Spoiler Alert: Going to see the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”, starring Tom Hanks is not like going to Disney World. Well, it is like going to Disney World if you go mid-August with your triplet toddlers, feed them all cotton candy, and lose your car because you forgot you parked in Pluto 7.394. It’s not a happy Disney movie.
Here’s the good news: It’s a meaningful movie that brings to light significant psychological questions. How much does your childhood trauma affect your adult life and can you actively do things to change those effects? “Saving Mr. Banks,” based on a true story, focuses largely on P. L. Travers who was the author of the Mary Poppins series. The movie throws you back and forth from her childhood to adulthood, giving insight into her repeated challenges. Her love and dependence on a father, who miserably fails her in her youth, gives way to an adult who lives a lonely life, dislikes the color red and pears, and tries to undo her painful past by writing a story about Mary Poppins.
Regardless of how true to life the movie is in regards to the Travers-Disney relationship, it forces you to see how many people suffer in adulthood because they have suffered as children. Of course, logic dictates that the child who experiences pain will learn to grow into an adult who completely changes her world and does the opposite of what she experienced in childhood. Sadly, however, we are forced to manage what we have learned in our formative years and continue to seek the familiar.
If you were made to feel loved and protected as a child, you will naturally be drawn to seek loving people and relationships that protect you as an adult. If you were unloved and unprotected as a child, you will naturally be drawn to people and situations that do not make you feel loved and protected. You will have been made to believe that you do not deserve to be loved and protected and will therefore, find ways to undo loving situations and be ready to jump into ones that create the feelings you had in childhood.
The movie suggests Disney medicine: create a musical where the outcome is better than the real life childhood. As this is not an opportunity most of us get, consider changing your own outcome by “parenting” yourself. I use this term in order to help people recognize that they might not have had proper parenting as a child and now deserve to give themselves the same acceptance, loving, and protective messages that they missed as children. Consider what you would say to your best friend who had a miserable childhood and suffers as an adult because of it. You can give yourself the same message and continue to repeat it often, reminding yourself that this is your truth, not the one you were made to believe.
Remember, most of the time, parents only mean well for their children, but their own substantive issues get in the way of proper parenting. Most probably, your parents did not mean to give you those negative messages. So you can create different messages as an adult, but only after you recognize the effect that your childhood is presently having on you presently.
As the title indicates, “Saving Mr. Banks” is about saving P. L. Travers’ father. She wants to find a way to create a different message out of her childhood. This is something we can all do, with or without Disney magic.
About the Author: M. Gary Neuman is a psychotherapist, rabbi, and New York Times best-selling author. He is the creator of NeumanMethod.com video programs for marriages and parenting.
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