Friday, October 14, 2016

How to Spot a Scammer

Recently on Facebook, I came across this article, which talks about one of those fake call centers in India that has been scamming people by pretending to be from the IRS. This particular call center finally got caught, and 70 people have been arrested for cheating Americans out of millions of dollars. I was quite surprised that this actually happened. I've always heard that telephone scams like these can be so difficult to track down, especially when they're from overseas.

But I was also very pleased. I find scams like these to be the most reprehensible non-violent crimes one can commit. They don't just take your money, but also your dignity and your faith in humanity. They leave you feeling like a fool for trusting a fellow human being, which can subsequently cause you to doubt yourself and other people from that point on. However, If you fall for one of these scams, there is really no need to feel embarrassed. These people know what they're doing and are trained to catch you off-guard. This sort of thing can happen to anyone.

And that is why I am posting this. Having done more research on this topic than I care to admit, and having received several scam calls myself, I have come up with ways to detect them. I am by no means an expert on this, but I think these tips can be helpful, albeit difficult to notice if you're caught off-guard. So without further ado, here are my anecdotal tips on how to spot a scammer, divided by category:

IRS Scammers - The tips on IRS scammers may sound like no-brainers. But again, these people rely on their victims to be caught off-guard. Otherwise they are quite uneducated in their approach, and perhaps the main reason they are successful is because of how powerful buzzwords like ‘IRS’, ‘lawsuit’, and ‘jail’ can be.

1. If the agent calling you identifies himself as John Smith, but has a foreign accent, he is also a scammer.

2. The IRS does not call you. If you are being audited, they will send you a notice via certified mail.

3. You will not find out about any lawsuit pending against you without first finding out that you are being audited. Being audited and being charged with a crime are two different things.

4. The IRS will never ask you to pay your fine over the phone with a gift voucher. Also, keep in mind that if you pay off an IRS agent, that is also a crime. Paying back taxes requires official paperwork.

5. No IRS agent will threaten you with being arrested if you don't pay over the phone. That is extortion. Also, the IRS has no control over the police. They certainly can't issue warrants or cancel them depending on your compliance.

6. The police will not arrest you for not paying your taxes. We don't have debtors prisons in the U.S. They certainly won't be sent to your house if you fail to pay what you owe over the phone.

7. If the agent asks for your lawyer's information, keep in mind that he/she is your accuser. Just like anyone else that files a lawsuit, the IRS has lawyers that represent them. Only their lawyers should be asking for your lawyer's information. The purpose is to get you to admit that you don't have a lawyer, at which point these scammers offer to find you a lawyer for a small fee. When you file a lawsuit against someone, you don't offer to find a lawyer. Neither does the IRS.

8. Oftentimes, they will leave you an automated message on your voicemail. If you call them back and they answer by saying, "IRS," they are scammers. An IRS agent will say the full name, and they certainly won't say "department" at the end. There is no such thing as the IRS Department.

9. IRS scammers don't let you get a word in edgewise. They just start rattling off the charges, and if you ask them a question, they tell you in a harsh tone to wait until the very end to ask questions. Sometimes they'll preemptively tell you not to ask questions until the end.

Tech Support Scammers - These people can be pretty sly, but they commit some significant mistakes that can help you detect them.

1. Real tech support agents do not call you to help you fix your computer. Even if there has been a nationwide security breach, they won't call each Windows user to fix the problem. Think of how impractical it would be if they were to call each and every Windows user to spend up to an hour installing some security software that can easily be advertised and downloaded via automated email. If the issue does need to be resolved over the phone, it is always your responsibility to call them.

2. When you call real technical support, the agent always asks for your computer's serial number or product number. This information proves that you're using their product and enables them to help you. Tech support scammers that call you don't need this information, so they don't ask for it. All they need is the URL that gives them control over your computer.

3. After verifying your computer's product information, real technical support agents offer to fix the problem and ask permission to take control of your computer. Tech support scammers do neither. After failing to verify your computer's product information, they tell you to turn on your computer, then start rattling off instructions and ordering you to give them control of your computer.

4. Much like the IRS scammers, tech support scammers don't let you speak. If you ask them a question, they simply repeat that there is a problem with your computer and they need you to let them fix it.

Bail Money Scammers - Essentially, bail money scammers will call and claim to be a relative being held in jail. They’ll ask you to transfer money to somebody’s account in order to bail them out. The tips below should help spot these people.

