” Eenie meenie chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak.”- Bullwinkle J. Moose
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was an American cartoon series which aired from 1959 to 1964. It was structured as a variety show, but it’s main feature was the adventures of Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel and his best friend, Bullwinkle J. Moose who lived in the town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Like most comedy duos, there was an intelligent one, played by Rocky and a dimwitted, but good-natured one, played by Bullwinkle. There were a variety of other segments, such as Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody’s Improbable History, Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, and Aesop and Son, but the highlight of each episode was a two-part episode featuring The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Rocky and Bullwinkle’s adversaries for most of these episodes were two Russian-like spies whose names were Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, spies for the nation of Pottsylvania. Pottsylvania was determined to destroy the United States by obtaining a secret rocket fuel called Upsidaisium, which could only be mined in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Each episode consisted of hijinks, silliness, and some very sophisticated Cold War humor which was lost on the minds of most of their young viewers. The series was the ultimate Cold War satire. Boris and Natasha were bumbling agents of a Soviet Union like nation and Rocky and the Bullwinkle were anthropomorphic James Bond like American heroes.
Boris and Natasha received their orders from an intermediary from the Pottsylvanian government named Fearless Leader, who relayed the information from the ultimate head of Pottsylvania, Mister Big. Mister Big was the power behind Fearless Leader, a now obvious parody of the doctrine of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. When Boris and Natasha or Fearless Leader spoke to Mister Big you never saw him. Instead you saw his shadow, a gigantic image projected through a spotlight on a wall. Mister Big was the ultimate threat, the ultimate fear, and the ultimate enemy. Mister Big was what Rocky, Bullwinkle, and the citizens of the United States ultimately had to fear. The enigmatic Mister Big was viewed in only two of the 156 episodes of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. The irony was that Mister Big, the ultimate power, fear, and force to be reckoned with was the size of an insect, his presumably huge and looming presence was merely a shadow projected on a wall by a flashlight.
If you’ve been following my rant down memory lane thus far, thank you. There is a lesson to be learned from this about the nature of fear. As part of my day job, I conduct group therapy five mornings a week at a hospital program that I direct in Boston. I use the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show to illustrate and put into context the nature of fear. Most of us have fears, we wouldn’t be human or mentally healthy if we didn’t. Fear however, is something that exists entirely in the human mind, an anticipation of something terrible that may happen in the future. When we spend too much time projecting negative outcomes of things that might happen, we are much like that flashlight projecting the image of Mister Big on that wall. Fear and negative expectations of the future are not only counterproductive, but they can be paralyzing and render us incapable of making logical and rational decisions.
When I have used this Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mister Big metaphor it never fails to grab the attention of the group. As soon as I mention this cartoon smiles begin to emerge on most of the faces, patients begin to display that ‘oh yeah, I remember that’ attitude and seem to hang on every word, wondering where I’m going with all this. When I make the analogy of our fears being like huge shadows that we ourselves cast I usually get the thrill that every therapist looks for, that ‘ah hah’ moment of insight that emerges in a client.
What the Mister Big metaphor can teach us is that we alone determine, based on our own internal projections, how big and bad our fears, negative self image, negative interpretation of events, and negative expectations of the future are. Understanding and an awareness of this are the keys to our managing our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our own actions and behaviors. Negative thoughts are a natural part of being human. Let’s just not blow things out of proportion.
“You busy-bodies have busied your last body.”- Boris Badenov
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