Inside Out 2 is arriving in theaters this summer, and we got a sneak peek of new characters recently. One of those characters, Anxiety — a shriveled-up orange gal, carrying a lot of baggage — is giving me shpilkes. Actually, the whole set of newbies, Ennui, Embarrassment, and Envy alongside Anxiety, is about to make me plotz.

I am a family therapist and researcher who specializes in children’s mental health and emotional development. The first Inside Out was a marvel, and I regularly cite it to clients still today. When it arrived in theaters, my graduate students went on a date together to view it and discuss the excellent scientific foundation on which it sits. I’d like to keep an open mind about the sequel, but the new emotion crew leaves much to be desired for me in terms of what we will learn about teenagers and their mental states.

I’m a Jewish mom, once a Jewish teen girl — I think I know a little something about anxiety, both before and beyond my professional expertise. We are widely painted as characteristically anxious, spilling our neuroticisms onto others with little self awareness. The average person likely assumes we have no good reason for being such worry warts. As a kid, I obsessed over friendships, school, and pretty much anything I said out loud to anyone ever. Just yesterday, as a Jewish mom, I went to three stores and bought 9 pairs of pants for my teen to try on in the hopes that just one would be the perfect blend of comfort and panache. I also told six people about my pantscapades. 

Jewish mom influencer Liz Rose nailed it when she pointed out in a recent social media post that our intergenerational trauma combined with real-time currents of antisemitism are the context within which Jewish anxiety is a mainstay. Very often, it’s easier to channel my excessive worry about my children’s future and the state of the world into a pair of pants or nine.

However, I also know that this is only one lens through which I understand myself as a Jewish woman. We are more than our trauma. We are also the descendants of steadfast Sarah, determined Rebecca, loving Rachel and loyal Leah. These were some tough mothers if there ever were. They weren’t driven by anxiety but by love, generational wisdom and faith. 

The main problem I have with the new Inside Out character? Anxiety is not an emotion at all. 

As the first movie showed us, emotions are messengers. They are our first connection to others and to the world around us. They are filled with information that gets processed through their capable hands. 

Anxiety is a problem. It is what shows up when you push out emotional information and get stuck. Anxiety fools you into thinking you are alone and that you should retreat. As it turns out, I don’t think Jewish women are experts on anxiety at all. Jewish women are not idle, and we do not dwell in solitude.

There is, however, a unique emotion we embody; it has no name among researchers and therapists. It sits at my control panel, and I bet it sits at yours, too. It’s the reason we are too much, by some standards. It’s the reason we persevere. My Jewish mama friend Amy, a dance teacher, captured and coined it when, unable to get her excitement out fast enough, she told her students to “shrive on” — mashing up shine and thrive.

Meet Shrive. Shrive is worry, excitement and fervor, covered in glitter. Shrive carries a Swiss Army knife and two hair ties at all times. She prefers a hot pink scrunchie, sorrynotsorry. Shrive is the faith you will be ok but the insistence you carry clean underwear in your purse just in case.

Jewish mama Pink is shriving when she says, 

"Every room I walk into, my heart walks in first. Every lyric that I write is my heart crying, raging, hoping, screaming, pleading … You have watched me do this, sifting through life's messiness for almost 25 years. Some of you find what I do annoying, and some of you find it brave, and I just find it necessary."

I shrive when my child is doing something for the first time, like drumming at his first band concert. I grit my teeth and clench my fists, and my heart leaps out of my body while I try not to shout to the world that my baby is the next Slash — if Slash played drums and wrote thoughtful thank-you notes. 

Shrive is Monica Geller shouting, “I KNOW!” Gal Gadot shrives daily: “So every morning I wake up and step out of bed and I say, ‘Thank you for everything, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you’ … Nothing is to be taken for granted.” 

My children shrive when, often as anticipation has been building, they traverse the narrow bridge between spontaneous cartwheels and imminent tears.

For Jewish women, this is a whole emotion that can become anxiety, perhaps, when we try to keep it inside. I’ve studied emotion regulation for a long time, and regulating means so much more than calming down. Regulating one’s feelings means understanding what our feelings are telling us and using that information to make choices in what we say and how we engage with the world around us. Emotion dysregulation happens, not when we feel too much, but when our feelings are misunderstood and can’t do their best work … with jazz hands, as G-d intended.

Shrive tells us who we are: she is Hineini. We shrive because the world is both broken and beautiful — because the meaning of life is both the mountain to climb and the view from the top. To be Jewish is to live in this wisdom, built into our bones through generations of persistently shriving Jewish ballabustas. We approach everything at high velocity because we know that every moment can matter. 

Shrive prefers a complicated truth to a sleepy but digestible lie. Shrive drives us to say things out loud and gravitate towards bold people and ideas. Shrive tells us it’s better to be awkward and eager than neutral about anything. Shrive often holds hands with guilt, because she reminds us that we matter and make impacts. Jewish motherhood, as identity and endeavor, is where I shrive most, loving my children too much.

I plan to watch Inside Out 2 with an open mind, a grain of salt of my popcorn, and a dream for Inside Out 3 — when Riley’s new friend Shoshanna grabs her by the elbow and shouts at her to act like the gift that you are. This life demands we tell Anxiety to move her unpacked baggage and let Shrive do her job, making sure we continue to show up in our lives with feeling.