Pixar’s “Inside Out” and Monadology

‘Monadology’ by Leibnitz could be the cure to the mind-body duality problem. So might the movie ‘Inside Out.’Inside_Out_(2015_film)_poster

The premise of the movie that all people mind’s contain islands of personality’ connected to a ‘headquarters’ where the emotions control the switchboard of action in the world, and of organizing memory. Each emotion is like a soul in itself. Joy, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger, all have their own personalities, but unlike the workers in the subconscious, they more strongly direct the person’s actions.

One tool on their belt is the “idea” in the form of a lightbulb that can be inserted into the main switchboard. If she, the human, takes it there is no going back. The islands are structures that form out of major early experiences like family, truth, hockey, goofiness.

What are the psychological metaphors here? We act on our emotions. Our emotions are distinct from one another and hence are good candidates for Leibnitz’s monads or simple substances: souls, but Leibnitz uses this last word sparingly because it falls back into the old mind/body problem. But if you look at souls as having levels, and that each human contains many simpler souls but is also more than the sum total of his or her souls, than we get somewhere. The most powerful souls within us are in headquarters, and the simpler souls in the subconscious do dream duty, dump old memories, and general maintenance. There are even old imaginary friends from childhood lingering around, reliving old memories, inhabiting dreams. But in all cases, these beings,

“have within them a certain perfection. . . .; there is a kind of self-sufficiency which makes them sources of their own internal actions— makes them immaterial automata, as it were. If we are willing to label as a ‘soul’ anything that has perceptions and appetites, then all simple substances—all created monads—could be called ‘souls’ (Leibnitz).”

Each emotion is a certain perfection, an archetype, crystallized over millenia of human and pre-human experience. DNA memory if you will. The character ‘Fear’ is very much reptilian fight or flight, ‘Anger’ is like a macho gorilla wearing a tie and slacks, quick to burst into flames. ‘Disgust’ is born when the infant finds certain foods and icky things unattractive. She then expands at puberty to have a very conscientious fashion sense. Joy is like a star, the leader of the group (until she gets lost) and also the most closely tied to the Host. I use this strange term for the Human who is separate from these souls of emotion which inhabit and influence her. She is more than these four of course, and as she grows into adulthood, more simple substances, or monads, souls will be born within her.

Emotions are at the main switchboard of consciousness. The switchboard can also be influenced by workers in the subconscious, such as a song that pops into your head or a random memory or daydream, that arrives into consciousness seemingly out of nowhere. These souls who do this are simpler than the emotions who have more control but still distinct entities in themselves. The host is thus her emotions, her unconscious workers and still more. She is an entelechy or source of perception and change in herself. She is a monad, but she contains monads. Thus we see a hierarchy of soul levels as they gain complexity within the organism. But at each level there are composite forms that contain monads which are indivisible within themselves. Another important aspect of monads is that they do not come into being gradually like composites but instantaniously. Your soul entered your body fully formed. Like light, which is made of quantum wave packets which are either on/off, so is the nature of consciousness. The soul blinks into and out of existence non-locally, unhindered by time and space.

Besides the switchboard in headquarters, the long term memory library and dream factory, there are giant structures in the brain called “islands of personality.” They remain dormant until triggered by precise external stimuli which causes them to turn on and start whirring and buzzing. One is called family, another, goofiness, and more are hinted at which form at puberty and beyond. They whirr and chug as the organism interacts with the world. They seem partly powered by language programs, and abstract thought, and they produce memories. Memories are stored in glowing orbs, and are whisked to headquarters where the Emotions interact them them, shading them finally with one of their four colors: gold for joy, green for disgust, red for anger, blue for sadness. These are then sent down to the long term memory storage library, where they sit for a while until a worker comes along and decides whether or not to scrap it forever or save it.

Old memories are sometimes used again in dreams. The dream director, played by the strict plump middle aged woman boss type says, “Alright I got a lot of footage to work with from today’s memories.” She writes a script and workers play the actors in the dream play. The director says action to the camera-man turns on the “reality filter” which turns these strange simple creatures into “real people” from the Human’s life.

Want to know yourself? Find the characters within you. They are closely tied to your emotions. They resemble archetypal personalities, maybe your local culture has adopted some, fleshed them out to their logical extremes: the hippy, the romanticist, the joker, the fool, the hero, the tinkerer, the artist, the dreamer,  the logician, as well as the old animal Gods. What was encouraged during childhood? What was suppressed? They should all work together for maximum mental health. Joy tried to keep Sadness in a box, but it turns out that one of her Human’s core memories was formed out of sadness. Once Joy sees that Sadness has a very important role for the organism, she lets her in. As a result, the organism experiences upheaval, cries and lets out her bottled up emotions to her parents, to whom she had been growing distant. The islands of Family and Truth are restored, and the young girl matures and grows a little.

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought , the shame, the malice.

Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” -Rumi

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One Response to Pixar’s “Inside Out” and Monadology

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