August 16, 2006

What's Your Story?



This is how you read symbols. Crash-course.
Remember when you were a kid: which story did you enjoy hearing over and over and over? That story can tell you a few important things about yourself.

Here’s how:
My favorite story is that of the little mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen. I hear it’s the story of his life. Go figure! Forget the Disney version. The original doesn’t have a happy ending – cos it doesn’t deserve one. Curious? Read on.
Let’s follow the story, and the story behind.

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The little mermaid is the spoiled brat of her World: as the favorite daughter of Neptune – the Sea God (the Sea/Ocean as a symbol of the Unconscious), she is treated as ‘special’ by everyone. Yet, she waves off the attention, retreating in an imaginary world.

She dreams of impossible things – being fascinated with all things human. What she dreams of is being human – being able to do things that humans do. The underlying motive though is that Ariel is not happy with what or who she actually is. She doesn’t appreciate what she already has.

As Fate should want it, there came a day when fantasy became real - in the shape of a human - a mortal, flesh & blood man – incorporating everything Ariel dreams of. Meeting him is a crucial moment. Loving him is a chance to make her dream come true.

The sudden attraction to the strange man is really a projection of who she wants to be; he is what she dreams of being – loving him is really loving her ideal image. Narcissistic love, Freud called it. Loving him is a like magical solution: she cannot accept and love herself as who she is, but symbolically she loves herself in him. Get it?!?

The man is bound to die, though (a challenge, conflict is necessary in order to grow-up). Her own father starts a storm (emotional upset, crisis; the father, the sea-god stand for her super-ego; Rules, Must-dos; self-discipline; higher-mind), which threatens the life of her lover (classic father-lover conflict; the Oedipus fear –projection that the father kills the lover; in real life, both father and lover usually compete for the girl) .

We should notice that by saving the man she loves from drowning, the mermaid actually breaks the laws of her world, going against her father’s rules/wishes (faced with the choice, she makes the right one: chooses to grow up, replaces symbolically the father with a man she can have; the father is forbidden, taboo of course; the father ‘belongs to the mother, he is her lover’; in real life, the girl identifies with her mum and thus becomes a woman in her right, going on to love a man of her own; Ariel doesn’t have a mum, though. Who will fill that place?).

This is where destiny takes over – just like it did with Oedipus. She is no longer in control, no longer aware of the forces at work: Fate unfolds as it must.

We know we’re off the reality realm, into unconscious territory because Ariel is incapable of finding a realistic path to her goal; she turns to magic instead. Na├»ve and ignorant, she puts her trust in the hands of the evil woman (everyone else knows she’s evil); Enters: The Witch.
Ariel doesn’t have a mother; symbolically, the Witch stands for a mother figure – enacting the unresolved Oedipus complex: the mother stands between the girl and the man she loves; the projection of the girl’s hate ‘turns’ the mother-figure into a ‘witch’, but the girl needs to love and be loved by the mother figure, and that’s why she trusts her against better judgment; in turn, the witch wants the father’s power – the falic symbol, the trident – and uses the girl to get to the father; (Freud thought that’s all women want; not true; get over it! )

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Projection: an unconscious process by witch what I want/need/fear ‘becomes’ yours. Instead of realizing it’s mine, I think it comes from you. It enables me to use my needs/fears/wants without owning them or acknowledging ownership. We do this with the people close to us, the ones we love – and sometimes we chose them for this very reason. It can be mistaken for true-love! Be sure you ask and accept the real response of your significant other – instead of what you expect (which reflects your projections). Disappointment is a sign you’ve projected something and luckily! your lover didn’t play along. Be grateful!
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Self-absorbed, Ariel is unaware of the witch’s hidden agenda. Lacking confidence in what she is and what she can do, she fears rejection and she projects it on to the man she loves. It is she who believes that her ‘imperfection’ (being half fish) would prevent her man from loving her.

Pay attention here: this is the moment when her true motives shine through! Ask yourself: at this time, does she have reasons to believe the Prince wouldn’t love her as a mermaid… as who really is? No, she doesn’t. All she has to guide her are her own fears and inhibitions, her own lack of self-worth. It is SHE who isn’t happy with who she is. But she tells herself that this is what the prince, Eric thinks. It is she who values being human and having legs. For all we know, Eric takes that for granted – and he actually may have been impressed to know she is a mermaid. She tells herself a lie.

