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06-28-2007, 01:21 AM #1
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Article: Fairytales Are The Frosting, Not the Cake
Fairytales Are The Frosting, Not the Cake
By: Dr. Linda Miles
Fairytales play an important part in childhood development, because they give imaginary solutions to real fears. For example, Jack and the Bean Stalk, is about a little boy conquering a big person. When Jack gains power over the giants, i.e., adults, who control his life, he is dealing with his smallness and anger through a magical fantasy in which he triumphs. But, there are too many examples like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, where the heroine lives happily ever after, only after being saved by a man. That fairytale thinking, when carried into adulthood, creates a set-up of expectations that can never be fulfilled.
Solutions that worked in early childhood often fall short when we mature. In fact, fairytale thinking, if not replaced by more realistic problem-solving, can remain with us into adulthood, creating unrealistic expectations that leave us ill-equipped to deal with life´s everyday problems and stress.
Fairytales are like the frosting on the cake; they are the sugary solutions that cover unconscious impulses children try to control, but have not yet dealt with; because the cake underneath is the true basis for realistic problem solving. By helping children learn to develop realistic solutions to replace the myths and fantasies, parents help children mix the cake, which is then baked in the heat of real-life problems and experiences.
Mixing the cake
By the time children are pre-schoolers, parents need to help them move from the emotional, magical problem-solving of fairytale thinking toward thinking about what they feel in actual situations. For example, a parent might ask, "How do you think you should handle the problem?" Then, help the child develop a solution.
Unfortunately, when children do not get enough direction from adults, their emotions remain disconnected from their thinking process. This can lead to angry outbursts or feelings of helplessness that can continue into adulthood.
It is helpful to teach children real-life, concrete examples of problem solving. For example, "When you are running by the pool you could slip and fall." With my son I shared times when I felt left out and helpless. After that, I also shared with him that actions I took to solve the problem. Children need a lot of examples that clearly show them how-to manage their emotions and impulses. It is also helpful for parents to share how they dealt with challenges of their childhoods.
Leaving perfect behind
In fairytales it is always clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But, this also allows a child to do what is known as splitting. Splitting is when a child sees one parent as all good and the other as all bad. Problems develop when splitting continues into adulthood. Thus, the handsome prince, the dad, who is all good, becomes the orge who is all bad. And this happens within all different kinds of relationships, friendships, co-workers, even with neighbors.
Children think in magical terms, in all-or-nothing solutions. They believe that they are the center of the universe, but they are also naturally narcissistic, feeling as though they have to fight great forces for their place in the world. Children who learn that this is the normal way to be, grow to believe as adults that there is something wrong with them because they are not living the happily ever after scenario. Based upon this learning I´ve seen disaster after disaster in my psychotherapy practice.
Hopefully, as adults, we become more humble and realistic about our place in the world and learn to make a difference by loving as much as we can from wherever we are. Then, we are no longer looking for our perfect prince or princess. We recognize we are relating to real-life human beings, flaws and all. We are also capable of feeling valuable even if we are not the most beautiful prince or princess who ever lived.
In The New Marriage, there are contemporary answers to these transformations. People can learn that we are all inner-connected and that they can learn respect and compassion. This does not mean that they allow themselves to be victimized or abused. The mature person is able to face the difficult forces around them with creativity, flexibility, compassion and humor.
The frosting of magical wishes is important for a child´s development. However, true transforming requires a hearty cake that can be baked in the oven by real-life experience, in order to fulfill and live our dreams.
Copyright 2005 Linda Miles Ph.D
Author, Dr. Linda Miles, is deeply committed to helping individuals and couples achieve rewarding relationships. She is an expert with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and has worked in the mental health field for over thirty years. Find more relationship ideas and relaxation techniques on her web site and in the award-winning book she co-authored, The New Marriage: Transcending the Happily-Ever-After Myth, and Train Your Brain: For Successful Relationships, CD. DrLindaMiles.com
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