imageRecently, I have been engaged in conversations about the movie Frozen and the anxiety some people feel over how kids have become obsessed with it. Our children are memorizing the songs and watching the film over and over. A friend of mine commented that groups of little girls are performing the theme song “Let it Go” in her pre-school pick up line. Children have gotten absorbed by other Disney movies, but there is something darker about this one, and that is what disturbs us adults. So I began to ponder, “What is underneath that is disturbing us adults so?” My colleague and friend, Jeremy Taylor, believes it is about the unaddressed anxiety in the under-stream of our awareness regarding our unstable ecological future. I think he is onto something there. I have some other thoughts as well.

We are living in a world where children are increasingly “left to their own devices” – that is, given electronic baby sitters- I-pads, handheld gaming devices, etc. The households in which they live are perpetually “plugged in,” with inhabitants relating primarily to flat screens instead of each other. While flat screens may mimic “life,” but they do not carry the essential “juice” of the irreplaceable element that only humans can convey; it is called soul. Unwittingly, we are conveying a chilly message to our children….”leave us alone, we are busy. You are interfering with things that have higher priority…the online world where I am working, shopping, surfing, and ‘connecting’ with others.” For those families that even bother to gather at a table for dinner, members are increasingly coming to the table with their smart phones, tablets, or laptops, unable to unplug for even 30 minutes in order to share the “warmth of human connection.” Technology is COLD, and children feel the chill. On some level, they harbor an un-nameable silent fear and rage about this DIS-connection. Our human connection seems fragile and easily disrupted. Our children are distressed about something they can’t name, but the movie Frozen seems to express it.

In recent books by Sherry Turkle (MIT social scientist)- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, and Nicholas Carr- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brain, these authors explore the dark side of technology and how it is impacting our capacity for HUMAN connection.

imageI believe that when children see the images of FROZEN, it speaks to something very real for them in the intra-psychic realm. The opening song speaks of the dangers of a frozen heart. How much are we teaching our kids about the mysteries and warmth of the human heart? Is our feeling world becoming obscured by the cool medium of technology? In the movie, Elsa finds that when she is unable to control her emotions, ice flies from her hands, freezing everything around her. What do her parents offer as a solution? …“Conceal, don’t feel.” Shortly after this advice, the parents are lost at sea (a symbolic representation of people who are devoured by the archetypal power of the unconscious world).

It has been said recently, that our children are raising each other. We no longer live in extended families or tribes. Most children do not have easy access to elders, elders who have seen a lot of life and have the time to sit and be, to convey stories that help little ones understand and organize their world. In this “hook-up” culture, our attachments are fleeting, and we all know it.

We also tend to have clear compartments for the “good” up-beat emotions and the “bad” down-tone ones. We celebrate the light, things that make us happy and productive and shame or medicate the dark, things that make us sad or anxious. Rather than helping our children to deal with emotions like anger, fear or grief, we put them on the “not welcomed” list. We shame them for their weakness. Emotions are energy in motion, energy that leads us into greater self-awareness; energy that can be channeled into creativity.

The main character in FROZEN has never been taught to deal with her strong emotions, particularly her fear, and she is terrified that she will hurt people with the intensity of what comes out of her inner chaos. Eventually, her final solution is to isolate herself completely- she also wanders out into the elemental world where she is met by the storms of nature. In this elemental world, she doesn’t have to worry about hurting anyone or about creating a world of ice. The elemental world can handle her intensity. After years of trying to contain and suppress her feelings, she can throw off the “good girl” script. She sings the song “Let it Go” with all the intensity in her, and claims her new identity as the isolated, detached, cynical ice princess. In dismissing her need for human contact she sings “the cold never bothered me anyway.” Our children are identifying with her. They are memorizing the song and singing it at the top of their lungs as well.

We should listen to our children. What is it that they are so longing to “let go?” Perhaps it is the frozen scripts that tell them to “conceal and not feel,” to be “good” and not bother people with their inner turmoil. If we don’t have time for their anxiety and their tender emotions – where will they take them? How will they learn to be a non-anxious person in a world of uncertainty? Are they only allowed emotions that promote efficiency, productivity, achievement? Is all else to be sent into the shadows?

In Frozen, Elsa’s ice palace is stunningly beautiful, but she is alone. Soul connections require us to slow down and still ourselves, to create protected time, and develop the capacity to be present. Our “internet brains,” with their ever shortening attention spans, are going in the opposite direction of soul connection.

In my therapy practice, I hear adults echoing the same sentiments of isolation and detachment… “Human relationships are too difficult, too complicated… I always get hurt in the end.” People are actually diminishing their skills for close human relating as they increase their capacity for technology. Many are engaging in romance (and sex) through the flat screen….at a distance, where they feel more “in control,” where they can exit a “relationship” at a moment’s notice. Like Elsa, they are building an icy castle of their own making.

If you are an anxious parent of a Frozen obsessed child, I have some suggestions for you. Rather than suppressing your child’s interest in the movie, engage them more deeply. This is the fairy tale of the hour, with all its necessary archetypal components. If you dare, join in their pretend world. Play out some of the themes instead of just watching them. Your child is providing you with a miraculous door into their inner world, a door you can enter into, to gain additional understanding about what moves them and concerns them. Don’t be afraid of their passionate singing about storms raging and not being the “good girl” anymore. Ask your child about the characters. Who do they relate to and why? What would they do if they were in such a circumstance? How would they convince the sister to come out and play? Rather than trying to change how they feel, be with them. Reflect those feelings back to them so they can learn to recognize them. Say things like, “I see how determined you are. I see how angry you are. I see how much you care about _____________ . I see how powerful you are.” Don’t try to change how they feel, help them to name their feelings so that these feelings are raised out of their unconscious world into the light of day. Make it safe for them to surface their vulnerability. Help them to thaw that which is frozen inside. Let them sing loudly with everything that is in them! Most importantly…..give them what they most long for PRESENCE and a SOUL CONNECTION.

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