1. The caller will identify themselves by first getting you to identify them. For example:

Scammer: “Hey Grandpa! It’s me.”

Grandpa: “Who is this? Is this Joe?”

Scammer: “Yeah.”

In short, always ask them to identify themselves before you start playing the guessing game. If they won't give you a name, it's a scam.

2. The caller will ask you to transfer money to an account number given them by the police officer. It isn't uncommon for a person under arrest to ask their relative to bail them out, but any arrangements to actually pay the money will not be made through the arrestee.

I hope this has helped. I hope the lot of you have read this far. Falling for these scams can be pretty embarrassing, but like I said at the beginning, it happens to the best of us. Don't be ashamed. The best thing you can do is chalk it up to experience and share it with others so it doesn't happen to them. And of course, report the number online so that other people are aware, and so the real authorities can track them down.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why It's Okay to Have White Pride, But Not White Pride Demonstrations

So to start this post, here's a popular sentiment:

I have to be honest. I'm getting tired of the common complaint that white people can't have white pride the same way minorities can. We can. I am perfectly happy and proud to be a white male.

But that's different from a white pride demonstration. A pride demonstration by a given group is meant as a response to societal oppression and shaming. It demonstrates to "The Man" that he's not going to keep them down. Even today, despite all the rights legally granted them, black people, Asians, Indians, Latinos, etc. are pigeonholed into some set of expectations and then socially punished for not abiding by them. And there is still plenty of racist behavior out there, the rhetoric of which suggests that the victim should feel like less of a human being for his/her minority status.

That is why minority groups have pride demonstrations. They are part of the ongoing struggle for equality not just in the eyes of the law, but in the eyes of society. Just like standing up to the school bully is more effective than avoiding him, so is demonstrating to "The Man" more effective than just ignoring him.

And that is why white pride demonstrations aren't usually appropriate. Generally speaking, the vast majority of white people do not have a problem with societal oppression and shaming, so for most of us, a demonstration would serve no purpose. It's not racist. It just mocks the whole concept.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why Is Feminism So One-Sided?

While the subject may be getting old to some, feminism is still an important issue. This is proven by the fact that for every article I read promoting female equality, with the hundreds of commenters that respond in the affirmative, there are always a few commenters who accuse the article of hypocrisy.

They do have a point. After all, if feminists really wanted true equality, wouldn't there be articles promoting male equality as well? Why aren't there more bloggers protesting the way women treat men? I just read an article discussing several reasons men often use for why women owe them sex, ending with the reminder that "A woman doesn't owe you anything." And while the authors of the article claim it applies to both genders, it clearly focuses on the man as the aggressor and the woman as the victim. Why not switch roles once in a while?

I have an idea.

Let's say you're a parent with two children. You love them equally. However, the first child is constantly misbehaving. He's always hitting other kids, taking their toys, and even calling them bad names. Indeed, you constantly find yourself putting him in timeout and telling him why none of those things are okay. You've even had to incorporate lessons and games put together by child experts to help him behave. While he is showing some improvement lately, there's still a lot of work to be done.

The other child is very well-behaved. While he isn't perfect and certainly needs to be disciplined once in a while, for the most part, he knows how to treat people. As a result, there aren't nearly as many timeouts, lessons, or games to help him learn to behave.

Would you say that's one-sided? Of course not

Simply put, you don't see too many women going on shooting rampages because no one will sleep with them, and neither are they making cat calls at men walking down the street. Men certainly don't have to be on their guard when surrounded by several strange women on the subway, and they don't get asked about what they were wearing when they're sexually assaulted.

To use another analogy, accusing feminists of hypocrisy for not giving equal weight to male equality is like accusing abolitionists during the slavery era of hypocrisy for not protesting white slavery as well.

The end.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How We Should Feel After a Breakup

Now that pop culture has eased up a bit with its viral phenomena, providing me with fewer blogging bandwagons to jump, I have lately been able to focus more on the lives of those around me…just in time to watch many of my friends go through some dramatic changes in their lives. Unfortunately, many of those changes have been negative. As a result, just as I've started noticing how great my life really is, I begin to wonder if I'm just doing really well by comparison. Either way, I should be grateful for the hand I've been dealt.

