Enchanted Anger

Have you seen the movie, Enchanted? It’s a Disney film in which a cartoon fairy tale princess meets real life New York City, and charming hilarity ensues.  The film is quite fun and entertaining, but we can also learn a lot from Giselle.

The film begins in a classic Disney cartoon fairy tale land, in a place called Andalasia. Our princess heroine, Giselle, is tricked by an envious wicked queen and pushed into a well. As cartoon Giselle reaches the bottom of the well, she emerges as a real life Giselle (played by Amy Adams) from a manhole cover in the streets of Manhattan.

The story continues as the wide-eyed Princess Giselle maneuvers her way through New York City (and its stereotypical unfriendly people) to try to find her way back home to Andalasia and her Prince Charming. And of course, this story wouldn’t be complete without another love interest in the form of a handsome, yet cynical, New Yorker (played by Patrick Dempsey) for Giselle to win over with her bright and cheery fairy tale ways.

In the tradition of Pollyanna, this film shows the power of positive thinking and looking for the best in a situation. Giselle is confronted with rudeness time and time again, yet always responds with a charmingly innocent and gracious attitude. She’s so adept as this, in fact, that she can summon an army of rats and pigeons to help her clean an apartment and she can inspire a full on musical performance in Central Park.

Giselle is a master of positive thinking, but “positive thinking” itself does not create authentic happiness. And therein lies the moral of the story.

Giselle can think positively because she doesn’t know anything different. She comes from a fairy tale land where everything is sunshine and roses, and animals talk and sing, and where she’ll magically know her prince by his “true love song.” In Andalasia, the positive side of a situation is the only side.

But after some time in New York, Giselle finally gets angry. For the first time in her life she actually feels something. And with the sensation of actually feeling an emotion, Giselle becomes ecstatic – she is finally fully alive. It was her anger that gave her happiness and freedom.

I’ve found that many of us have issues with our anger. At best, we fear it or judge it, and at worst, we deny it or we stuff it deep down inside ourselves. This is especially true in two different scenarios – either we don’t know how to express our anger constructively or fear that we can’t, or we believe that if we acknowledge our anger we are not “thinking positively.”

It is critical that we learn to express our anger safely and constructively. Many experts will say that compulsive eaters eat to fill an emotional void. I say that the compulsion is to deny an emotion we’re afraid to face. It’s much easier to eat a bag of cookies than to tell someone you’re angry with them – especially if it’s someone you love.

And for those of us who fear that anger is a sign that we’re not thinking positively, we deny the anger for fear of attracting something negative into our lives. We believe that our thoughts create our reality, and in the utopian reality we hope to create for ourselves there is no room for negative thoughts, let alone anger.

For clarifying this perspective, we can thank Giselle. She teaches us that the happy thoughts of an innocent fairy tale princess pale in comparison to the happy thoughts of a fully actualized human being, someone who has experienced her anger, released it and found authentic happiness underneath.