Fear surrounds us. We’re afraid of people, places, the virus, and running out of resources.
Fear controls us. It directs our thoughts and actions without our conscious awareness. Fear drives people to do crazy things, like raid toilet paper. But it also motivates people to do amazing things, like the thousands of health care workers going to work every day, or the stranger who pays for a young mother’s baby formula.
We have all been controlled by fear, at one point or another. And, I am willing to bet, we all have a story during the current crisis of ourselves or someone we’ve witnessed being controlled by their fear. We all want to know, “What do we do? Where do we go? How long will this last? Who do we trust?” And, “What if . . .? What if . . .? What if . . .?”
I have been plagued by fear. I am fighting it as I write these words. I’m afraid for the health of my own two children, and my extended family, and all those healthcare workers on the front lines. I’m afraid of what will happen to public education, and my personal financial situation, and if we run out of food.
But we have a choice. Are we to be controlled by our fear, or can we control it to our good?
<<SPOILER ALERT: Major plot points revealed from Frozen 2>>
Elsa is no stranger to being controlled by fear. In the first movie, we see her cowering, alone and afraid, when her powers become too strong to control. She runs, isolates, lashes out, pushes her loved ones away — all in fear.
In the second movie, we find Elsa in control of her powers and free of the tyranny of fear. At least, somewhat. Elsa is now living with the fear of loosing the beautiful life that she has.
“I am afraid of what I’m risking when I follow you.”
Lyrics from “Into The Unknown” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
This time, though, Elsa is in the driver’s seat. She is still afraid, but uses her fear to her advantage by finding answers for herself, her family, and her kingdom in the fabled river, Ahtohallan.
The answer she discovers brings her face to face with fear again. But it’s not her fear.
She witnesses, through the magic memory-keeping power of water, the actions her grandfather took because he was afraid. His fear and xenophobia of the native and peaceful Northuldra drives him to deception and murder. He believes the Northuldra cannot be trusted. Their magic could lead them to “defy the will of the king.”
As Elsa responds, we see her journey to conquer fear complete.
“That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted.”
And in the end, his fear wins. He initiates a raid on innocent people, thereby setting off a decades-long curse.
Fast forward and we see his son, Elsa’s father, equally controlled by fear during the first Frozen installment. The fear of the unknown, fear of magic, fear of powers that could “defy the will of the king” is just as strong in the current king. It’s fear, then, that leads him to do something that no parent should do. He isolates his daughter and tries to control her, therefore controlling her powers, rather than facing his fears about the mysterious. At the opening of Frozen 2, when he tells his daughters about the Enchanted Forest, his fear is evident. The north is a dark, mysterious, unknown place, and therefore cannot be trusted.
What he doesn’t know is that his feelings about the place cannot be trusted, not the place itself.
I want to blame Elsa’s father, but it’s hard to place the blame at his feet when he was simply acting out of the fear that had been demonstrated to him. How many times have we acted out of fear, not knowing that it was fear that led our thoughts and actions? And how do we act differently when it is fear of protecting and keeping those we love safe? And when is fear common sense and when is it excessive?
Is the fear of contamination reasonable, for example, when I decide to keep my children home rather than bring them to daycare? Is the fear of going to the grocery store real or excessive? My husband came home a week before everything broke out with $200 worth of non-perishable food. I laughed at him. I thought his fear of running out of food during a quarantine was excessive and ridiculous. A week later, I thanked him for his foresight.
Elsa discovered, in the first movie, that her fear was unreasonable. She saw that in reality, it led her to loose what she was trying to keep. It harmed those she was trying to keep safe. In the second movie, we see the fear of her father and grandfather causing dire actions that affected people for generations. But in the same way, those men thought their actions were keeping their people safe.
Fear cannot be trusted, but is there a moment when it can? I think there is.
Our fears CAN be trusted when we decide to make reasonable and calm judgements based on the things of which we are afraid, looking our fear directly in the face instead of being controlled by it.
The fear of my children getting sick can lead me to panic and stay within doors for the next month. Or that fear can cause me to sanitize my children’s hands before and after we play at the park while we are getting our daily fresh air during self isolation.
So, the question is — who is the master? Who can you trust?