Spoiler Alert: Going to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is not like going to Disney World. Well, it is like going to Disney World if you go mid-August with your triplet toddlers, feed them all Mickey cotton candy and lose your car because you forgot you parked in Pluto. It's not a happy Disney movie.
Here's the good news: It's a meaningful movie that brings to light some significant psychological questions. How much does your childhood trauma affect your adult life, and can you actively do things to change those effects? Saving Mr. Banks, based on a true story, focuses largely on P. L. Travers, who was the author of Mary Poppins. The movie constantly throws you back-and-forth from her childhood to adulthood, watching her repeated challenges. Her love and dependence on a father, who miserably fails her in her youth, gives way to an adult who lives a lonely life, dislikes the color red and pears, and tries to undo her painful past by writing a story about Mary Poppins.
Regardless of how true the movie is to the Travers-Disney relationship, it forces you to see how many people suffer in adulthood because they have suffered as children. Of course, logic dictates that the child who experiences pain will learn to grow into an adult who completely changes her world and does the opposite of what she experienced in childhood. Sadly, however, the human condition is forced to manage what it has learned in its formative years, and continues to seek the familiar.
If you were made to feel loved and protected as a child, you will be naturally drawn to seek loving people and relationships that protect you as an adult. If you were unloved and unprotected as a child, you will naturally be drawn to people and situations that do not make you feel loved and protected. You will have been made to believe that you do not deserve that, and will find ways to undo loving situations, and be ready to jump into ones that create the similar feelings of childhood.
The movie suggests Disney medicine; create a musical where the outcome is better than the real life childhood. Since all of us might not have this opportunity, consider changing your own outcome by "parenting" yourself. I use this term in order to help people recognize that they might not have had proper parenting as a child, and now deserve to give themselves the same acceptance, loving and protective messages that they missed as children.
Consider what you would say to your best friend who had a miserable childhood, and suffers as an adult because of it. What would you say to them? You can tell yourself the same message and continue to repeat it, reminding yourself that this is your truth, not the one you were made to believe about yourself in your formative years.
Remember, most of the time, parents only mean well for their children, but their own substantive issues get in the way of proper parenting. Most probably, your parents did not mean to give you those negative messages. So you can create different messages as an adult, but only after you recognize the effect that your childhood is having on you presently.
As the title indicates, Saving Mr. Banks is about saving the father of P. L. Travers. She wants to find a way to create a different message coming out of childhood. All of us can, with or without Disney magic.
M. Gary Neuman is a New York Times best-selling author, rabbi and creator of Neuman Method Programs. He was on the Oprah Show 11 times, as well as having made multiple appearances on Today, Dateline, the View, NPR and others.
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