But I'm not one to ignore the elephant in the room for too long, so I'll just say that most of these friends are going through hard times in the form of broken relationships. It's difficult to see the turmoil they're going through, and it's even more difficult because I know I'm absolutely helpless to do anything for them. Nothing will help. And yet, as a guy, I like coming up with solutions, so of course I've slipped and spoken some of those cliché words of comfort, such as "You can do better than him," and "You need to move on and get over her." What was I thinking? I've been through more than one breakup, and I remember feeling hurt and minimized by such statements. The worst feeling for me comes the morning after the breakup. It's as if the prospect of sleeping gives me hope that this was really all just a dream. When I wake up, however, the flood of reality comes rushing back in, and my life is back to having no meaning. From that perspective, "You need to get over it" sounds pretty insensitive.

And yet there I was, saying those exact same things to people whom I wouldn't dream of hurting. To be fair, it's not like we expect those pills of wisdom to produce instant results. I think many of us are very cognizant of the long process that it entails, not to mention the irony and condescension loaded into those clichés. It's as if we're giving the person a life-changing revelation that they need to get over the pain they feel inside. "You need to stop thinking about her, or it will destroy you." Really? I thought for sure that obsessing over the agony of yet another failure in my love life would certainly help me mentally, intellectually, and physically. But since you just told me it won't, I can totally go back to being happy. Thank you for that!

So if we don't mean any of that, why do we do it? While I've already used a gender stereotype as one explanation, I'm convinced that it has more to do with the fact that we still don't fully understand the purpose of emotions. We too often assume that positive emotions are always good and should therefore be sought after, while negative emotions are bad and should therefore be avoided. And that is wrong.

An old friend of mine who is a therapist once spoke in a panel at my church many years ago. She spoke on how feelings of anxiety and depression, etc. are actually quite normal during stressful situations. If you just moved to a new city, of course you're going to feel lonely. If you just lost your job, of course you're going to feel anxious about the future. And if you just ended a long relationship, of course you're going to be depressed and angry, as well as the rest of the five stages of grief. If you don't feel those kinds of emotions at least on some level, then people should start worrying about you.

These days we understand that the human brain is a body part, just as capable of injury as any other. But I feel like we still approach the concept of emotions as something abstract. Not only do they have a chemical basis, but I would say that negative feelings like sadness and depression are the equivalent of bleeding. We often use the metaphor "broken and bleeding" after a breakup, and speak of how we "need time to heal," but we forget that the emotions we feel during that process play a major role in it. Emotions aren't an obsession or reflection on the pain we feel. Emotions are the pain.

I think most of us realize that, but we still don't understand just how parallel emotional pain runs with physical pain. If you cut your finger, the size and severity of the cut affects the amount of blood and the size of the wound. This in turn affects the length of the healing process, which varies from person to person, especially based on the person's history. You certainly wouldn't expect a person with a really deep knife wound to heal in just a few days, so you can understand why they're walking around with a huge bandage on their hand. You certainly wouldn't tell that person to stop having a knife wound.

How difficult is it to understand that emotions work the same way? Why would we grow concerned for a person who still won't get out and socialize a month after ending a year-long relationship? Why would we scoff at the bandage that person insists on keeping over their heart, when it was just recently severed from perhaps the strongest bond it has ever known?

In the end, our emotions do serve a purpose, including the negative ones. Just like it says in the song Turn, Turn, Turn, there is a time to laugh and a time to weep, etc. Instead of seeing negative emotions as a problem, we should look at them as part of the solution. They're not always a sign that something needs to be fixed, but oftentimes they are how our body chooses to fix things. The body is protecting itself and figuring out ways to prevent something like that from ever happening again. If we can recognize that in ourselves and in others, it will be easier for us to fix our problems, because, well, we're actually allowing ourselves to fix them.

So how should we feel after a breakup? However we darn well please.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Villain's Perspective: How Understanding the Bad Guys Can Help the Good Guys

I recently saw the movie Maleficent, which has just opened in theaters. Those who plan on seeing it are probably aware of the general premise of the movie. You probably realize that it is an account of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty--told from the perspective of the villain. Apparently, such an expectation has been enough for some people to already pass judgment on the film. I have already encountered people who haven't seen it, and yet see it as just another attempt by the film industry to arouse sympathy for the bad guy.

