Why We Kiss The Frog

A journey towards wholeness
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Zena Takieddine
March 23, 2024 | 12 min read
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Isn’t it funny? That instead of kicking the frog or flinging it across the pond or turning away in disgust, the fairy tale goes that we hold this ugly slimy creature and kiss it? Then, lo and behold, a beautiful prince?!  

I’ll be honest, I got this allegory from an Eckhart Tolle talk on YouTube. In his famous best-seller, The Power of Now, he proposes the idea of a ‘Pain Body’ that somehow holds on to all the injuries we’ve ever experienced and causes us to remain in a state of suffering. In the talk, he says, we are not supposed to judge or shun the ‘Pain Body’ but really, we need to kiss it, i.e. shine love and kindness. total acceptance onto the ugliest parts of us, then, magic, a beautiful prince: self-peace and freedom from suffering emerge.  

When it comes to struggling with low self-esteem - deeming ourselves ugly or shameful or, in any way, inferior and unworthy - life can be painfully miserable. No matter the abundance that surrounds, all of life is experienced through a mucky filter of internalized rejection, like a buzzing cloud of black flies that completely obscure the view and disrupt the possibility of genuine connection with life. The princess kissing the frog is the princess seeing beyond the buzzing flies, liberated from misperception at last. The frog, our shadow parts, whatever it is that we hate about ourselves and shove into our deep unconscious, or project out at the world in fiercest judgement, will keep going ‘ribbit ribbit ribbit’ until you can turn towards it and, gently, kiss it.

And so, who is the prince, other than your own self, redeemed? And all the characters in the tale, who are they but representation of different aspects of ourselves, the princess is the one who goes through the therapeutic process to work on her issues, to find the peace that she is looking for, and the prince is the other half that was shunned to the dungeons, now brought to light, bring them both to completion, the unity of finding what she seeks, and he too, the joy of being redeemed from amphibian slime and transformed into upright manhood, maturity, grace. Prince and princess are actually one, both reaching adulthood when they forgive the troll of their shamed inner child. Kissing the frog is the journey from wounded child to mature adult, one who has more understanding and forgiveness.

Putting gender issues aside and viewing this tale as an individual’s journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, there can be no greater love than truly the love of oneself. This is not at all a call to arrogance and narcissism, which is a rather convoluted love of one’s image and one’s imagined superiority, but really, a wholesome self-love that does not seek supremacy nor does it seek to put down others. 

So, how do we manage to finally kiss the frog?

For one friend, it was impossible to even imagine it happening without some form of substance abuse. And this is insightful of much of common yet rather unhealthy social behaviour. So much of substance abuse – be it alcohol or otherwise – is about tolerating what we do not want to see, or taking the edge off of perceived ugliness.

One friend said it is actually a matter of kissing many frogs until you find the one that turns into a prince. Another friend reminded me of the animation production where the princess becomes a frog and the two live happily ever after in mutual frog-hood.

So, if frog-ness is that part of us that lurks in muddy waters and the all-transforming kiss is that moment when we embrace ourselves and others fully and overcome the sense of separation, as well as the obsession with perfectionism, we find something far truer and more real, maybe even more reliable, despite all its messiness. Neither royalty nor slime, but that middle place, where genuine connection and union can happen. 

What else could we extrapolate from the frog analogy?

If we equate frog with all that makes us shameful, then we have got our work cut out for us in ever being able to kiss it. Of all the emotions on the spectrum of human experience, shame is by far the most uncomfortable one. It is a complex emotion. And it feels awful. And we seek to avoid it at all cost.

Experts tells us that there are several kinds of shame and also good value in shame; it is not all bad. The fundamental purpose of shame is a moral one, that of promoting good behaviour and shunning what is unethical. It is key to socialization and sense of belonging and/or alienation. In certain African tribes, when a child is caught doing something reprehensible, the indigenous approach to remedying the situation is to surround him and to sing his name to him with love and kindness so that he may remember his natural goodness and feel his belonging and love to the tribe. This is quite different from punitive responses, be it in verbal or corporeal punishment, that attacks the wrongdoer rather than elevate him back to inclusion. 

The quality of exposure to the gaze of the other is an important aspect of the relational field where the experience of shame emerges. Can we even look at the frog? When we do, are we disgusted? Do we cringe our noses? Do we pull back? Or can we sing its name and smile? 

We can all remember an embarrassing moment that still makes us cringe, to this very day, even as years, even decades, may have passed. For a long time, one of my most embarrassing moments was from when I was a child, around 10 years old, at a layover in an airport during a cross-Atlantic trip. I was falling asleep on those rows of seats waiting for boarding time and I inadvertently laid my hand on the thigh of the person next to me. I know, as an adult, this may seem like a funny small incident to just laugh off. But for me, in that moment, at that age, when I registered the contact and I realized I had inadvertently rested my hand on a stranger’s leg, it was so abominable to me that I pulled away and bolted to the furthest end of the space in a fraction of a second. This big energy had mobilized to remove me and hide me from a moment that felt so embarrassing. 

I still feel myself holding my breath and tensing up as I recall this. But I can also smile, now, in my 40’s, with kindness and consolation at the little girl me who thought she had done something so terribly wrong and socially inappropriate. I have compassion for the little girl falling asleep and feeling so utterly embarrassed, confused and disoriented . For many years, this innocent fleeting moment would be recalled through my being as pure mortification. 

Several other moments that triggered shame of course have occurred since. A lot of it having to do with what is considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior. The degree of awareness or lack of awareness is also part of the spectrum of shame. When we do something wrong, knowingly, it is common decency to feel bad, and a sign of social pathology when there is no shame at all. 

Finding our way to transforming the frog

The ways in which we, individually and collectively, work with shame is important. The experience of shame is meant to be momentary, to learn a lesson about living together with mutual respect. Paradoxically, keeping shame in the dark can cause violence in society. If shame is internalized and kept hidden beneath a façade of compliance, serious disorders emerge, and these can cause harm both to one’s self and to others. 

So, considering that life is a learning process, and that shame is important to help us function more holistically as societies, it is important to be careful not to remain stuck in shame nor to lose our wholeness through oppression of who we are. We redeem ourselves and each other by acknowledging our flaws without shunning our humanity. We grow wiser and kinder and, all together, more loving, more forgiving.

So how do we do it? Kindness and compassion include forgiveness. But there can be, for a while, the refusal to forgive or a feeling of such difficulty to forgive - be it others or self. Maybe the difficulty is from a sense of upholding certain principals and standards, or maybe a sense of a need to punish. This cycle can be very hurtful. And so, as meandering and challenging as it may be, the journey towards self-compassion, self-love and forgiveness is an important journey towards wholeness.

So here is an ode to kissing the frog and the fairy tales we share. Forgiving imperfection and finding joy in idiosyncrasy is what kissing the frog is all about. Fairy tales hint to our subconscious minds and are filled with the antidotes that guide towards the promise of love, a happy marriage between one’s old self and the prospect of ever-evolving newness, even in the most unlikely places.

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Zena Takieddine

Co Founder, Wellness Facilitator
About The Author

Zena is Body Mind You Holistic Wellness’s co-founder and somatic lifestyle medicine facilitator. In her 30’s, she began volunteering at refugee camps in Lebanon offering them the knowledge and wisdom of Yoga. She trained in multiple somatic therapy modalities and is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner.

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