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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

Frozen 2 Tackles Anxiety and Trauma

Frozen 2 takes on themes like complex trauma, intergenerational trauma, historical trauma and grief, all while showing us how to manage children's anxieties while going through it all.

I have already posted about Frozen and its relevance to Complex Trauma. When Frozen 2 came out, I couldn't wait to see where the writers would go and whether it would continue to feel relevant to the experience of trauma and personal resurrection. I'm thrilled to say that I was not disappointed!

Complex Trauma

We all knew that Anna's unconditional love, while necessary, still couldn't be enough for Elsa's comprehensive healing of herself. And in Frozen 2, Elsa is called to do more of the work. She hears a calling--a voice, a nudging--that drives her to discover more about her origins, she confidently presses forward to the woods. Of course, when she arrives at the deepest part of her journey, she learns that her calling wasn't to save someone else, but herself--and with more understanding of who she is, how powerful she is and her context in the past, she realizes her purpose. With that power, she moves confidently in her world, fully becoming who she wants and needs to be.

Intergenerational Trauma

Frozen 2 takes it a step further and delves into Intergenerational Trauma--exploring the way the trauma of our parents, and their parents have been passed down to us. Elsa realizes that her parents gave her hints about their own struggles--through the clothes they wore, to childhood bedtime storytimes. And in her journey she realizes that her magic powers, which once brought her pain and shame, were in some ways passed down through her extended family and in fact, were a significant part of her purpose.

Historical Trauma

Historical trauma refers to the ways that trauma has been passed down in our culture--we think of structural phenomena like the Holocaust or Slavery, and how it impacts our culture and individuals within it, even decades later. In Frozen 2 Elsa and Anna's mother sings them a song about a river, which is an important symbol in African American culture--a metaphor for struggle and freedom. More than that, we learn that Elsa's grandfather, the leader of Arendelle wronged what seems to be a native group, in an effort to colonize them--to make them economically dependent, ensuring Arendelle's prosperity. Elsa decides to "do the next best thing", and at the expense of her own self, family and culture, sets to repair the harm.


The aspect of the movie that I appreciated the most, was the integration of the child's perspective on adult drama, shown through Olaf's character. Are there more relevant questions today than "How do our children understand the social ills and dangers of the world around them? How do we protect our kids through change, and, maybe more significantly, things that are largely outside of our control?".

It seems to me that the authors of Frozen 2 have attempted to answer these questions in a poetic and incredibly successful way. Olaf talks about growing up, having more awareness of the world around him. How he is afraid of change. Anna is there, reassuring him with her song "Some things never change". In the woods, Olaf is scared, he doesn't understand why they're there, facing danger, putting their lives in jeopardy. To cope, he idealizes his elders, creates a fantasy that they are "all-knowing", and that one day he will too. "When I am Older". Olaf and his struggle will resonate with any kid on the anxieties of life and death, change and balance. And the movie can help you to connect with the way kids think, offer reassuring words to talk about change, and will share important ideas, like how much kids need their adults to be strong for them--idealizable--even in the darkest of woods. To take it a step further, Anna shows us how to do just that: stepping outside of "emptiness" and "darkness" to do "The Next Right Thing".

Besides being fun to watch, Frozen 2 can really get you thinking about different kinds of Traumas, how to work through them, and even how to relate to children (and our own inner children--after all, that's who Olaf really is) while we're going through it all.


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