That is an issue worth addressing, and fortunately, I don't need to spoil this movie to do so. There are plenty of films that tend to arouse sympathy for the villain, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Here are a few:

  • Frozen - Elsa secludes herself from society and eventually wreaks havoc on the kingdom as a result of her parents teaching her to be afraid of her power.
  • Harry Potter - Snape hates Harry Potter because at one point, James Potter was a jerk.
  • Meet the Robinsons - Lewis is the reason that Goob falls asleep and loses the baseball game.
I omitted the musical Wicked because I have yet to see it. But if the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) synopsis is accurate, Glinda may share some ownership in the way Elphaba eventually turns out.

Now let me first acknowledge that the media as a whole does run a slippery slope when it portrays movie villains and people behaving badly as "misunderstood" and "victims of society." Already, people are jumping to the defense of Elliot Rodgers as being a victim of abuse and bullying, while I can't tell you how many Dr. Phil episodes I've seen where we discover that an out-of-control teen was abused as a child. 

I use these heavy examples that go beyond the film industry, because these are the implications that many people worry about when the film industry paints the villain in a sympathetic light. But whether there are viable explanations for someone's behavior, let me establish that I do not believe in blaming other people for our own poor choices. The only person responsible for Elliot Rodgers' violent rampage is Elliot Rodgers.

That being said, there is some value and benefit in eliciting a greater understanding of the poor choices other people make. While it can lead some people to believe that they are not responsible for their choices, it is also a way of reminding the "good guys" to be mindful of their actions and how they might affect other people. Even in movies that don't portray the villain as being misunderstood, we often see them acting out in response to being mistreated by the good guys.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own choices, but that includes how we treat others. If the way we treat someone results in them making bad decisions, we are not responsible for that, but we shouldn't brush it off and hold ourselves blameless either. Elsa's parents managed her situation badly; anyone can see that. James Potter was the reason Snape hated Harry, plain and simple. Finally, Lewis was inconsiderate of his friend's need for sleep before the big game, and I always found his reaction to that fact quite flippant.

Admittedly, this is coming from someone who was bullied and mistreated well into adulthood. While I could never blame others for any poor choices I make, it is important to understand the implications of such treatment. We all know bullying is bad. We also know that a lot of bullies eventually change their ways and become productive members of society. But they still have victims who may or may not have turned out quite so well. I turned out pretty well, but I also received apologies from many of the people who bullied me. I really couldn't say what might have happened had I not received at least some element of redemption or acknowledgement. But I do know that telling someone to change their behavior without addressing the motive behind that behavior is useless.

If we look at these types of situations from a different angle, rather than give the bad guys excuses for their actions, we give ourselves an opportunity to take responsibility for our own actions. While we cannot control other people's reactions to our mistakes that affect them, we can more easily learn from our mistakes and improve our behavior for everyone's good. It makes us more empathetic, which can do wonders to effect change within ourselves.

Personal responsibility is very important--for the bad guys, as well as the good guys.

Friday, April 4, 2014

If the Ordain Women Debate Were a Family Discussion - Because We Are a Family

With LDS General Conference fast approaching (as in tomorrow), emotions are unsurprisingly intensifying with regards to the Ordain Women Movement's intent to demonstrate once again on the grounds at Temple Square. Last October, Ordain Women (OW) supporters arrived at the Conference Center for the Saturday evening Priesthood session and requested tickets. This time, supporters will also be showing their solidarity for the Movement by wearing purple to the other sessions.

In response to this, many opponents of female ordination have delivered quite the vitriolic backlash. In addition to the death threats and condemnations of apostasy, I have seen and heard accusations of disrespect towards the Prophet, presuppositions of lack of faith and testimony that can surely by remedied by praying and reading your scriptures every day, and even comparisons of the OW Movement to a little child acting up.

Little child acting up? Hmm… In the loosest sense, that comparison is not so far-fetched. Inasmuch as we are Christ's family, are we not all His little children? With that in mind, I would like to draw a comparison between the Ordain Women debate and a typical family discussion:

One day, 13 year-old Johnny came home from school unhappy. He wasn't sure why. While he was bullied at school on a regular basis, he was usually able to brush that off as soon as he safely entered the house. This time, however, something wasn't right. At the dinner table, while his parents and older sister were talking about everyday issues, Johnny stayed quiet in his seat. Then, out of nowhere, he burst into tears. His mother looked over and asked what was the matter. But he couldn't articulate an answer. He couldn't even speak. The tears were so uncontrollable that he felt like he would choke on them just by opening his mouth. He felt hot and dizzy. His mother just sat there patiently, at first cracking a joke to lighten the mood ("Did Suzie not say hi to you today?"), but upon realizing just how much pain he was in, her demeanor became serious and sympathetic.

