Investing in Your Emotional Bank Account

by | Nov 19, 2016 | Social-Emotional Learning

The run-up to Thanksgiving can be a frantic, stressful time – preparing for guests or preparing to travel, trying to get everything done that needs doing. But once the holiday comes, it’s a welcome opportunity to relax for a few days, connect with family and friends, have fun.

For a lot of folks, “fun” involves at least a little movie time. Maybe you’ll take your kids out to catch Moana or Fantastic Beasts or another new release. Maybe you’ll hunker down at home, nosh on leftovers, and watch some old favorites.

Pixar's Inside OutOne movie our granddaughter Anna is apt to ask for is Inside Out, a favorite since she first saw it last year. It really made quite an impression on her, though we didn’t really realize this until a few weeks later. Out of the blue one day, Anna asked Lynea if she wanted to know what her “core memories” were. Lynea curiously said yes.

“My core memories are riding bikes, skiing, and swimming with you and Grandpa” – fun family times!

If you’ve seen the film, you may remember how “core memories” were the moments that defined the young heroine Riley’s personality – scoring her first hockey goal, playing with her best friend Meg, making cookies with her parents. Core memories are the root of self-esteem (or lack of it), of security (or lack of it), of who we understand ourselves to be.

The psychological truth in this film – though necessarily simplified – is a good part of its power and makes it an excellent tool for helping kids understand how their emotions work. In fact, one of the scientific advisors to the film, UC Berkley psychology professor Dacher Keltner, shared a powerful anecdote about this in an interview with Pacific Standard:

I got an email from a mom who took her highly functioning autistic boy to the movie, and seeing the movie was the first time that this young guy had insight into his emotional difficulty. He said: “Mom, I know I have anger, fear, and disgust, but I really struggle with sadness and joy — I don’t know where they are.” And she said it was their breakthrough moment. I was blown away.

Throughout the film, we see the effect of emotions on memory, learning in the process that there’s a role for them all, even sadness. Coming to understand this is the foundation of emotional maturity and emotional intelligence. And just as key is creating positive memories to guide and sustain us.

emotional bank accountDr. John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, has spoken of memory as kin to a banking account.
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We need to “deposit” lots of good experiences and memories with each other to make up for the hard times that life will inevitably throw at us and can occur in our relationships, as well. He recommends “investing” in our important relationships to try to get to at least five good experiences for each “bad” one.

It’s a great way of looking at it. What can you do today to build up your emotional bank account?

The movie reflects this quite well, and Gottman has even blogged about how to extend the its benefits, too.
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We encourage you to check out his post “12 Ways to Use Inside Out to Teach Emotional Intelligence” (as well as this excellent post by parenting specialist Dr. Laura Kastner) – and then add a new good experience to your memory’s bank account by watching the movie together this Thanksgiving holiday!

We also encourage you to join us for our next free webinar on Sunday, November 27, when Lynea will talk about – and answer your questions about – social-emotional learning as the foundation for success in school and life. Sign up now!

Bank image via The Marriage and Family Clinic

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