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Let It Go: Becoming Un-Frozen

canstockphoto17850511I have been fascinated about the popularity of Disney’s new movie Frozen. What has led to its unprecedented success? Although the music, animation, and humor are excellent (and watching nieces and nephews sing along is priceless), I believe the core message of the film is what has resonated with so many people: Let it Go!

One of the most common phrases I hear from my clients is some variation of “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what to do,” or “I am frozen.” This state comes from difficult past experiences or a fear of what may wait for us in the future. Whether it is a past hurt or a fear of something in the future, I have found that there are immense benefits that come from the process of letting go.

Distress is not a desirable condition that we aspire to. However, it is present for a reason and is common to being human. Whatever we are feeling, we are feeling and we have an understandable reason for it. However, emotions are not static and we will not feel the current distress for forever (even though it may seem so at times).

One of my most fascinating clients came to see me individually, even though she stated that her goal was to improve her marriage. From the first meeting, she said that she knew exactly what she needed to do, but that she just couldn’t bring herself to do it: Forgive her husband for the past hurts in their relationship. She said that her bag of resentment was akin to carrying around a bag full of iron anvils. When I asked her why she was still carrying it, she said, jokingly, but with some sincerity, “so I can hit him over the head with it!”

She went on to describe that holding onto the heavy bag gave her sense of security and protection from being hurt again (understandable). She also showed fascinating insight in recognizing that if she admitted that she had to let it go, that it would confirm that she had a problem as well (understandable again). This process is common, knowing we need to let go of something, but feeling a sense of loss or vulnerability in doing it. The weight becomes oddly comfortable and we become so accustomed to it that we can’t imagine what it would feel like to walk around without it.

When I thought of the process of “letting go,” I only thought about forgiving others of their wrong-doings toward us. Although that does apply, as my client illustrated with her husband, I find that this situation is less common than the weights we impose on ourselves. What we most often need to let go of are our own expectations of ourselves, of others, and the unhelpful dialogue that we persist in. We need to let go of that nagging voice that seems to be helping, but that is actually keeping us trapped. “I am no good” or “there is something wrong with me,” are valiant attempts at an explanation of why we are stuck, but they don’t produce a new situation or solution.

We all feel conflicted, stuck, or frozen at some point in our lives. For some, it may be for a relatively short time. For others, it may be a nagging sense of discontent for weeks, months, or even years. Some of my clients even say that there has been a “looming feeling” for as long as they can remember. It may be during a difficult transition in our lives, or it may be difficult to point to the cause. The feeling of being frozen, conflicted, or trapped, is a tangible one, but can lead to unhealthy and possibly not-true narratives that are developed.

A lot of people hesitate to ask for help for fear of being or having a problem. Let it go! We all have problems. Therapy is a place where hopefully you can feel love and acceptance, which usually is the best place to start if you want to become unfrozen (another motif illustrated in the Disney film).

As a practical, take-away activity, clench your fist right now, as if you are clinging onto something, say, a heavy bag full of iron anvils. Clinch your fist as long as you can (but don’t hurt yourself!). Then, relax your hands and open your palms as you imagine letting it go. Get the sense of the relief that comes. In my observations, the emotional weights can be just as tangible as physical ones (if not more so), and the relief just as real. If you can identify what is causing you distress, I wish you well in letting it go.

Maybe watching this clip from the movie or reading the lyrics will give you inspiration to do so:

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.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

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

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

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

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

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

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

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