What are fairy tales? Are they just simple stories relayed to children at night, or are they windows to the soul, doors that lead past the barricades of unenlightenment, giving us a new perspective of the miracle that is the human psyche?
Fairy tales and folklore can be defined as narratives originating from tradition and culture, which are passed down from generation to generation orally, usually containing lessons in morality, cultural values and social requirements, designed to amuse children. However, the role of fairy tales does not end here.
These classic fairy tales are much more significant than we can imagine; and not as childlike as we constantly presume. In fact, fairy tales have been used time and again by famous philosophers and psychologists, in order to explain the functioning of the human mind. Fairy tales, using fiction and irrationality, capture the essence of the human psyche and explore an individual’s perception of reality, revealing patterns in human behavior, and ultimately shedding light on the root cause of human conflicts.
Fairy tales are not only great representations of the human psyche, but can also play a substantial role in healing and helping the human mind. The usage of fairy tales in psychotherapy has been profoundly utilized by Holmes, Jung, Freud and other such famous psychologists: they claim that these classic stories hold patterns that enable the restoration of vibrant functioning of the mind.
The psychologists that use these stories claim that the process of psychotherapy, in many ways, mirrors the path of the fairy tale protagonist. They often conceptualize this process as a narration. Fairy tales follow the main character though a period of darkness, to transformation, to finally finding their happy ever after, which is quite similar to how therapy helps an individual. A therapist’s clients are generally going through a period of darkness, be it work related stress, depression, anxiety, etc. They then, with the help of their therapist, go through transformation to overcome this darkness, finally resulting in them being able to effectively deal with their problems and achieve their “happily ever after.”
Because clients are encouraged to associate with characters from their favorite tales, such as the witch or the fool, as aspects of themselves, the therapist obtains insight into how the person perceives himself/herself and the personality integration, which is an essential step in psychological healing, is achieved. During the sessions, the therapist makes the clients relate to these stories, and the patients then start interweaving their personal experiences into fairy tales which gives them an objective view on their own life. Fairy tales are much more than they were initially made out to be: these stories hold the power to both aid the human psyche and present it in an easy and understandable manner. The human mind is a complex structure, which could be the reason for these underlying secrets in our folklore and fairy tales. In a way, it is our mind that is trying to give us an insight into understanding ourselves, and guiding us towards the right path to discovering our own thoughts.
The deep truth that fairy tales encompass delineates complex developmental processes and group dynamics, and gives means to transform the pain of psychological wounding into creativity, thereby continuing to offer much to the steadily expanding field of psychology.