So, it’s time to come clean. Several people, recently, have used me as an example to illustrate that one does not need to accept religious doctrine in order to have and follow a moral code.
“You’re an atheist,” I’ve been told, “but, obviously, you’re a good person. You don’t need the Bible to tell you how to behave.”
While this is flattering, I now have to tell the truth, the real, secret reason I am a good person who does not rape or pillage. I do accept a kind of religious doctrine: I have what is known as a Disney Princess Complex. I’m not sure if this is a technical term, or if I just made it up at some point and have used it ever since.
A Disney Princess Complex, of course, is brought on by early, semi-constant exposure to classic Disney movies such as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.
The result of the complex is that on some deep, basic, almost animalistic level, I believe that if I am not a good person, good things will not happen to me. Maybe things will go all right for some years, but eventually I will fall flat on my face, never to rise again.
But if I am good, sweet, kind, and long-suffering in word and deed – then the most handsome prince in the world (with a beautiful tenor voice, may I add) will kiss me, and we will end the movie en route to his palace for a spring wedding.
Things may go badly for a time, I theorize, there are always bumps in the road. I might have to scrub floors, or lose my voice, or live in a strange castle with a big hairy guy, or fall into a death-like sleep for an indefinite amount of time.
But I am ultimately assured of a happy ending. That much I know. Because that’s how this story ends – happily. The prince gently kisses me and wakes me up; doesn’t mention my morning breath; and we ride off into the sunset. Credits roll on the tale as old as time, the wish my heart made has come true, I walked with him once upon a dream and now I’m part of his world (a whole new world), because it is, in fact, someday, and my prince has come.
But according to a relatively recent article in Psychologies Magazine – I’d link to it if I could – I’m not the only one with a past-tense narrative running in my mind. The article offers the idea that we all have scripts in our minds, established at young ages. The abandonment script, dependence script, and others. We tell these pre-established stories to ourselves with every decision we make, every experience we have. We selectively examine data to continually reinforce the ending we are already anticipating for ourselves.
Every time something good happens to me, I secretly think it was because I was behaving well. Every time something bad happens, I think it’s merely evil’s temporary triumph, designed to make my victory all the sweeter when it arrives.I have to say, I’m not sure where this leaves me. But here I am with my closest friends (Mice; Forest Animals; Dwarves; Marine Life; and Talking Inanimate Objects) waiting to see how the story ends.
For more on Princess Complexes (complexi?) check this out, spurred by a NY Times article.