You may have heard about the just-released movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring America’s Hollywood Golden Boy Tom Hanks.
I saw it the other day, and share the very positive reactions of audiences and critics alike. It’s a straight shot to the heart. No kidding.
But you’ll make up your own mind about that. What I want to comment on is a line uttered near the end of the movie that made me sit up straight. It was this:
If you mention it, you can manage it.
I’m too old to have experienced Fred Rogers as a child; my kids grew up with him, but perhaps like many older-adult parents, I didn’t pay much attention. I did not know until after seeing the movie and looking it up, that the “mention/manage” comment was apparently a well-known and central part of his philosophy.
Others picked up on it earlier than I did; for example, here; and here.
In any case, that formulation is precisely what I speak about in Name It and Claim It. As I put it in 2008:
Think of a big bad truth; an elephant in the room. The thing that everyone knows is true, but no one wants to talk about. Name It and Claim It is for getting those “elephants” out in the open. Because the thing about elephants is that if you don’t speak them, they take control. But if you can Name It—that is, speak the elephant in the room—then you can Claim It—you can recover control.
By being able to speak about difficult, emotional things – elephants, if you will – you can bring them into shared discussion with others. The power of the elephant over you dissipates. Sunshine and disinfectant. Pick your metaphor.
Fred Rogers was speaking to young children. I was speaking to adult professionals. But on some levels – we’re all the same.
There are very few Big Truths. But there are a thousand ways to state them. And only one way to experience them – Your Way.