Wednesday, March 14, 2007


(I can't get enough of these flowers, have you noticed? And I don't even know what they're called. In French it's 'renoncules'. In English? The colours are amazing.)

(I am also seriously running out of exclamative adjectives, the only ones I ever use are 'amazing', 'incredible' and 'mind-blowing', so if anyone has a suggestion, please to send it in.)

In Jungian psychoanalysis, fairytales are supposed to represent the deep processes of the human psyche. I am a big fan of Clarissa Pinkola Estès, and Women who run with the Wolves is the book I have probably read most often (well, apart from the Forsyte Saga of course). I recently bought a set of her CDs, which are pretty good too (this is typically the kind of spot where the new adjective would fit in nicely), and on one of them she talks about how important it is to remember the fairytale that marked your childhood most, the one that fascinated you, the one you liked best or the one you found most frightening, the one that seemed somehow to stick. Once you remember it, the idea is to try and make a Jungian analysis of how closely that fairytale matches your psychic journey from childhood to adulthood. Apparently most people either choose pretty bad stories and live them full out, or they choose pretty good stories, but for some reason get stuck in the bad parts and can't seem to move on. The idea is that by recapturing the story and its significance in your life, you can either change the ending or live the story all the way to its happy end.

So much for the theory. Off I went in search of 'my' fairytale. It took me just under 10 seconds to find it. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by Andersen's Little Mermaid. As a child I remember having it read to me and then reading it again and again and again. As a teenager, I wrote poems (yes, I know, no comment...) which integrated the imagery and themes of that tale. As an adult I have been ranting about the rape of the story by Walt Disney, while simultaneously telling everyone I know NOT to read it to their children.

Looking at it from the Jungian perspective, however, just knocked me out of my socks. Here is the story of a powerful female figure, in touch with her strength and living in her element, who chooses to sell out all her power (her tail and her voice) in order to fulfill the expectations (or rather the imagined expectations) of the person whose love she craves. In order to gain this person's love, she believes she must become a 'real' woman, which means relinquishing everything that makes her what she is, a mermaid. Not only that, but she chooses to endure horendous pain in the process. And what does she get for all this, I ask you? Zilch. She never gets the love she wanted. Instead, she dies.

Now this, up to a point, is the story of my life. Of my childhood in any case. Of my teenage years. Of most of my young adulthood. Of all of my life in fact barring the last few years. The most amazing thing for me is the fact that what the little mermaid sells to the witch is her tail and her tongue. I have been doing Bio-energetics therapy for the last three years (there, all my secrets revealed) and from the beginning the recurring theme in my therapy has been my legs and my voice. The way the loss of psychic power has expressed itself in my body for most of my life has been through my inability to feel my feet, to feel my legs, to carry myself, as well as through the sheer impossibility of using my voice. I cannot open my mouth and scream, because nothing ever comes out. Now seriously, is that mind-blowing or what? (This is another good spot for the new adjective).

Now I just had to do some serious rewriting. I think the little mermaid is perfect the way she is. I think the prince fell in love with her on that beach, when she sang so beautifully to him. He fell in love with her voice, and he fell in love with her strength, the strength of that tail of hers which allowed her to swim him to shore and save his life. He fell in love with her sheer mermaidness.

And if he didn't he's a big loser who deserves the boring wife he got and on whom not another drop of ink shall be spilled. Anyway, it's the mermaid who is the heroine of this particular tail/tale, the mermaid in her full magical glory. In the water. Right where she belongs (did I mention my love/hate relationship with water?).

And who says she was little anyway? She's as wide as the sea. As deep as the ocean. And her voice touches you right there, at the hair-thin crack in your heart.

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