And then there was his sister Sally. She just sat there nonchalantly, looking around the room as if she was uncomfortably waiting for her brother's emotional breakdown to pass. But when Johnny finally began articulating to his mother how he was feeling, Sally began snickering and rolling her eyes in response. Each time she did, their mother would give her a dirty look and tell her to stop. This wasn't a laughing matter. It wasn't a ridiculous matter. A member of this family was in pain. Johnny was in pain.

Now many of us who grew up with siblings can likely relate to this situation. Some of us have been in Johnny's shoes, while others have been in Sally's shoes. Either way, I bring this up because I can see a very strong parallel between that situation and the tactics being used by opponents of the OW Movement.

The snickering and eye rolling in this debate seems to come most often in the form of unChristlike ridicule and amateur attempts at satire. I recently read this article, which minimizes the requests of the OW Movement by comparing them to men wanting padded seats, a father's lounge, male enrichment night, etc. It's as if those so-called privileges enjoyed by the sisters in the Church parallel the privilege of holding the Priesthood. This other article further demeans the Movement's objective--and in my opinion, the Priesthood as well--by satirically reducing their requests to a request for the right to get up early Saturday morning and help fellow members move.

By itself, it is disrespectful enough to our fellow brothers and sisters. When we minimize our brothers' and sisters' desires like that, we are dismissing the feelings of some of Heavenly Father's children. Remember how we're each great in the sight of God? Remember how, when we think someone has gone astray, we are supposed to invite them back in a spirit of pure, selfless love? In my book, a satirical reaction to a person's genuine feelings about their place in God's Kingdom doesn't seem to meet that criteria.

But this strategy is even worse when accompanied by the other strategies that are being used, such as very public criticism and condemnation of the OW Movement. Let's say Sally was annoyed by her brother's complaints, and was even further annoyed when the situation didn't go away after that. So she decided to bully Johnny in front of all of their friends, lecturing him on why his feelings were way off base, accusing him of being disrespectful to their parents, calling him a poor excuse for a son and brother, and even inviting him to "leave home if you're so unhappy."

Now that we know the OW Movement isn't going away, many of us have become annoyed and defensive towards an issue we had previously laughed off as a trivial matter. Unrighteous judgments, accusations of apostasy and disrespect for the Prophet, and even invitations to leave the Church are popular weapons, and they aren't just reactive anymore. Opponents are proactively visiting the OW Movement Facebook page, as well the private Facebook pages of supporters, and trolling threads with comments ranging from merely condescending to downright hateful.

All of this surprises me. Before things became heated, I witnessed people just laughing off the issue, completely dismissing female ordination as a passing phase. But now that we see it isn't going away, many of those same people are getting angry. This is similar to Johnny and Sally's situation. At first, Sally laughed it off. But when she saw that Johnny was continuing to feel that way, suddenly his feelings annoyed her. But why? Why should his claims bother her if it wasn't a big deal?

Because it was a big deal. And so is this. Female ordination is a big deal. The Priesthood is a big deal. And it is quite hypocritical for any of us to snicker at an issue, but then attack it aggressively after seeing that said snickering won't make it go away. Either this is a serious matter, or it isn't. If it isn't serious, and if those seeking female ordination are simply being irrational and getting worked up over nothing, there is no reason to get on the defensive towards them.

Satirizing this issue is especially hypocritical when one considers that the OW Movement has been accused of showing disrespect towards the Priesthood and the Prophet's divine authority. How can we say that, but then turn around and reduce the Priesthood--the sacred power to act in the name of God--to a mundane task of waking up on weekends to help someone move a few boxes, just for the sake of making a point?

The parallel between the OW Movement and the family discussion example isn't perfect. Johnny and Sally are just kids. But that makes our reaction to the OW Movement worse, doesn't it? We are adults treating each other like garbage--all in the name of defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Johnny's mother listened to him because she loved him and could see that he was in pain. Many opponents of the OW Movement have openly acknowledged the pain felt by those seeking female ordination, only to dismiss them with patronizing, presumptuous invitations to "have more faith" and "strengthen your testimony of the Gospel."

