementary children or teens.

Note:  As with all movies parents have the huge responsibility of deciding what is a good fit for their individual child and what they are ready to see. Not an easy thing. This movie is probably best for children who have some abstract reasoning in place.

We can always have discussion with our children after viewing a movie. I think one of the best part of a movie is the dialogue it creates. So if you feel there was a missing piece then by all means talk with your child about it.

If you are not feeling sure what you think as to your child seeing this movie, you could do a date night and go see it as parents first. This I think is always a helpful strategy for a movie we are not sure about. I do feel this movie does a nice job of highlighting for parents some of the core messages I mentioned above.

Best wishes in deciding if your child is ready for this one. If they are, there are some good core messages to glean from it.

Please note that pictures are taken from the Disney / Pixar website.




After the Fight – How to Get Back to a Place of Understanding and Connection

heart that is broken drawing

You had a fight with your loved one. You are disconnected and hurt. How do you get back to a place of connection?

It does not feel good, one bit, to have a fight with your sweetheart. This is a process that is intended to help talk about the incident without getting back into the fight itself. It is more about understanding what took place and how to make it better. And how to get that feeling of connection back.

Some of the foundation pieces to have in place before you start this process would be the following:

  • You and your loved one are no longer in place of feeling escalated or highly upset.
  • You both are feeling calm and can look at the incident with a bit of distance.
  • You can put the incident outside of yourself and really look at it as if it is on a stage before you.
  • You both acknowledge the GOAL is to understand HOW things took place.
  • You start with both knowing you each have your own separate “reality” of what happened. It is about perception, not facts.
  • You stay away from CRITICISM, DEFENSIVENESS, CONTEMPT, and STONEWALLING as you talk about what happened.
  • You choose to speak from the position of “I feel . . ” opposed to “You never …” language.

Your Way Back to Feeling Connected.

  1. Talk about how you felt. This is not about why or about what you think your partner felt.Take turns with how you each felt.
  2. Share what was going on for you – YOUR Reality. You each have a turn to do this. As one of you finishes sharing his or her reality, the other’s job is to reflect back what the general summation is of what they hear the other is trying to get across. This is not a time to attack or blame. Just tell what you needed in a positive way, beginning with “I needed . . . “
  3. Tell about anything that this discussion triggered for you. Help your loved understand what this conversation set off as far as memories for you. Each of you take time to think and share anything that your fight brought up for you. Let each other know if you understand.
  4. Be responsible by acknowledging any thing that you did that fueled the fight. This may not feel easy to do, but it sets a tone of accountability on both sides. Let each other know how you were set up for things to go the way they did. Example: “I have been sensitive lately.” or “I am over whelmed with all of our financial problems right now.” Tell your loved one what you regret and feel you need to apologize for. Let each other know if there is anything you still need to be able to let the incident go.
  5. Create a pro-active plan for what to do next time. Each share one thing they will do. Writing your plan down can be helpful and give a concrete feel that you have accomplished something toward making things better

couple hugging black and white

It may not always look as step by step as mentioned above, but if you can better understand how the other is feeling and be willing to take responsibility for your part (and there are always two parts) and end with a plan of something you each can do, this will take you a long way to understanding one another and re-connecting. And isn’t that what a good relationship is about – understanding one another and feeling a wonderful sense of connection. I think so. Best wishes for your “after a fight” conversation.


Source: Bridging the Couple Chasm. Gottman Couples Therapy: A Research – Based Approach. By John Gottman, PhD and Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D