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Fairy Tales vs. Mental Health

My son gets hysterically upset by fairy tales.

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

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April, your son was affected by a fairy tale?


Yeah. Tell me about that.

We were watching Alice in Wonderland. Yeah. And it wasn't even halfway through the movie and my son had a complete hysterical breakdown, hyperventilating crying, because he didn't see how she was going to make her way home to the cat.

Okay, and, and how old is he?

He's four.

He's four years old. So this was like a horror movie for him.

Yeah. And it shocked me.

Why is that?

I don't understand. I couldn't understand how he could get so upset over it.

And quickly. And how did you handle it?

Well, I stopped the movie and told him because there have been like, he did the same thing in lab, right? He didn't see how she's gonna get home, but he knows that every movie, they always make it home safely, and everything's okay. And he said, Yes, he understood this. But it still it didn't sit well with him.

Okay, any personal experiences in his life that echo that movie like he was lost in a supermarket and couldn't find your last in an amusement park and couldn't find you or if you went away for a while and he didn't think you might find your way back home. Or he was lost himself and didn't think he could find his way back home.

Well, I know he and his older sister, she's eight. I have a patch of woods. out back. They had gone a little bit further than the view of the house. But I found them I brought him back home. But he didn't seem to straw or upset at any point during that. He was just happy and thought it was just perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, he has a terrible problem with hiding and not answering me when I'm looking for him. Oh, that's cute.

Okay. My son used to have a cute problem of of hiding when we when he would go to sleep at night the babysitter's wouldn't know where he'd be sleeping. he'd find a little nook and cranny under a desk or he find it behind the couch. And even to this day, I went to say goodbye to him. He says, Now, I want to say goodbye to him the other day and looked his car was still here, but he's nowhere to be found. He was hiding behind my daughter. It's wonderful when kids I hope he keeps his playfulness all the way through. Anytime when you're on vacation, and he might have been worried that you wouldn't return.

I've actually I haven't been on vacation since I've had him.

Oh, I recommend that for years without a vacation. I mean, this is a sidebar in our conversation. But definitely love this vacation.

We've had the less than an hour's drive up the road to go swim in the creek.

Okay, if if you are my client, I would say the best gift you can give your kids is to know that they can survive without you. Now that doesn't mean you go away for three weeks. My parents used to go away for three weeks and I was worried that they wouldn't come back. three weeks is a long time for a kid. But it does mean that you need to you need the vacations just to connect as romantic as romantic partners again, and the first day I went away on vacation with my husband I would talk about Guess what? The kids so it wasn't much of a vacation so you need at least two days. So that's a sidebar to consider getting sitters it's a it's a vacation for the kids to they if you get a good sitter, they learned that they can survive without you and that you will return and if that's repetitive they just come to expect that you'll return. So let me go back to Alice in Wonderland because I hate Alice in Wonderland. I Ellen. I personally hate it. Let me tell you why.

Hey, I gotta interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick break and then Ellen will be back.

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I hate Alice in Wonderland. Ellen. I personally hate it. Let me tell you why. It was written by someone who had temporal lobe Epilepsy. Really. And they saw the world, if you get the invitation, a annotated version, they saw the world sometimes I think it's called microscopy, where you see things as teeny, teeny, teeny, and then really, really big. So their senses are not working properly. So when you go into the, the world of I forget the author's name, but the world of Alice in Wonderland, you are experiencing life as if you had temporal lobe epilepsy, throw in some scary people, some scary images, some scary situations. And guess what, for a four year old, it's a horror story.

I've never considered that. I remember watching it as a child,.

And you liked it.

It was charming.

If you focus on see a child literature stories give you a view of the world. It's like looking at a sloppy painting other paintings that you hate, maybe it's black and bloody colors, or maybe it's ugly, smeared faces that are all chopped up Picasso style. I mean, there are paintings that I hate I response to very strongly, and there are paintings I love. It's like that's my world, I want to enter that painting and live there you are, there are people that are in the painting that look heroic. It's the same with literature. And it's the same with literature in the form of movies, they tell a story, they give you a view of the world. What type of a world does he experienced midway through when he started to cry? What type of world is Alice in Wonderland, giving him a world where great things can happen?

Well, it would be a little bit scary everything. I could understand his point of view.

Yeah, you're looking at it through the person who has distorted awareness, temporal lobe epilepsy. So it's that scary. The view of himself may be powerlessness, or he's the smallest one on the hill. Okay, so he may feel some powerlessness, he may feel bad, that these people may not succeed, you know, who knows that even if they do succeed, what a hell of a world to live in. You know, it's scary. So I like giving my kids heroic stories.

But I also. I also told him that it was just a dream that at the end, she wakes up and she's in the field, and it was all a dream.

But it's good to know that in advance. So you're a good mom to tell him that. Because if kids don't know that, it's scary as all get out. I mean, dreams are scary. Some, you know, nightmares. Oh, scary. So I would have, I would have total empathy with him. I would say, Honey, you know, I can understand why that That movie was scary. Let's try to find a better movie. I mean, even Beauty and the Beast is a good movie. You know, there are villains in it, but you just get the sense that she's going to win, the beauty is going to win girl is going to win. So I was very selective in the type of books that I let my children read their avid readers, especially my dog rather

shocked me because he'll sit and he'll watch like, Pirates of the Caribbean and not have a problem.

Well, but but but this comes as a shock. There's something much more disorienting with this. Listen, I wish we could talk about it more. But I would give him a good dose of some uplifting literature to help help repair his view of the world and himself and to listen to him because I think that he's giving you information I worked with people who would watch Bambi kids would watch Bambi and we're traumatized by the death scene, the mother die.

I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner on the rational basis of happiness.

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