Sunday, November 21, 2010

Symbolic Language and Fairy Tales

Symbols are the language of the archetypes. Symbols are how we communicate with ourselves when we sleep.  Our dream images are often symbolic of the energies of life we are engaging at the moment.

We dream in symbolic language, since it is our mother tongue.  These symbols get grouped together to form stories.

Myths and fairy tales are ancient repositories of symbolic language. So get out your old Edith Hamilton and Grimm's Brothers and start reading myths and fairy tales to practice your symbolic language skills.

I always find it synchronistic when many clients show up with similar life stories. Lately I have several wonderful women clients who have been totally rejected by their mothers. Abandoned. Marginalized. Berated. Ignored. Beaten. And yet, even when raised in countries that totally devalue women, they are survivors who have created lives for themselves. 

What's the story with that? How do un-mothered women make their way in the world? Mothers teach us how to survive by loving us. When we don't feel loved, what keeps us from giving up?

And yet, despite neglect and cruelty, or maybe because of it, many un-mothered women search within themselves and find their own inner mother who nurtures them when their biological mother can't. 

There are lessons and wisdom about how you survive such conditions hidden away in ancient fairy tales and myths.  These are the bones of the archetypes. These are stories that speak to the soul and heart of the matter.  They bring healing when we understand their message.  

There's a fairy tale called The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. In the tale, a mother duck discovers that one of her eggs has hatched into a very strange looking bird.  Not at all like her other duck children. The poor ugly duckling is reviled by everyone, and even its mother washes her wings of it. So it ran away.  But its life only got worse, for everywhere it went, it was an outcast. But one day it saw beautiful swans flying over the lake, and its heart went out to them. They were beautiful.  Not like the ugly duckling at all. Its life was hard.

But winter came, and then spring.  And the ugly duckling, who had barely survived the winter,looked down into the water and saw its reflection.  It had changed into a swan. And the other swans came and welcomed it.

In her marvelous book, Woman Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about this fairy tale and says she believes that sometimes women who have been abandoned by their families and their mothers are really mistaken zygotes, little aliens who landed in the wrong families. Perhaps this is so, or perhaps it’s because women have been disregarded in our culture for thousands of years. Most of our families have this wound around the value of women.  So women have to suffer through the family patterns of rejection, disregard, alienation.  But sometimes a woman will remember her strength, her wild nature as Estes says, and make her way like the ugly duckling until she discovers her beauty.  She is a survivor.  But then she has to learn how to thrive in her life.  She has to learn to believe in love again. She has to acknowledge her swanlike beauty. 

Nothing makes up for the loss of a mother's love.  And yet so many of our favorite fairy tales are about just that.

1 comment:

  1. Women without a positive mother experience can ultimately find great benefit because one questions what's missing and tends to disregard what's standard, conventional and normally accepted as truth in search for something deeper. What's missing in the mother can be found in nature and the essential feminine. What's missing in the mother can be found through real self examination, dissatisfaction and a stumbling upon God. In my experience Dreams are of great assistance and provide a very beautiful missing piece.