Lessons from, yes, Frozen. What we missed while bewitched by Menzel’s voice (for the 200th time).
Warning: For those who haven’t seen Frozen (I could lend you a DVD or two!), this post contains some spoilers.
If you’re a mom of any girl under the age of eight, then, like me, you’ve probably watched Disney’s Frozen more than a dozen times. You are most likely weary of Elsa’s “Let it Go.” In fact, if you’re like me, then you want to let the movie and this song go (for awhile anyway).
So, if the mere mentioning of the title feels a bit like drinking flat soda, I get it. Still, the expression “let it go” is commonly tossed around our house. For instance, when my five-year-old daughter wanted her brother to come downstairs “right away” to clean up his mess from the dinner table, and he refused, my response was, “In the words of Elsa, kiddo, just ‘let it go.’ That’s not a battle worth fighting right now.”
Only, we had it wrong, the song, the movie, all of it. Elsa wasn’t saying “let it go,” as in “get over it and move on.” She was in the middle of a huge internal crisis. She was struggling with how to reconcile shameful past with her present and future. She was struggling with how to accept all of herself, and how to share that true self with others. I can see that Frozen wasn’t a simple story of two sisters learning to get along. There are actually some pretty big, universal lessons for all of us. Here’s a few:
Lesson #1 – Even grownups get it wrong.
Elsa and Anna had terrible parents. Yep, I said it. By today’s standards, social services would’ve swooped in and rescued these girls from their abusive and negligent parents. To be fair, they did desperately try to help Anna. But not Elsa. Elsa was a child when, through no fault of her own, she unleashed a power that hurt her sister. The girls’ parents took Anna to magical trolls who saved Anna and erased her memory of the event. The trolls didn’t erase Elsa’s memory of the traumatic event, though. Instead, they instructed Elsa’s parents to help Elsa control her abilities. The trolls warned that fear was Elsa’s “enemy.”
Did Elsa’s parents listen the trolls’ advice? Nope. What did they do? They built her a prison of fear. They shamed her into shadows by shutting her off from the world, locking her in her room, and forcing her to conceal the truth about herself. Their actions showed fear, not love.
Okay, maybe they were just doing the best they knew to do at the time. Parenting is TOUGH. There’s no manual. Yet, much of the film is Elsa’s recovery from her parents’ harmful conditioning. The truth is that we are all terrible parents sometimes. Realizing and accepting this fact will help us become better parents.
Lesson #2 – Fear is destructive.
Elsa’s parents’ fear damaged her, and likewise, Elsa’s fear damages Arendelle. All of her fear–her fear of her past, her fear of feeling, and her fear of revealing truth–erupted in an uncontrolled, misunderstood, and destructive force that froze Arundel, created a giant snow monster, and nearly killed Anna (for a second time). The lesson here is that each person has an emotional mind and a rational mind. They are woven together, and no healthy person can live in one these permanently.
Fear is an emotion. Often, it is an involuntary feeling. It is also the number one motivator of human behavior, out ranking money and even love. Fear can be conquered, though, with a healthy balance of reason. The key is mindfulness. Channel negative feelings into creative energy. Press control+al+delete in your mind to force stop unreasonable fears. Learn to live in wisdom, embracing both your emotional and rational selves. This is the place of peace.
Lesson #3 – Soul-searching solitude can be beneficial.
Sure, she launched the Marshmallow beast. But Elsa’s time away on the mountain allowed the freedom of truth and self-discovery. She still had unresolved inner conflict, but it was in her alone time that she began to see her “disability” gave her abilities.Channeling negative feelings into creative energy will reveal our latent abilities, too. We all have a little superhero in us. Finding time to be alone with ourselves, time to know ourselves, allows us to discover our superhero parts and use our unique powers for good.
Lesson #4 – Negative pain can be transformed into positive power.
It was Elsa’s fear that led to chaos and destruction. But Elsa’s painful past also produced some good, like the loveable Olaf. Olaf is tied to Elsa’s traumatic life experience, but also a physical manifestation of Elsa’s love for her sister. Much of the world’s greatest art was born from negative experience. Many of the most catalytic world-changers channeled their pasts to create the inspiring lyrics, poems, speeches, and books that revolutionized futures.
Lesson #5 – We’re all just fixer uppers.
The wise, soul-crooning trolls sing us a lesson about true love–and humanity. We humans are imperfect and flawed. All of us. We all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. We all experience positive emotions, and we all experience negative emotions. When those negative emotions–anger, stress, fear–hit us, then what we all need most is love. The Beatles almost had it right. All we need is love–and the people who love us.
Lesson #6 – Some people are worth melting for.
In his “An Essay on Criticism,” English poet, Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” We’re human. We make mistakes. We fail the people we love sometimes, and, sometimes, the people we love fail us. As lesson #5 shows us, we round each other out. We aren’t created to be the same. We’re unique. We need our loved ones’ strengths to balance our weaknesses. We balance theirs.
Lesson #7 – Fear of failure keeps us frozen, but perfect love casts out fear.
It is certain we’ll fail sometimes, yet, we shouldn’t let our fear of failure keep us frozen and immobile. What’s divine is forgiving one another’s faults and loving one another despite them–forgiving ourselves and loving ourselves despite our own failures. 1 John 4:18 tells us, it’s “perfect love” that “casts out fear.” Anna’s love led her to climb mountains, brave monsters, and ultimately, give her life for her sister. Likewise, it was only Elsa’s love that could heal and restore Anna. The Bible calls this kind of love the greatest of all among men (John 15:13). As flawed as we mortals are (see lesson #4), we need to give love more credit. God, our good people, our own inner superhero, and, of course, snowmen are there to love us through life’s storms.