#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · mom of boys

Encanto & Psychotherapy

I did not know what I was getting into when I sat down to watch Encanto. I saw previews with a house and young woman with glasses. That’s it. My sons and I watched it on my birthday in January. By the time Surface Pressure was over I was welling up with tears. When the grandmother was berating Maribel; the tears started to actually fall and by the time the Mariposa song was over I was literally sobbing. My sons at some point asked if I was okay and I sort of stuttered “Yes…it’s fine…it’s just very sad.” They didn’t understand why I thought it was sad I could tell from their perplexed expressions; but they didn’t question it further. I think they are used to me crying at movies. It happens a lot.

Family dynamics are intense. I don’t get into my family dynamics in my blog because I respect my family members enough to not write publicly or engage in gossip about them in any capacity. But every family has dynamics. Every family has inter-generational trauma. Mine is no different.

As Maribel stood and her grandmother berated her in front of her extended family members, the scene with Bruno as Maribel sees his plate drawn onto the table behind the wall, the many scenes with Maribel being scapegoated as she seeks and speaks truth…I felt all of that.

There is nothing like family, and a room full of people with blood connections to you, that can make you feel the most isolated, alone, and wrong.

I not only have experienced this but I spend my life counseling patients on their family attachments. What struck me about Encanto was the recovery scene at the end. The song her entire extended family partakes in that they see her, they love her, and they want her in their family. She is their family. The patients I treat generally never get to experience that moment. Because real life is not a Disney movie.

That connection scene provides validation and love. Psychotherapy can provide this in a different way. For all those individuals who do not have reparative moments and relationships with family members psychotherapy provides a space for the client to examine the relationship dynamics, the traumas, even the covert ones- the isolating, the scapegoating, and it’s looking back at the times you’ve drawn a plate on a table to feel close to your family who seem so incredibly far though they are sitting just six feet away.

Psychotherapy allows clients a space to examine the idea of love. Self love. Love of others. Receiving love and giving love. Insecure and secure attachment styles. It also allows us a space to examine the dissonance of deeply loving a family member be it a sibling or parent while acknowledging they may have done horribly traumatic things to you.

Psychotherapists spend their days singing the song at the end of Encanto. “We see how brave you have been. We see how bright you burn. You’re the real gift. What do you see? I see me. All of me.” (edited)

I used to love Disney movies. I still am a Disney fan. But. I have a more adult view of the movies. I have a more adult understanding of reality vs. fiction and good vs. evil. There are good people who perpetrate evil things. And there are evil people who everyone believes are good. There are so many shades of grey in between the black and white world of Disney.

The part of the movie that I viscerally felt was as I watched the grandmother pick up her three newborn babies and run with her husband. As they cross the river all I could think of was my own twin boys. The three little heads were reminiscent to me of all the times I looked down at my two boys little heads nursing, sleeping, crying, smiling. Even as I watched it I had one little head on each shoulder. I think it was deep for me because I took a journey also and am now a single mom. I felt her grief, her fear, and her determination. I’ve had to make my own miracles though.

I am grateful for my boys. I am grateful for the organized chaos that is my life as a single parent, business owner, boss, and clinician. I am proud of my work and I am proud of my employees as they are all dynamic and skilled clinicians. But I think Encanto succinctly summarized what we do for people in a way that I have never been able to. We see people. We help them see themselves. We empower. We are the family in that last scene watching with pride as she walks bravely to the door.

I’m opening a second location and a long time client (9? years) texted me because I told him I needed to tell him something. We then chatted on the phone, and when I told him I was going to be based in the new location he said, “Yeah, well just tell me the address and I’ll see you there. Remember that closet you used to be in? Your first spot?” Then he laughed and told me about the pharmacist messing up his last prescription and being flabbergasted that the patient had my direct number to text me so I could resend it. “He doesn’t know what we’ve been through together,” then he laughed. He’s always joking and lighthearted, but I heard the ring of truth. I have seen him through a lot. A. Lot. And he still has work to do. But that’s outpatient psychiatry. Developing trust, rapport, and being the constant there through…a lot.