Have you seen Disney’s newest movie, Frozen? I just got home from the movie theater and can hardly wait to write this post. In addition to loving the music and animation, I was enthralled with the depth of human emotion and relationship insight that was depicted in the story. Sometimes Disney portrays key human experiences so clearly, there is really no reason for a more sophisticated way to teach it.
In the theater, I experienced the same story that I see over and over with couples in my office. It was a clear reflection of the hurt that so many people feel.
It was like Walt Disney meets Emotionally Focused Therapy!
Hopefully we can use the example of these two sisters to better understand human connection and relationships.
It is obvious that Elsa and Anna love each other very much! They were best friends and played continually together. After the accident, however, Elsa was warned against her power to freeze and the potential risk for Anna, and so she closed herself off from her and the rest of the world. Well talk about that more in the next post Conceal, Dont Feel.
For now, I want to focus on what happens for Anna.
With no recollection of the accident and how it impacted Elsa, Anna continually knocks on Elsas bedroom door asking,Do you wanna build a snowman? Come on lets go and play. I never see you anymore Come out the door Its like youve gone away. We used to be best buddies, But now were not. I wish you would tell me why. Do you wanna build a snowman? It doesnt have to be a snowman . To which Elsa responds, “Go away Anna. Anna: “Okay, bye.”
She is confused and lonely. She doesnt understand why Elsa has shut her out and wont respond to her requests for contact.
Later, she pleads, Please, I know youre in there. Im right here for you. Please let me in.
Still she receives no response and sits aching on one side of the door not knowing how to reach this sister, this one dear friend that she so desperately needs, but feels she has lost forever.
I have sat with so many partners who express the same hurt and anguish to me.
We used to be so close, but now I cant reach him.
He just shuts down and withdraws. Its like Im not even there.
I just want to matter to her. I want her to respond to me and acknowledge that I exist, but she just shuts me out.
This desperation for connection causes us to move towards the other person, seeking connection and comfort. Sometimes that seeking of reassurance and connection sounds soft and inviting like, Do you wanna build a snowman? Often times, however, it sounds more critical and blaming such as,
You never come home on time.
Why is work more important than your family?
If you would just turn off the TV and actually talk to me!
Its easier to see that Annas soft and tender reaching is out of love and desire for connection, but it is understandably more difficult to see that those critical, blaming reaches we experience in our own relationships come from the same longing for companionship and closeness.
Desperate for any connection and sense that she matters, Anna flings herself into the arms of the first person who presents himself as a possibility. Because For the first time in forever, [she was] noticed by someone.
Sometimes, our innate need from connection causes us to make desperate and less than helpful choices.
This pattern of what we as EFT therapists call, pursuing behavior, is normal and understandable. It makes sense when partners fight for connection and sometimes do desperate things to know they matter and belong. And while watching Frozen, Ill bet the majority of us understood that. We felt her longing for connection and hurt for her when her life [had] been a series of doors in [her] face.
But I imagine, like me, you also felt the loneliness, sadness, fear and desperation of Elsa, who hurt just as much, but managed it in a very different way.
Continued in my next article – Part 2