Disney's latest animated film Frozen was blessed in the timing of its release, as we face a record-breaking winter and Polar Vortex. Played by Idina Menzel, Elsa, the older of two sister princesses, has a magical gift. Because of an unfortunate accident early in the film, she becomes afraid of using it and turns into a recluse.
Many of us similarly hide away and stuff our power. We play small to avoid conflict and not rock the boat, for pseudo-acceptance and a variety of other reasons. Underneath the ambivalence they feel toward power, many of the retreat participants with whom I work often uncover the fear that if they really stepped into their personal power bad things would happen: others would judge or reject them and they might end up alone; they might abuse power or, like Elsa, unintentionally cause harm.
No wonder we are confused and ambivalent about power! We witness abuses of power constantly in our world. It is crucial that we deepen our understanding about the different types of power and realize that some of its expressions are healthy. Also important is learning to identify and remove our own internal obstacles that have prevented us from fully owning our power and expressing it gracefully.
Without giving away the details, the movie's message is "Love conquers fear." "Only an act of true love thaws a frozen heart," is spoken not once, but twice. In the film it is an act of selfless love and generosity that heals the frozen heart of Hannah, the younger princess played by Kristen Bell.
How open is our heart? Have we allowed our heart to close to someone -- the ex who left us for someone else, the former boss who treated us unfairly, or the friend who betrayed us? The catch is we can't close our heart selectively. If we allow it to close to a specific person, it's closed. Period. Ultimately then, this is not about anyone else who hurt us; it is about our own heart's relationship to love, to life itself. When we keep our hearts closed to anyone we are still giving our power away to them.
To be clear, an open heart does not mean we have to be BFFs with anyone we don't want to, or stay in relationships that don't support our highest good. Forgiveness is the key to freedom though, and as Elsa discovers, love is the key to learning to control her powers.
In A Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck has gifted us with powerful and insightful teachings about love. Love is not a feeling or an emotion, he writes, but an act. It is when we place ourselves outside of our comfort zone, when we stretch beyond ourselves for the sake of the spiritual growth of another.
Hmm. Not quite what popular culture tells us love is. This is far from the "I can't live without you" or "you are the air that I breathe" kind of idealized -- and ultimately disempowering -- romantic love to which we are conditioned, and that helps sell songs, champagne, chocolate and roses this time of year. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things or even with romantic love, which can be an exquisite experience. It's just that, as Peck explains, it's a transitory illusion, maybe even a biological trick of nature to ensure the survival of the species.
In response to Russia's recent staunch and oppressive anti-gay laws, The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, has recently launched a "Love Conquers Hate" campaign. Scratch underneath hate and you'll find fear. Here's hoping that Putin's frozen heart -- and all our hearts -- will thaw.