How fairytale counseling works, and why it's totally worth trying it
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
So what exactly is this "fairytale counseling for adults" and how does it work? What effects can working with fairytales have on your life? Here are a few exciting points about the method itself– as well as some ways in which it can prove to be beneficial to you, too.
Think of almost any fairytale you know and you will notice that it has a structure similar to this: once upon a time, there was a state of equilibrium (e.g. there was a king and queen living happily in their castle, and all was well). But then, something happened, something that endangered the balance (they got sick, they couldn't have a child, a dragon attacked the kingdom, etc.) and this danger made the hero or heroine go on a journey. This is the archetypical Hero's Journey. While on the journey, the protagonist will go through strange, often dark places (forest, lake, underground, etc.) representing the subconscious realm, face some of his or her demons, i.e. fears, sadness, anger (in the image of evil wizards and witches, dragons, other supernatural beings) with the help of helping forces. They will learn something, solve something. And then they may or may not return to the original scene (most often, they do), but the balance will definitely be somehow restored. And always, this balance will be a higher, more advanced, more sustainable state than the one at the beginning of the story.
If you think about it, the above "map" of the Hero's Journey describes symbolically you, every time you go through a difficulty in your life. Something happens, at first it's bad, then you adapt, learn, change, solve something, and then regain a new sense of balance – and in the process, grow. (Easy to say, but oh, so difficult to do!). And then the cycle starts over again. For almost every challenge that we face, every life situation that we're in, there is likely to be a fairytale that – in its own, symbolic language, of course – talks about that same challenge. And when you get in touch with the right fairytale in challenging times, it is guaranteed to provide you with strength, help you discover new alternatives, and give you hope.
Fairytales have a complex symbolic language, and much of their meaning is hidden from us. And the beauty of it is: we don't even have to understand it all, for them to help. The help happens automatically, since our subconscious resonates instinctively to the images depicted in fairytales. I will subconsciously connect the giant or king with my father, the queen or witch my mother and that helping animal with a hidden intelligence that's already there in me, waiting to be discovered. So as soon as we read a fairytale, and start working with it in counseling, a bridge is built between our conscious and our subconscious, which allows us to heal what is waiting to be healed, and express what is waiting to be expressed. And all this happens through work with symbols, and is therefore not only very effective, but also relatively "painless" since you will meet those demons and heal those wounds mostly in a symbolic form.
This bridge that we build with the help of the fairytale works in both directions: it helps you bring themes from your unconscious into the light (by means of e.g. drawing and painting), which allows you to better understand what is happening down there. On the other hand, a change process that is ignited here, in the conscious realm (through interventions such as your changing the end of the fairytale, redrawing the picture, etc.) will be projected back inside, also allowing changes to happen in your subconscious.
→ Interested in the specific process of fairytale counseling; would like to find out how we work with a fairytale and what techniques we use? Click here and read on.
Being formulated by centuries of collective wisdom, fairytales contain "recipes" and recommendations for successful coping with almost any of life's challenges. When you get in touch with the tale that is right for you in that given moment, you will not only intuitively understand its hidden meaning, but it will also provide you with energy, as if unlocking a treasure chest that was always there in you, but you never know it existed. Sometimes this will be a very clear, sudden moment of realization (AHA! that's what this is about and what I want to do with it!) while at other times, it will be a more subtle process, in which you start noticing new things in your everydays, interpreting certain events differently, making slightly different decisions, in other words: slowly but surely shaping your life into new directions. One thing is sure: there always is an effect, unlocking these powerful archetypes will always have an impact on your life.
So what can fairytale counseling do for you? In short: it will help you find the fairytale that is right for you at that moment, depending on what you are dealing with. It will help you process it, integrate it, understand it. And with it, it will help you achieve your objective, whether it is regaining balance and wellbeing or achieving personal growth. Or both – for as we see it in the fairytales, these usually go hand in hand. So if you're looking for ways to deal with things happening in your life right now, even with difficult emotions, you do have the option to deal with them in a symbolic way – through the facilitation of the a fairytale. I encourage you to give it a try.