I finally broke down and watched the movie Frozen. I just don’t have any compelling reasons to watch Disney these days, with no kids under 10 in my household. So it took me a while to get around to it.
Of course, I’d heard the hit song during and after the Academy Awards (who could have missed all the chatter about Travolta’s gaffe with Idina Menzel’s name?). Quite honestly, the song just didn’t do that much for me.
And the song still isn’t what it’s all about, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I’d like to point out that Elsa’s liberation has nothing to do with that song. Let’s all keep in mind that she sings it on the way to incarcerating herself in an ice palace. From a recovery point of view, Elsa is saying the words of recovery, but she still hasn’t hit rock bottom. Because her little sister is coming for a visit to that ice palace, and she is going to hurt her once again, and this time, it’s going to be a mortal wound.
Nope. Sorry to say it, but Elsa doesn’t yet get the power or true meaning of the words “let it go” when she sings that catchy little tune. She is running away.
Running from her pain, her fear, her conviction that she’s terminally unique. She’s running from the consequences of her actions. She’s running away from figuring out how to be herself — in the world, not locked up at the top of a remote mountain.
Her song is more of a “I’ve had enough of this, I can’t handle any more, and I’m outta here” than a true “I’m going to let it go and accept it for what it is” statement. She’s going to stop trying to control herself, but she’s not ready to heal herself of pain and fear and face reality with courage and accountability yet.
It’s not completely Elsa’s fault. Her parents encouraged her to contain her talent, hide it, do everything she could to control it. Remember? They told her to learn to control her powers, but she was unable to figure out how to do this successfully, particularly when her emotions got the best of her. And they didn’t give her much help (in fact, they died).
This is a metaphor for what those of us in recovery are often told about our feelings and experience. Hide what we feel, control our feelings, contain ourselves. Ignore our experience. Try to pretend to be something we’re not. Withdraw from the world, blame ourselves for things that are completely beyond our control. Right? Isn’t that how it goes?
But is this reasonable? Is it possible to control our feelings? No, of course not. Our feelings are what they are. Better to learn how to feel what we feel, see our feelings for what they are — neurons firing — and choose appropriate responses to that stimuli.
We should learn to see our choices and decide which among them is best for all involved. But to think that we could or should contain the very things that give us information about who we are and what our experience is — our feelings — is to rob us of fundamental reality.
So let’s go back to Elsa and see where she finally does take back her power. You may recall that Anna is mortally wounded by Elsa. (It is worth noting that this happens because of Elsa’s fear.) Spoiler Alert: In an unexpected plot twist, Anna heals herself of this wound by saving Elsa’s life at the risk of her own. And it is in this moment — in the realization that love is what heals — that Elsa finds her power.
Only when she is able to feel her grief, connect with her love for Anna and feel Anna’s love for her is she able to recognize what she needs to do to heal the land from the spell she inadvertently cast upon it when she ran away.
This is a beautiful metaphor for those of us in recovery because frequently we do not allow ourselves to feel love. Not the love coming to us from others and certainly not self-love. In fact, self-love is the first step in recovering from codependency, according to Pia Mellody.
But so long as we run away from our feelings, we will be unable to feel love, because locking ourselves away from the ability to feel fear, pain, sadness, and anger will also close off our ability to feel love and joy.
What we need to do is let it go in the true sense of the phrase. Let go of trying to control the outcome, trying to control our feelings, and trying to protect ourselves and others from further pain. That’s the real message of this movie: Feel it and let love heal it.
I can certainly see that this has been true for me. The more I’ve been willing to embrace and feel my fear, pain, anger, and sadness, the more I’ve been able to feel the love all around me.
It was probably there all along, but I wasn’t able to experience it. I was too busy tending to and defending my ice palace high on my remote mountaintop. How about you? Are you ready to come down and thaw?