After having three boys, I had a daughter named Kaylie. One of the things I looked forward to about having a daughter is watching the Disney princess movies together. One day Kaylie and I had an afternoon together and we decided to watch the movie Tangled, which is a story about Rapunzel. I watched Tangled many years ago, before I had children. I had forgotten how stinking scary the character of Mother Gothel is. Here is how the story goes: Rapunzel, was a sweet baby girl born to the king and queen. She was stolen as a baby by a vain, evil woman named Mother Gothel so she can steal Rapunzel’s magical flower which has the power to keep her young and beautiful. Mother Gothel raises Rapunzel in isolation, trapped in a tower, as her own daughter. Rapunzel was never allowed to leave the tower and experience life outside of her “Mother.” Mother Gothel scared Kaylie so much that she won’t ever watch Tangled again. My conclusion about a lot of “princess” movies is that many times they have scarier characters than most of the movies I watched with my boys.
The story of Rapunzel and her Mother Gothel really resonated with many of the real life stories I have heard as a counselor from my clients. If I had to put a diagnosis on Mother Gothel, I would say that she is a sociopath with borderline personality disorder qualities. She is in some ways such an accurate description of real life evil.
Let me explain the connection. The root of a sociopath is selfishness and an utter lack of empathy for others. They are looking out for the needs of themselves first and foremost. Mother Gothel was willing to rob Rapunzel of her home, her parents, and her true identity because of the power that she would gain to remain young and beautiful. She treated Rapunzel as a slave and any praise she gave her was about how well she was meeting her needs. Sociopaths live in their own reality. She convinced herself and Rapunzel that she was actually a safe person, that Rapunzel needed her and couldn’t live without her and most importantly that she was keeping her safe from all that could hurt her in the world outside. She instilled fear in Rapunzel’s heart. She had total control over Rapunzel and treated her like a puppet to a puppet master. Mother Gothel had an inflated view or “grandiose” view of herself. She viewed herself at the top of the totem pole and saw everyone else as beneath her in worth and value.
Rapunzel grew up not knowing that she had a true value outside of being used for the needs of Mother Gothel. Her reality was that in comparison to her “Mother”, she was less beautiful, less talented, and all around less valuable. She was taught to focus on the beauty and value of her “Mother” while never knowing or being praised for who she truly was. The truth is that she was the daughter of a king. She was dearly loved unconditionally by her parents. She was thought about continuously. She was seen as beautiful. She finally gained the courage to venture into life outside of the tower. It was then that she finally saw a reality outside of the distorted truth of her “Mother.” She found her love for adventure and her need for true love. She began to discover who she really was and what she was made for. She found her true home, her true parents and her true purpose. While all of Mother Gothel’s lies, manipulation, deceit and selfishness did have the power to lie to Rapunzel and make her feel small, it did not have the power to change what was true. She had to get out from underneath her control and oppression in order to help her see what was true outside of it.
Many of my clients have been bound up in lies about themselves because of these kind of toxic mothers. Their mothers didn’t nurture, delight in or build up their daughters. Instead these mothers tore down, used, abused, manipulated, and hurt their daughters. These women grow up believing that they are not valuable or lovable. One of my clients realized late in life that her now deceased mother was in fact a sociopath. She had this to say about her experience,
“My mother was a Sociopath. I did not realize who she really was until later in life. I have also realized she took away my childhood and a great many years of my life. She made me believe that it was my job to make her happy and to serve her like a servant. However I did not get paid nor did I get time off. It was a lifetime prison term with no parole. She made me feel nonhuman. I was raised by a robot that appeared to be a caring mother to outsiders. She walked over my feelings. She did not console me when I needed it. I did not get hugs and kisses.”
For my client and others like her with toxic mothers, it takes a lot of work to undo the reality that they lived with for a good portion of their life. It takes courage also to face the pain and damage of how they were treated, especially by the person who was supposed to be safe and nourishing.
The truth is that each one of these ladies are unconditionally loved by their true king, Jesus Christ. Jesus is their true, ultimate parent and place of belonging. He sees them as valuable and lovely and delights in each one. As these women begin to see their identity and worth through the eyes of their true parent, the King, they can begin to know their true value and worth. They can begin to know that they are dearly loved. 💗