The fact is that none of that is necessary, and a lot of it is out of bounds. God does not need our help screaming at each other time and time again what His will is. Yes, we should remind our loved ones (in a spirit of love) of the truths that they have been taught, but I've never met Kate Kelly, so how can I go on her page and call her to repentance? No one can do that but her leaders that have stewardship over her. And if they did call her to repentance, it would be in private.

In addition, the Prophet and Apostles don't need us telling the OW supporters how they should interpret the talks given at General Conference. And the Church certainly doesn't need all of the blog posts and Facebook posts questioning the OW Movement's motives and denouncing its character. Even if we feel commanded to defend the Church against opposition, such defense should be aimed at the opposition and no one else. It would be wrong for Sally to complain to her friends about her brother acting up. If she truly has a problem with him, she should approach him (again, in a spirit of love) and tell him her thoughts and where she's coming from. Their parents certainly don't need her defending them to the world and making sure her younger brother doesn't damage their reputation. But that's the attitude many of us have adopted in an attempt to justify our negative reaction to the OW Movement. We tell ourselves we're just defending God's Church against the opposition and its negative impact. But the Church has withstood so much worse than this. If it is God's Church, and if the Gospel is true, then He doesn't need us behaving this way to keep someone from ruining it. It can't be ruined.

Some of our brothers and sisters are in pain. The way they have chosen to express that pain does not change how Christ has counseled us to respond to them. Even if the OW Movement and/or its methods are wrong in the sight of God, they are still our brothers and sisters. And I have positioned opponents of the Movement as the older sister in the story, because if those who oppose female ordination do have the moral high ground like many of them claim, then they should take the high road no matter how their brothers and sisters choose to behave. God has commanded that!

Johnny's feelings may very well have been unfounded, but Sally wouldn't even entertain the alternative. She just assumed he was acting up. But a little child acting up is still a child of God.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Frozen: Regarding the Mental Illness Theme and the Power of Unconditional Love

By now you've likely caught at least some of the hoopla surrounding the movie Frozen. Many of the opinions expressed throughout the Internet regarding this film have been quite positive. At the same time, a good number of bloggers have accused Frozen of having some sort of hidden agenda. Accusations of sexism, drug-friendly references, and even a "Gay Agenda" have graced our beloved blogosphere, met with countless rebuttals, re-rebuttals, and of course trolling.

Now I should mention that Jennifer Lee, who wrote and directed Frozen, has already tweeted that Elsa's character represents people who suffer from anxiety and depression. That should at least clarify the movie's primary motive. Even before reading Lee's statement, I had already found the movie's message to be quite uplifting and exponentially inspiring with respect to my own emotional struggles. But I am well aware that very few pieces of art are meant to be taken one way and one way only. So rather than construct a brilliant yet time-consuming rebuttal of the perspectives I disagree with, here is what I took from Frozen:

Elsa has an amazing gift, present since birth, which she uses to cultivate a strong bond between her and her younger sister, Anna. But because she hasn't learned to control it yet, Elsa eventually almost kills Anna. Consequently, their parents decide to isolate her from everyone until she can learn to control her power. And while Anna is spared the memory of such a traumatic event in her life, it tortures Elsa for many years. This is only exacerbated by her parents' strategy to keep her locked inside the castle until she learns to control her power--by herself.

Anyone who has experienced anxiety or depression at some level can easily see this as a classic recipe for both. Anxiety comes from a fear of failure--a fear of what might happen if you make the wrong decision. Such a fear doesn't come out of nowhere. Somewhere in your past, you made a mistake with such traumatic results that you shudder at the thought of ever putting yourself into that situation again. So you run away from it. You would rather work around your fear than face it, often because you're afraid of hurting not just yourself, but those around you. Imagine how Elsa must have felt when, after Anna had fallen unconscious, her father's first words as he rushed in were, "What have you done?" Hearing such a sentiment enough times can make you feel inclined to not do anything.

But that doesn't fly for too long in this world. People expect you to do stuff, and they expect you to do it well. The movie montages its way through the rest of Elsa and Anna's childhood, so we don't know how well Elsa has ruled the kingdom since their parents died. Perhaps they had a guardian acting as steward until she came of age. What we do know is that on Coronation Day, Elsa is consumed with fear of losing control again, the consequences of which will likely be even more drastic. After all, she never really learned to control her power in the first place. All she has learned is to be afraid of it. The problem is that nobody understands that, and everybody expects her to buckle down and rise to the occasion of ruling an entire kingdom. At her age, even someone without such a debilitating fear as hers would feel insurmountable pressure.

