As I hear kids singing the Oscar winning song of the 2014 Disney movie, I wonder about what one needs to let go in order to manage and deal with the cold ghosts that haunt when one relates to one's siblings. Frozen is a story about sisters, but not only about the desired portrays of love, cooperation and support. It actually goes deeper. It is about the ways in which one has to face and come to terms with the ambivalence, pain, and possibly hate in order to have access and build a compassionate and collaborative relationship with a sibling. Sibling relationships are complex, and Elsa's character shows us how. As she struggles to manage her own magic, she ends up hurting her younger sister, which leads to her heart being frozen by fear. Fear of her own destructive powers, the ones she can't control and that get triggered when she is overwhelmed by anger and disappointment. She withdraws to protect herself and her sister from her rage, only to have to face it anyways later in her life. As for Anna, she is left with her longing and feeling of exclusion, growing up with a sense of being left out.
It makes me think about when a new baby arrives and the now 'big' sibling has to adapt, adjust, transition into sharing the space and the parents. Both exciting and extremely irritating, this new presence may gradually be experienced as an impingement. A lot is said about sibling rivalry and jealousy, and usually parents get stuck in how to promote and nurture a healthy relationship among their kids. It is somewhat disruptive to the family structure to contain and make sense of the kids' struggles with their own mixed feelings. Sometimes, parents can only acknowledge the loving and exciting experience of siblinghood, and have a difficult time recognizing and talking about its darkest sides. Denied of the possibility of integrating her ambivalent feelings, the big children, as Elsa, struggle to control their dark magic, which grows inside and becomes stronger. Kept behind doors, a secret grudge leads to uncontrollable spells of cold weather. Our Elsa-kids retreat and hide, as they are afraid of the power of their unspeakable feelings.
As the film evolves, we realize that only an act of true love can save Anna's life, after Elsa's frozen heart freezes also her sister's. Anna saves Elsa, who saves Anna with her tears of regret, and they come to realize there is space to Summer when the cold and dark winter of secret grudges can be seeing. The film ends when Elsa realizes that her frozen heart could be cured with love, which makes her magic under control. Is it then that love is the answer?
It seems like love is only possible when the mixed feelings and ambivalence of their relationship is finally faced. As Anna tries to deal with feeling disconnected, she reaches out and finally finds Elsa, without actually realizing that their broken relationship is what could cure her. As for Elsa, it is in her encountering her fears as she leaves the castle and let the cold take over. As she faces it, she is able to gradually find warmth. This is how Anna is not a threat anymore, and they can finally re-connect. Grudges and secrets are the real threats to healthy relationships, and all the ways in which we try to avoid our dark feelings makes us feel disconnected and lonely. They only become stronger, more powerful and out of control.
A lot for parents to think about in how to promote and facilitate good-enough sibling relationships. As Elsa can't hold it in anymore, she gets in touch with her own truth and begins a process of opening doors for a new world, in which she finds love in her sorrow and is able to keep a snowman alive in the Summer. Nice lesson for us, parents, on how to allow the space for our kids to let it go and come to terms with their own fears and struggles in order to find a way to feel connected with each other.