Frozen… but not really

[MOVIE SPOILERS FOR FROZEN – STOP NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET!!]

I saw Frozen with my son recently, and I loved it – the animation was beautiful and the story was pretty entertaining, even for grown-ups 🙂

At the same time, it made me cry within the first 10 minutes of the movie.

Elsa, the First-born Princess, has cryogenic powers (think Ice Man from the comics). She accidentally hurts her sister Anna with her powers while playing. Anna is cured by a Troll wizard, and to keep her safe he removes the memory of magic from Anna’s mind (but not the fun). Their parents are told to not expose Anna to the magic, and that Elsa must learn to control – BUT NOT FEAR – her powers. This is where her parents drop the ball in a pretty major way. They forbid her to use her powers, and isolate themselves from others. THEY react out of fear, which Elsa picks up – she shuts down, and the joy that was in her life gets crushed out of her and taken away from her sister by that fear.

“Conceal, don’t feel” is the mantra she is taught – don’t be yourself, don’t show who you really are, don’t relax, pretend, don’t engage, don’t get excited. You can’t be who you are because it will cause pain in others.

I very much identified with Elsa.

I was a smart, creative, emotional kid – I got all these messages growing up because I didn’t quite fit in my family. Even the “good” things caused issues, because they made others uncomfortable in some way. So I tamped down my passion, my feelings, my SELF for years.

Yesterday I read this post at The Third Glance, which touched upon themes in the movie that echoed the writers personal experience with autism. “This is what happens to autistic kids. We are forced to conform. We are forced to suppress our autistic traits, to hide them from everyone. And when we fail, as we often do, because autism is an integral part of who we are, we are hidden from view instead. There isn’t any help for us to learn how to work with what we are given. We don’t have the opportunity to learn and grow with our powers, we are told to suppress them or there will be dire consequences.”

I am neurotypical. The Third Glance is autistic. Our experiences are different, but at the core they are the same. We were not able to be ourselves, because it was “difficult” for others, because we didn’t “fit”, because it was easier for others to NOT deal than it was to make the extra effort to understand us and allow us to be ourselves.

Forcing someone to be who they are not – even if you think it’s “for their own good” (which it really isn’t – it’s to make OTHERS feel better/more comfortable) – damages that person and causes a LOT of pain.

Luckily, everyone’s story kind of has a happy ending. Both Third Glance and I are finding our voices, and ourselves, and letting our true selves out for the world to see. We are taking joy in our “powers”. As Third Glance writes of Elsa:

“Others see that her powers are just a part of the person who she is, and they love her for all of her, strange power and all. Only when she finally stops hiding herself, does Elsa truly gain acceptance. She isn’t normal, but she is a person, a wonderful person, with some very unique things to bring to the table. And when that happens, everyone is happy.”

There is no real “normal”. We are all our own unique selves – and yes, some of us are more “unique” than others. We can’t – and shouldn’t – try to make the unique go away, because it won’t. Trying to make the unique disappear only makes the heart and soul of the PERSON disappear. Looking at the unique without fear, getting to know and understand it, working with it so that the best possible outcome can be achieved – THAT should be our goal.

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