That's what makes the anxiety complete: Being compelled to face your inner-demons before you're ready. How can you be? You've spent most of your life trapped inside your head, hoping to magically wake up one morning with the cure for your problems. So instead of tackling them head on, you keep avoiding them as much as you can. But the world keeps pushing back. Your loved ones keep pestering you for an explanation as to why you are the way you are. What are you going to say? That you're too scared because of something that happened years ago? Tragically, mental illness has such a negative stigma already, without broadcasting to the world that it involves your inability to forgive the past and take charge of your future. You are afraid to let your fears be known.

Ironically, those fears often become self-fulfilling. When you finally give in to society's demands for the sake of anonymity, you inevitably make the same mistakes you made before. The more this happens, the closer you get to your emotional breaking point, which is what happens with Elsa. After losing control and exposing her power, she flees the kingdom for the woods. She decides to embrace her power and use it to her advantage without restraint, building a fortress to protect her from the rest of the world. She no longer has any reason to be afraid, and so she thrives. Of course, this also means that she doesn't make the best choices with her power. She is happy, though, and sees little reason to return to the lonely life she once knew. It doesn't take someone with a mental illness to understand how enticing a prison with high walls can be when the rest of the world represents nothing but heartache. Prison walls don't break so easily, and when they do, they don't seek retribution.

Now I just said that Elsa thrives more when she is alone. We see that immediately during the "Let it Go" scene. This is because, interestingly enough, the mistakes we make during heightened anxiety have very little to do with incompetence, and more to do with the fear itself. We are informed early in the movie that Elsa's lack of control is exacerbated by stress. However, it soon becomes apparent that the stress is the problem in its entirety. Think about it. When she is creating snowy mountains for Anna to play on, Elsa realizes Anna is going too fast and starts to worry that Anna will hurt herself. As Anna makes a dangerous leap, Elsa hastily sends a poorly-aimed beam of ice right at her sister's forehead. Until that happens, Elsa doesn't have any problems controlling her power. Once it does happen, the fear of it happening again is so debilitating that it affects the power itself. Moving on, the accident on Coronation Day is triggered by Anna's persistence in getting Elsa to open up, to which Elsa responds with an angry wave of the arm. This coincides perfectly with the anxiety theme. Many people with anxiety suffer from it precisely because they feel they can't open up.

And of course, the same thing happens when Anna finds Elsa and tries to persuade her to come back. Once again Elsa gets angry, and once again she hurts Anna. By this time, it is apparent to Elsa that she will never completely get away from the pain and inner turmoil that have plagued her life. And yet, she still doesn't know how to deal with the pain or resolve it. Cue the depression. This generally comes from a sense of hopelessness for ever rising above your mediocre state, then being forced to try anyway but without the necessary tools, thus creating a vicious cycle of failure.

So the movie continues, and when Anna saves Elsa's life, we come to find out the remedy for everything gone wrong in the movie: Unconditional love. I don't know why Olaf had to explicitly point that out to me, but it made perfect sense. Time and time again, she keeps trying to help her sister, never worrying about her own needs in the process. It is this emotion that enables Anna to save her sister, thus enabling Elsa to save her kingdom instead of hurting them. After watching Anna sacrifice herself for her, Elsa finally realizes how she can fix the problems her actions have caused. As I contemplate this outcome and relate it to my own experiences, I begin to realize the extensive role unconditional love has played in my increased happiness and success as a person. Somehow, when a person is willing to stand by us during our worst moments, forgive us repeatedly for our sins against them, and even lay down their life for us, it possesses a healing power that can and does cure what we once thought incurable.

I'm not sure why this is so. Perhaps it is because a person's willingness to stand by our side makes us want to be better people. It makes us want to be worthy of their love and patience, thus motivating us to search the very depths of our potential so that their faith in us isn't wasted. I suppose it is nothing new that we feel happier and try harder when we know someone cares. I just didn't realize how much it empowers us to thrive more as well. We make better decisions when we know someone has our back. We tend to succeed more when we know and believe that at least one person will still love us even if we fail.

That is the message I took from Frozen. It has helped me realize that I am not alone in my struggles, and I am not expected to deal with them alone. While I have been steadily progressing in this regard for quite some time now, I still find the message invaluable. I can see it creating a newfound sense of hope and self-worth for millions of people like me.