Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Archetypal Feminine Figures in Fairytales. a Study in Archetypal Psychology

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Archetypal Feminine Figures in Fairytales. a Study in Archetypal Psychology

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The work that has deeply touched my soul and set me up on the journey of writing about the intricacy of the feminine psyche is Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, written by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, whose doctorate is in ethno-clinical psychology and who is also certified as a Jungian analyst. The aforementioned book was published in 1992 and was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 145 weeks. It is not another sophisticated study in psychology, but an accessible, reader-friendly guide book who takes the reader on a journey of exploring the feminine psyche. The central archetype around which all the chapters of the book gravitate is the "Wild Woman" - an exemplary metaphor of the feminine psychic: "So what is the Wild Woman? From the viewpoint of archetypal psychology as well as from the storytelling tradition, she is the female soul. Yet she is more; she is the source of the feminine. [...] She is intuition, she is far-seer, she is deep listener, she is loyal heart. She encourages humans to remain multilingual; fluent in the languages of dreams, passion and poetry." (Pinkola Estés, 1992: 13) All the stories that the author collected and then analyzed in her book are paths to be followed by any reader/patient (especially women) in order to reconnect to the unconscious archetype of the feminine psyche. Stories have a healing force that we may not be aware of. It is through stories that we find ourselves experiencing an intense altered consciousness that opens the door to the submerged archetypes; in the process of symbolically identifying ourselves with different archetypal figures present in stories and fairy-tales we actually reactivate the psychic forces that are associated with those figures. As children, we were inoculated that only the good characters from the stories should be appreciated and taken as examples to be followed, whereas the bad ones were stigmatized as bad examples; and thus, the recipe for psychic dissociation came into play in our early childhood; then, children turn into adults who consider that only the others around them are "bad characters," since they never had the chance to acknowledge the "negative hero" within themselves.

On this line of reasoning, one of the greatest merits of Dr. Estés's work is that she draws attention to the importance of acknowledging, accepting and integrating the so-called "evil, dark forces" of the psyche as well; it is only by doing so that one may have the power to willfully fight against their destructive energy that may devastate the psychic world if let loose. How can one subdue 'the enemy within' if one knows nothing about its true nature? Precious psychic energy may be wasted fighting inner obstacles, conflicts and resistances that we cut off from our psychic structure as if they were alien forces that had nothing to do with who we really are. Denying the "shadow parts" within ourselves and casting them away from the core of our psychic is equivalent to giving up our own power for the sake of being "good." And this repressed "shadow energy" erupts like a volcano, invades and devastates the normality of our psychic life, turns our world upside down, especially because we have not dug up a tunnel to let it loose when we still had a chance. Therefore, finding a way to creatively integrate the energy of our shadows into our conscious life is the path to asserting our integrity and completeness as human beings. Jung used to say that: "... meeting our own selves is part of those unpleasant things that we keep avoiding as long as we can project in exterior everything that is negative. Meeting our own self first and the foremost means meeting our own shadow. When we are able to see our own shadow and stand the knowledge of it, it is then that we have at least solved a small part of the task: we have reversed the personal unconscious. Yet, the shadow is a living part of one's personality, therefore it wants to be a part of the whole one way or another. …

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