According to the Wonder Weeks app, my almost 16 month old is about to go through Leap 10, the FINAL leap tracked by Wonder Weeks (let’s get a celebratory cheer for that!). Well, it must have hit a little early in our house because my sweet girl has been up the last few nights around 230/300am and randomly singing “Let It Go” at the top of her lungs and then full out refusing to go back to sleep. After fighting it for a few nights, I succumbed last night and just let her wake up. Accepted that my night of sleep was over, turned the lights on, and enjoyed some 1:1 time with my daughter before yet another sibling joins us in a few weeks. Perspective sometimes makes hard moments easier.
And, as she was singing over and over again, my mom brain and my codependent brain collided in an earth shattering 4am revelation – Queen Else is TOTALLY codependent.
Let’s break this down.
Codependent behaviors typically form from one being raised with a dysfunctional family dynamic. So is true for our favorite Queen. Elsa was forced into repressing her talent and essentially isolated from human contact from the time she was a young girl because her family feared that knowledge of her powers would get out and cause the family to be shunned. She has to protect her sister Anna by keeping her distance. She has to conform her behaviors to some messed up image of what her family tells her she has to do and who she has to be.
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always had to be.”
She was repeatedly encouraged and coached to hide and control her feelings.
“Conceal don’t feel, don’t let it show; make one wrong move and everyone will know.”
Her parents were eventually killed in an accident and for the final years of her childhood she was raised by staff in the closed off castle without parents. She never had time to grieve their loss or anyone to grieve it with since she was relegated to her room and generally without contact with other people. When she came of age, she was to be officially named the queen of the land, requiring the castle gates to open for a day, the people to be let in to witness her coronation, and resulting immense pressure to not let her powers show.
Elsa’s powers were immensely stronger and out of control when fear was present (interesting, fellow codependents!), and she was very fearful of people of the kingdom of Arendelle finding out. She continues to repress and run away from her feelings, making her appear callous and cruel to her confused little sister.
After Anna provokes her with her request to marry Prince Hans, an unworthy suitor that she just met several hours earlier, Elsa is unable to control her feelings anymore and accidentally reveals her powers. This sends her literally running for the hills and singing what should be dubbed the codependent’s anthem, “Let It Go.” I don’t know how I didn’t make this connection before now that I’m going back and replaying the words in my head. Somehow, I don’t think this is what Melody Beattie had in mind in writing content for The Language of Letting Go app.
However, Elsa doesn’t really let it go as would be required in order to heal from her codependent ways. Her letting it go is really about being fed up with dealing with concealing her true self, and basically saying “Buzz off! I’m done living this way!” However, she’s not actually changing (as evidenced by the rest of the movie), but rather engaging in another classic codependent behavior — running from the problem. She literally isolates herself in an ice palace far up on a mountain that is almost completely shut off from the outside world, except for her stubborn, not-to-be-discouraged sister (let’s not get started on HER codepdendent behaviors). Elsa would be better to learn HOW to feel the complex and complicated feelings she has, rather than continuing to suppress or hide them as she was taught.
All is not lost for Queen Elsa, however. Interestingly enough, the savior of the family (codependents often take on a Messiah-like role) ends up being saved by the very sister she was trying to protect- literally and figuratively. It is the realization that love healed Anna’s frozen heart where Elsa finds the real meaning of power – the power inside her. When she is able to grieve for her parents, love her sister, and know that she too is loved, she is able to recognize how she can heal Arendelle as well.
For anyone in recovery- just wow. How often do we not allow ourselves to feel? WHether love or anything else? Locking ourselves away from the ability to feel the negatives in life – sadness, anger, pain, fear, whatever it may be… that will also prevent us from feeling joy, happiness, and love. Letting go means truly letting go of trying to control the outcome, our feelings, ourselves, and others.
While I haven’t been opposed to letting my kids watch this movie (over… and over… and over…), I am now questioning whether this type of dynamic is something I really want to permanently ingrain into the minds of my 1 and 2 year old. Frankly, it’s too late, but still… I love this movie, I love most of the message. And no movie purports to be perfect. Disney does a phenomenal job with its strong female characters in this movie, despite it’s long-standing “princess problem.” Nonetheless, it’s an interesting thing to think about exposing my kids to, and almost crazy how despite 23254534 viewings of the movie, I didn’t realize it until now.
I suppose there’s not really a greater point to this post other than sharing my realization – and helping to normalize the fact that codependency is everywhere. In fact, we may be so numb to it that we don’t even realize its presence in people we know and love (or watch on tv 2342354 times with our children).
If you’re struggling with codependency and are interested in more for your life, there is hope. Feel free to reach out and I’m glad to help you find some local resources that might help you get yourself free from the crippling prison that codependency puts you in. You were made for more, reach out and take what this world is holding for you!