Snow White

Preparing for the girls workshop, I have been wondering how I can empower them to self-actualisation.  Right on cue my subconscious answered my questions and started dreaming of fairy tales, the myths of our time.  They holds more keys than I initially realised.  Having dreamt of Snow White,  I found myself contemplating the Brother Grimm`s story which led me to Carl Jung.

Having just read the Jung interpretation of Snow White, what fascinated me was the stages that the feminine psyche has to go through in order to be ready to integrate her shadow self and only then will her prince (her masculine twin in energy) come and she be able to rule her own kingdom.  I wrote my interpretation of what I read

1. Thinking she does not have an adequate father, because he cannot protect her from her jealous, shadow female self--that is manifested in the story as her evil step mother--who is beautiful but vain and relies on her beauty to have power over people and her kingdom. In actuality her father is adequate, because he knows that only she can save herself from her shadow through integration, but at this time, she is unaware of her own power to integrate her shadow self and she feels victimised and blames her father for being inadequate.

2. Her encounter with a strong masculine psyche--the huntsman--who tries to protect her from danger by refusing the requests of the queen (her shadow self) to kill her, but unable to protect her fully, leaves her in the dark woods (her repressed psyche)-nearly killing her with his own strength.

3. Her next encounters with men or the masculine archetypes-Mr. Majority.  The seven dwarfs.  Dwarf like because they are not fully men (half men) who protect her and help her to keep her house (her psyche) clean and tidy, whilst they work hard in the darkness (not fully self-actualised) for jewels (money) although they do not fully protect her-they tell her to not open the door to her shadow self so as to keep her innocent, almost child-like and captive in their house, which is also her house of her inner psyche without her shadow self.

4. She, through her own innocence and denial of her shadow self, is not able to recognise her shadow self, which is the step-mother in her disguise as a farmer's wife.  However, her innocent psyche, opens a window to let her desires in-opens the window of the house (but not the door) to her shadow self and tastes the forbidden apple (her own desire) and that final bite nearly kills her as she realises the destructive nature of her shadow self or her ego desires--instead of fighting back she falls asleep and shuts up...she shuts up, because the apple (her continuous ego desire) is stuck in her throat, silencing her and causing her to be a silent witness to her own ego desires.

5. In her sleep, connecting with her subconscious desires, she is able to learn and integrate her shadow self and in this silent acceptance of her shadow self, her prince (her masculine twin and unification with the masculine) finds her and awakens her-they are able to join in unification of masculine and feminine and rule the kingdom together

Finally she invites the step-mother- her shadow into her own kingdom for her to the wedding (unification with the masculine) and she dances herself to death (integration) harmlessly.  Snow White has to learnt to ‘shut up’ the endless complaints made by the shadow and witness her own rage and discover a way of expressing it harmlessly, that is, to observe their rage 'dance itself out harmlessly'.  This is preferable to becoming their own victim once again. Then a person can decide to stop the previous useless and harmful actions and take charge of their own life, or as in the story, rule their own kingdom, with her prince.


After discussing the relation between art and healing I’d like to pick up on your question about how to empower and foster the self-actualizing tendency in a person. The conditions we need to be creative are the same basic conditions as the one’s we need to heal.

All living organisms share the same tendencies, of which one is the tendency to actualize. According to Tudor & Worrall (2006) this tendency is operative at all times, in all organisms. It is only the presence or absence of this total directional process that enables us to tell whether a given organism is alive or dead. In this sense the role of a therapist or art facilitator is simply to facilitate the life of the individual organism, where to facilitate means to make the unfolding of life or artistic expression easy.

Modern biology has shown that this tendency has two different ways of functioning in living beings. If the organism is in a favourable environment, it will try to enhance, express and unfold. If the environment is hostile, the organism will switch into survival mode and do everything to preserve itself. If the organism is healthy it will furthermore be able to detect which mode is appropriate according to the present situation and circumstances.

The problem begins when an organism (or person) has to remain in a hostile environment for too long . Chances are it will get stuck and not be able to recognise and reorganise when the environment changes again. At this point therapy becomes an aid to escape the clutches of the past and art helps to bridge the gap between personal experience and reconnecting to the present environment.

The environment that is needed to foster creativity and personality change is rather a personal relationship based on unconditional positive regard (love), empathic understanding and congruence (honesty).

Unconditional positive regard means that whatever is expressed should not be evaluated, but rather welcomed with a caring and loving attitude as a genuine expression of an unique individual. Empathic understanding seeks to understand what wants to be expressed on all levels of human communication (all the senses in cluding the cognitive as well as the emotional). It is more important to understand the internal frame of reference of the artist or simply listen to what he/she wants to express to us, before bringing our own understanding into the equation.

The astonishing aspect is that we don’t have to learn to be creative, it is our very nature. Contrary to our understanding of education, Swami Vivekananda states: “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man” and if we are able to provide the right environment nature will take its course.

“From the very nature of the inner conditions of creativity it is clear that they cannot be forced, but must be permitted to emerge.” Carl Rogers