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by Katie Kovacs, MSEd., LPCC

Since November of 2013, Disney’s animated film “Frozen” has taken American pop culture by storm.  Anna and Elsa (and even Olaf) have become household names, and everyone seems to be talking about the box office success.  Some people are revering the film, celebrating its theme of sacrificial love and applauding Disney for focusing on sisterhood rather than the traditional “Prince Charming saves the day with a kiss” plot.  Others are criticizing the lack of diversity in the appearance of the princesses and claiming that Disney is making a political, pro-homosexuality statement with the film.  Of course, you are welcome to form your own opinion about the movie.

I went to see “Frozen” in the theatre with my family, not soon after it came out.  My kids were most excited about the characters of Olaf (the snowman) and Sven (the moose) because they had seen the movie’s trailer.  As a mom, I loved sitting in the theatre watching them delight in the joys of the movie, all while consuming their popcorn and watermelon Sour Patch Kids (a family favorite).

Unlike my children, however, I was most captivated by the princesses, Elsa and Anna, for numerous reasons.  I am a girl with two brothers, so any story about two sisters has a fascination factor to it.  Plus, I loved seeing how close the two sisters were, and I yearn for my children to love each other through out their lives.  Also, my husband has a profession that requires leadership in our community, so it was interesting for me to peer inside the world of two young girls who were raised to meet the expectations placed on them because of their father’s role as king.

What really spoke to me, however, as a woman and especially as a therapist, was the scene where Elsa runs away into the woods and sings the now famous ballad, “Let it Go.”  I realize that she is talking about her sorcery powers: concealing them for so long and then finally being “found out” at the coronation ceremony.  But to me, she could have been talking about the eating disorder voice, or Ed, as we often call him.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight

Not a footprint to be seen

A kingdom of isolation,

And it looks like I’m the queen.

Ed typically promises better relationships with others by making one thinner, prettier, more perfect, or even good enough, but he never keeps that promise.  He is notorious for making his sufferers feel isolated and alone.

 The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Those dealing with Ed usually are filled with a storm of confusing emotion, but in an effort to obey his demands, they keep it inside rather than identifying and expressing it.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Ed always demands perfection.  He is against vulnerability, openness with others, and authenticity.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

Well, now they know

Ed’s message is simple: Restrict so that you don’t have to feel.  Binge and purge so that you don’t have to feel.  Use the behaviors and the emotion will go away.

Now, here’s where we see her attitude change.  Elsa decides not to conceal her emotion, not to be perfect, and not to continue abandoning her true self.  What can we learn from Elsa?  Do her words have some wisdom to offer in regards to Ed and striving towards recovery?

 Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go

Turn away and slam the door 

The message: Don’t be tamed by Ed, but rather, break out of his grip.  Stand up to him with boldness!

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on,

The cold never bothered me anyway

The message: Don’t be so concerned with what others think of you.  Allow yourself to have real emotion.  Allow yourself to be authentic and vulnerable.  Furthermore, don’t fear what life will be like without Ed in it.  Be courageous and confident that when you let go of him, you will discover your true self.

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

The message: Don’t let the fear of Ed paralyze you or control you.  Learn to tolerate the anxiety that he may inflict on you.

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

The message: Don’t be bound by Ed’s ridiculous rules and expectations.  Learn to live in freedom, with spontaneity, and with mistakes.

Let it go, let it go

I am one with the wind and sky

Let it go, let it go

You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand

And here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back,

The past is in the past

The message: Believe that full recovery is possible and that life without Ed is amazing!  Through the therapeutic process, commit to learning the skills you need to deal with life’s challenges and put Ed out of a job.

Let it go, let it go

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

This is the point in the movie where Elsa transforms her gown to look like beautiful, sparkling ice.  She lets down her hair, and she stands with confidence.  She struts her body forward, her hips circling with perfect figure eights and her legs placed, one in front of the other, with raw femininity.

I admit that I was a little taken aback by such a sensual movement from Frozen’s protagonist.  Va-va-voom!  Children are watching this!  Is this appropriate?  How does this impact the view of beauty, and more specifically, what does this teach young females about their bodies?  But with further reflection, I found value in the 3-second strut in relation to Ed.  You see, Ed often demands that a young female individual live such a restricted life.  The restriction doesn’t just affect the areas of food and weight, but also it restricts one’s sexuality.  Many of those suffering from a relationship with Ed have shut down their endocrine system to the point where they have no sex drive, no body confidence, no femininity, no urge to be intimate with others, and no free flowing, organic movement.  They are bound to a rigid physical body that lacks curves, glow, and expression.  That said, I loved that Elsa was able to walk with strength and grace, while her body matched the conviction in her voice.

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the storm rage on,

The cold never bothered me anyway

Needless to say, if you haven’t yet seen the movie “Frozen” or even watched the scene of “Let it Go” on YouTube, I recommend you do so.  Perhaps Disney’s princess will have a message for you too.

*”Let it Go” music and lyrics were composed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

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