Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan
In my previous blog, Guilt and Shame and Letting Go, I introduced Elsa and Anna, the two main characters from the movie Frozen. I looked at a portion of Elsa’s story and talked about the guilt and shame with which she struggled in response to the unintentional harm to her sister and the reactions of others as a result. In this blog we will continue to look at Elsa’s story.
After being kept behind closed doors much of her life, rehearsing negative self-talk, and the loss of her and Anna’s parents, Elsa emerges from the shadows to take her place as the queen of Arendelle. On coronation day, she presented a beautiful queen, cordial and accommodating. However, when she has to remove her gloves, we get a peek into her heart when the royal staff she is holding begins to freeze. As fear grips her, Elsa quickly retrieves her gloves and retreats to hiding in plain sight.
It is not long before a series of encounters with her sister and the townspeople peaks her fear once again and this time surfaces her anger. In an effort to protect herself she lashes out and her secret is finally out. Feeling threatened and exposed, Elsa runs away, further and deeper into hiding. This time of her own choosing and to the soundtrack of a frozen heart.
Cue the music. Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door, I don’t care what they’re going to say, Let the storm rage on, The cold never bothered me anyway
Leaving an icy trail and strained relationships behind, Elsa finally lets it all go as she escapes into isolation. Creating a beautiful castle a.k.a. a fortress of her own making to protect herself, she resolves to embrace the parts of herself hidden for so long even if it meant living apart from the rest of the world.
However, love would not leave her alone. When sister Anna and friends go after Elsa, history repeats itself. Feeling threatened and gripped by fear, Elsa in her anger strikes Anna with her magical powers once again. Only this time, she hits her in the heart.
Just the Tip
In another blog I wrote called First Class Anger, I talked about the anger iceberg and how anger is often an outward expression of a myriad of deeper emotions that are difficult to name and express. In this story, Elsa’s expression of anger is just the tip of the deep-rooted fear, guilt and shame that had been festering in her soul for so long.
Components of Anger
Anger is a natural God-given emotion that, dependent upon how it is handled, can be either helpful or unhelpful. As we see in lashing out, Elsa’s anger was not helpful and it resulted in her sister’s heart being frozen.
In their book Mind Over Mood, authors Dennis Greenberg and Christine Padesky look at anger through the grid of cognitive behavior therapy and the following four areas: thoughts, moods, physical reactions and behavior. A person struggling with anger is more than likely entertaining thoughts of being hurt or threatened by someone, being treated unfairly or having a rule or value that is important to them violated. A person might refer to their mood as being irritable, frustrated or enraged. In terms of physical reaction, warning signs of anger might be tight muscles, elevated blood pressure, hands sweating and rapid heartbeat. Defending, withdrawing and attacking are behaviors that can accompany the mood of anger.
Handling Your Anger
The cognitive behavior therapy approach posits that thoughts, moods, physical reactions and behaviors are connected, and by shifting one of these areas, change can happen. So, how can you address these areas and respond to your feelings of anger in a healthier manner?
- Step away and take a moment to break down the situation. Try to identify the four components of anger by answering the question, “what happened?” If you have a difficult time accessing information about the situation, then write about it to help identify what you are feeling, thinking and want to do in response.
- Try to identify what you were thinking in response to the situation? Ask yourself, is there another way to think about the situation? What would you say to a friend about the situation?
- Scan your body and try to identify what you are physically feeling in the moment. Where do you feel it? If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, try deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation to calm yourself.
- Pay attention to what it is that you want to or are tempted to do. Ask yourself, does what you want to do align with your values, reflect the character you want to display or represent the type of person you want to be?
Learning how to handle anger in a manner that is constructive is important especially in our current culture. If you are struggling with and need help working through anger, or simply want to learn to handle your anger more constructively, an Optimum Joy therapist would be glad to help you. Call us today!