King Kong to the rescue
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Kris Williams - MA, DipCouns, DipHP(NC), DipDT, DipPLT, Reg. MBACP, MPTUK
3rd February, 20160 Comments
I’m sure we are all familiar with the classic film about King Kong, the giant gorilla that runs amok in New York City. On closer inspection it seems his intentions have been misunderstood. By casting him in the role of the villain, we fail to see his positive intentions. I believe we all have our own, inner King Kong and he isn’t necessarily the bad guy he’s made out to be.
The story of King Kong fits perfectly with the creation and continuing influence of limiting core beliefs. The heroine, Ann Darrow (played by Fay Wray), finds herself in hostile surroundings, totally out of her comfort zone and natural environment - the big city. She is on a tropical island making a film and has been kidnapped and offered as a sacrifice to Kong, who dutifully comes and takes her off into the jungle. On the way to his lair, Kong is attacked by several dangerous creatures. Kong believes that these creatures want to get their claws on Ann and do her harm; and as he’s taken quite a shine to our heroine, he doesn’t want to let this happen. Each time they are attacked, Kong bravely comes to the rescue to save Ann from certain death. Although Kong is a threat, Ann recognises that he is behaving in a way that is necessary and crucial for her survival in that dangerous situation at that time. Unfortunately, Kong perceives all-comers as potential predators, even the hero who is trying to take Ann to safety.
Eventually, the hero outwits Kong and successfully saves the heroine, returning her to the ship that will carry her back to the relative safety of her homeland. However, the film director, recognising Kong as a money-maker, ensures that he also accompanies them on their return journey to civilisation – the concrete jungle that can be every bit as cut-throat and dangerous as any wild, untamed wilderness.
Back in the metropolis, Ann Darrow is now in her natural setting. This is familiar territory: she knows how to operate in this environment and can make informed, mature decisions about her life there. Ann is also about to prosper from the capture of Kong as she will go from being a poverty-stricken unknown, to a successful celebrity. On stage in a large theatre, she nervously parades in front of a manacled Kong. Ann thinks he is under control and that he is now powerless to do anything unless his captors let him. The packed auditorium is filled with an awe-inspired audience and cameras flash as photographers try to capture the definitive image of Beauty and the Beast. King Kong, angry at his imprisonment and interpreting the noise and flashes of light as a threat, believes Ann is in danger. He escapes his bonds and does his utmost to protect her. He is following his instincts and doesn't realise that in this setting, his behaviour is inappropriate and only serves to put her in more danger.
Later, he plucks her from the safety of her hotel room and takes her – as he did in the jungle – to the highest place he can find, the Empire State building. Once there, he comes under attack .What Kong has no way of knowing is that his primeval, instinctive behaviour is putting his precious Ann in danger. He believes he must continue to protect and save her from harm at any cost, almost causing her death as a result.
Looked at from the perspective of the creation of core beliefs, Ann in the jungle represents the child encountering a threatening situation. No longer in the safe, familiar and mostly predictable environment, this situation is so scary and so beyond the child’s comprehension, that a ‘part’ (King Kong), is created to protect them should they encounter a similar situation again. Unfortunately, the trigger for the re-emergence of the part isn’t necessarily an exact replica of the original experience. All that needs to happen is for the adult to encounter a situation that creates a similar emotional response, fear. Out of awareness and without being prompted, the part - or core belief - will kick in to do its job any way it can.
Ann Darrow in the city is now the adult version of that child. She is more than capable of navigating her way around this world and can make informed decisions based on knowledge and previous experience. Unfortunately, as far as King Kong - or the core belief that she is not safe in certain situations - is concerned, she is still a vulnerable child who needs protecting. He persistently goes to any length to fulfil his role of defender and protector, even so far as to cause her more pain and to even put her in potential danger.
The fact that our core beliefs operate retroactively is of great significance when we come to fix them in the present. To them, we are still helpless, vulnerable innocents and that ‘part’ or belief is deemed necessary for our survival.
Another way to think of King Kong is as an inner child who is stuck in time and so is unaware that you have grown into a rational, perceptive, competent adult (even if you don’t always feel that way!). The part is unaware that you are more than capable of making decisions based on your years of experience; that you are able to make mistakes, learn from them and so (hopefully) not repeat them, that some feelings of anxiety or apprehension are perfectly natural and not the response to a life-threatening situation.
The time and effort spent on re-evaluating your core beliefs will lead to a co-creative relationship with your personal King Kong. As you persuade it to relinquish its control and adapt to the present, you realise your inherent potential, power and creativity.
About the author
As a psychotherapist, I have worked with hundreds of adults and young people. As a facilitator, I design workshops and seminars for both the public and third sector organisations. One such workshop centred on Core Beliefs and went on to form the basis of my book. My therapy approach incorporates Core Beliefs - how to identify and release them.
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