January 1, 2017 · 1:00 am
“Once upon a time…” When we were children those were magical words. They called up a world of fairy godmothers, princes slaying dragons, and wishes come true. A fairy tale promised excitement and adventure. Best of all, we were guaranteed a happy ending.
Andrew Lang compiled hundreds of fairy tales into The Fairy Books of Many Colors. I devoured these as a child, one color after another – The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, etc. – as fast as I could lay hands on them. I simply could not get my fill. Yet I could not have said at the time what the fascination was for me.
Psychologists have long argued over the meaning and usefulness of fairy tales. These universally loved stories can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
The explanation that comes closest to my own experience is that fairy tales allow children to confront and deal with their fears and concerns – whether of abandonment (Hansel and Gretel), death (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), rejection (Cinderella), etc. – in symbolic terms, so that those fears and concerns are reduced to manageable size.
Children get the satisfaction of slaying their own dragons…from a safe distance. Continue reading →
Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse
Tagged as abandonment, anxiety, childhood fears, courage, death, depression, despair, fairy tales, happy endings, PTSD, rejection
May 11, 2014 · 1:00 am
Americans love a happy ending. We cheer for the good guy. The hero overcomes every obstacle; walks away with barely a scratch. Our movies, our theater, our music all reflect that.
Oh, we can tolerate an occasional film noir or song in a minor key. Just for the change it makes. But, in the end, we want the good guy to win.
All too often, life does not work out that way. The good guy is beaten or at least beaten down. Some of us have to climb the same hill every day. So have we failed? Have abuse victims let down the audience?
No, we have not. We may have internalized an unrealistic standard, may believe we have come up short if our lives are not lived with Prince (or Princess) Charming in a rose covered cottage. But the reality is that it takes enormous courage and enormous strength simply to survive abuse.
We bear the wounds of a combat between the armed and unarmed, a war to which we were subjected before the age of consent. The physical and psychological scars can last a lifetime. To have endured is to have won.
So, go ahead. Cheer for the good guy. We know what you mean, even if your image of a winner is not exactly the same as ours.
We make our own happy endings.
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