Monday, December 11, 2017

Feeling Safe?

I finally got around to watching Frozen.

I don't have any small children of my own and wasn't really interested in it for my own viewing pleasure, so it took a long time. I didn't know the songs, didn't know the characters, didn't know the storyline.

We were watching a friends' child last weekend, and the child really wanted to see Frozen, so we did.

Overall, it's cute and has nice jokes and beautiful animation. I can tell they spent a lot of money on the soundtrack. I probably won't watch it again, being well outside of the target audience.

There was one poignant moment that stood out to me, though.  Anna, the red-headed sister of magical-powered Elsa, came to retrieve her (very dangerous) sister and bring her back to their town.

Elsa warned Anna that she needed to stay in her ice castle and couldn't return because she was a danger to everyone. Anna said:
You don't have to protect me; I'm not afraid. 

Boom. That line.

Feeling v. Being

It dawned on me that Anna thinks that feeling unsafe is the thing; actually being unsafe doesn't occur to her.

She's focused on the feeling instead of the reality.

When we say "make safety a prerequisite", people think we mean "feeling safe and unthreatened" which is not what I mean.

  • Fragile people can remain fragile in a confrontation-free space, but this doesn't make them safer.
  • Hiding problems can keep people from feeling afraid, but transparency gives them the ability to solve problems.
  • Brutish people can "feel safer" when they're allowed to run roughshod over others, but this does not make the group safer. 
There is more to this than feelings.

Likewise, when we say "make people awesome," some people think we mean "make people feel really great" instead of "give people the ability to do great things."  I mean the latter. If I meant "make people feel great" I would say "make people feel awesome" and would not bother with actually creating any enablement. Feelings matter, but there is more to this than feelings.

What Timing!

As I was pondering Anna's "not needing protection" Elsa deals Anna a mortal blow which begins to freeze her heart, and in time may well kill her.

So much for not needing protection.

Eventually, Anna is frozen solid, essentially dead. This being a Disney movie, she's restored to normal state and all is well at the end.

I wish it were the same for people who "feel safe" weaving through traffic on a motorcycle at 120mph with no helmet, or those who "feel safe" working with homemade explosives or modified firearms.

What Are We Really Doing?

The ideas of "make people awesome" and "make safety a prerequisite" are too important to me to have them confused and conflated with imparting (potentially deceptive) feelings of awesomeness and safety.

If we aren't enabling greater accomplishment and reducing potential damage, then what are we doing? Just playing with people's feelings? 

1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled across your post as a link in a thread on the topic of psychological safety and what it means. Your post is a well-written, thought provoking related treatise on the subject.

    Thanks for putting thoughts to words and triggering some new thinking for me.