This inferiority complex blinds her completely – as it often does. She willingly gives away her voice (her ability to express her individuality, she gives away who she is), in exchange for a human body: feet instead of a fish tail (reality, grounding instead of fantasy, but also reason (earth) instead of feelings (water); i.e. rationalization! A defense mechanism. She doesn’t trust feelings to unite her and the man she loves. She changes who she is for an ideal image (we all do that when we think life would be so much better if we were… ‘thinner’, ‘smarter’, ‘prettier’, ‘rich’, etc)

But the stakes are much higher. Should she be wrong – and fail to be united with her man, she would lose her soul. (she identifies so strongly, so completely with this dream (also the man) that life without him becomes pointless; this mechanism lies behind depression when a loved one dies; you want to die too. That’s why you stop eating for instance.)

A kiss would prove the union, by the third day’s sunset. (the kiss as a symbol for both body-and-soul union, the ‘3’ as fulfillment of the union of the ‘2’: man and woman united create a third: a child; the sunset as the end of life)

Well…true love cannot be under false pretences. The Prince – a practical, down-to earth man – feels the attraction, the magic, but is unable to correctly interpret it (as men often are ;-).
Further more, he prefers the sensual promises of another, more mature woman to the clumsy, inexplicably weird behaviors of the inexperienced Ariel. (who is unable to tell him who she is – ‘has no voice’, unable to manage her new legs gracefully and under intense pressure for fear of losing her life).

Nothing helps, and at the end of the three days time, Ariel heads to the ocean – to meet her end. Fantasy over – we must face reality.

She is met by her sisters (sirens as symbols for unconscious forces) who alert her to another option. She can save her immortal soul, but only if she distances herself from her fate and exercises free-will. The man she loves is her fate, so she must distance herself from him: she must kill him, practically she must end the spell that binds them together.
She must admit failure, must admit that he's nothing but a fantasy gone wrong (her running away from accepting herself as who she really was).

She can’t do it though. Can’t 'give him up'. She hangs on to the lies, the deception. She can’t wake up. She watches him sleep (projection) alongside the other woman (unrecognized fear of competition complex; of not being good-enough) for one last time, and then returns to the ocean. The Powers That Be acknowledge her story as an example - her determination to hold onto the fantasy. She is to be found forever and ever in the foam of waves braking into the shore. (Embracing the legs of humans!). As reminder of the consecuences of fantasy eroding reality (water moving against land).

When an inner situation is not made conscious,
it happens outside as fate.
C.G.Jung


Practical Exercise:
Take a piece of paper and a pencil and close your eyes.
Imagine you are helping God for a few days. A new baby is born, and the baby needs a Destiny. You are The Writer. You get to decide what sort of life this new baby will have.
Clear your mind. Don’t think! It’s all in there, it will come to you.
Write at the top of the page:

This will be the life of…. [your name].

and start writing.

The thing is… you’ve already written it quite some time ago. This is only going to help you remember what the heck you’ve decided back then. You probably forgotten already. But you are living it nevertheless. Every bit of it.



I did this exercise some… 7 years ago. And I’m on track, sort-to speak. Hopefully, I’ve given myself a cross-road to exercise free-will. And luckily, I did. I just remembered that yesterday. And for those of you who know me, you know how dramatically my life has changed just recently. But it was all in the script. As a possibility. I had the courage.

Unlike Ariel, I opened my eyes and realized I could enjoy my fish-tale (pun intended, as many others; have you noticed them?) and have a happy end. Well… I don’t know about that yet, but I took my chance facing reality.

The little mermaid story didn’t deserve a happy-ending cos there was too much deception going on. If your life is made of lies – white lies, little lies, doesn’t matter – you will pay the price eventually. Better wake up now while you can still change something.

It is in your power to re-write some of that stuff. It’s not painless and it requires courage, and it involves risks. Or else… better hope you’ve given yourself a happy-ending. Some people don’t, you know...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you

Cris said...

you're welcome