Part 1 Mistaken Identity: Hope and Healing for Our Hearts by Dr. Merry
Any of you seen the Disney movie, Frozen? I was watching it again a few months ago, and it struck me that the characters struggled in many of the same ways that we do too. (Sorry, as a psychologist, one of the hazards of my job is the tendency to interpret everyone, including animated characters!)
And what is it that we do? We base our identity and our worth – and therefore our relationships – on our broken parts, our histories, our hurts, or the “stuff” of life. We experience depression, so then we are depression; or we experience rejection and betrayal, so then we become “rejects”. Our core sense of self becomes rooted in our experiences, and what the world and others tell us. Can you see how that has led us astray? Could it be that many of our insecurities and our struggles in our relationships are rooted in this?
One of the main characters in Frozen is Queen Elsa who has the power to turn everything and everyone into ice. But because this power can cause harm to others, she chooses to protect her loved ones by withdrawing completely to a solitary and cold mountain top where she is going to live on her own for the rest of her life.
There’s a scene on the mountain where she’s singing about how she can finally be herself without fear, that she’ll be fine on her own, that she doesn’t need anyone – that she’s finally free. But there’s also deep sadness underlying her story because she will always on her own. She may be “safe” but she can never experience love and relationship. Her identity became wrapped up in self-sufficiency, retreating from the world, and “safety”. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Do you know what was underlying her decision to be alone?
In the real world, fear is often what underlies problems in our identity and in our relationships – it’s often why we withdraw but it’s also why we attack in anger and push people away – we want to protect ourselves from pain – we’re afraid of the pain of rejection, abandonment and hurt. Some of the angriest people we know are lonely – but they can’t face the pain of their aloneness so they keep their hearts hard and push people away with their anger – they keep their hearts frozen.
Or some of the most loving and caring people are also lonely; they fill their time with nurturing others but when it comes to their own emotional needs and pain, they bury their hearts. They, too, have frozen hearts because they never expose their own emotional vulnerabilities – they’ve shut down their own needs to focus completely on others – it’s safer that way, right? That way you can guarantee that people will remain in your life, that they will always need you and “love” you for what you do for them.
The Frozen Heart Syndrome
It’s what I call the frozen heart syndrome – not because you’re cold or calculating but because you’ve shut down your heart to protect yourself. If I don’t feel, I won’t hurt; if I don’t love, I won’t lose; if I’m not vulnerable, I won’t be rejected.
But that isn’t the way that God has wired us to live – we are created for mutual and intimate relationships – created for connection to God our Father and with each other. At the end of the movie, Frozen, the moral of the story is that freedom isn’t in solitude or withdrawal but in love – which has the power to heal and save. Don’t you love how biblical Disney movies can sometimes be?
You have been created to love and be loved. You have been created to be in intimate relationships with God and with others. Don’t let fear stop you from embracing this truth and pursuing healing so that you can live the life of true freedom and joy that God intends for you. Yes, relationships can be a source of great pain – I see that daily in my office – but it is also the means by which God teaches you about his love and grace and forgiveness.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this two-part series. On Wednesday, Dr. Merry takes a look at how our struggles in our identity and relationships can be transformed for the better. www.drmerrylin.com