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The first reading allows the individual to react to it on a personal level, to relate the story of the tragic lovers in terms of his or her own experiences with love (Walker, 1995, p. 13). But secondary and tertiary (and so on) readings allow the individual to connect to the story on deeper and increasingly abstract levels so that an analysis of this story might come to understand it as a story of the temporary death of the individual and its potential and even expected rebirth as part of a universal mother, a submission of the identity of daughter and son into the more primary identity of creation and life. An individual who follows an analysis along such a path can explore his or her own feelings about love and loss, about autonomy and dependence, about fear and acceptance.
However, within the clinical setting, the client must choose his or her path and travel it with only gentle guidance from the analyst, otherwise the client may not make the connections that are most authentic and healing for him or her. Not every archetype is equally helpful to each individual, and the experienced analyst understands this.
Jung's approach is more synthetic than that of folklorists', but a comparison to folkloric research helps identify the ways in which archetypes can arise from and be identified for clinical purposes from traditional narrative (Segal, 1998, p. 46). This is clear if we look at Thompson's Motif Index, one of the few exhaustive (or at least nearly exhaustive) examinations and codifications of the themes and figures that transcend specific cultural traditions (Thompson, n.d.). His Motif Index can be seen as analogous to a birding manual for those who are hunting not ivory-billed woodpeckers but the most deeply rooted archetypes. This story, when analyzed using his system of motif identification, can be classified as a story not about love (or at least not primarily about love) but about punishment.
There are several possible motifs that can be applied to this story. They include: Q220. Impiety punished; Q240. Sexual sins punished; Q260. Deceptions punished. There are also several possible coded motifs about punishment that can be applied from Thompson's work, including both cruel and capital punishments (Thompson, n.d.)
There are also motifs about love that can be applied to this story. These include: T0. Love and T30. Lovers' meeting (Thompson, n.d.). Whether one chooses to privilege one of these sets of motifs over the other or to weigh them equally is not preordained. Indeed, it is precisely how an individual chooses to rank these different motifs that can for the Jungian or post-Jungian analyst be a very fertile ground for insight and healing (Aziz, 1990, p. 48).
Von Franz, as noted above, insists that analysts take care not to conflate the personal unconscious with the collective unconscious. The power of Jungian analysis she (and others in this field of psychology) lies in the ability of individuals to connect the messiness of their own lives (using the term here with no moral overtones) to the relative simplicity of archetypes. Archetypal analysis allows individuals to prune away the irrelevant complexities of experiences; irrelevant, that is, in the context of an individual's trying to gain greater insight over his or her life, motivations, actions, and reactions. Analysis allows the individual to understand how his or her life intersects with the collective consciousness, as von Franz suggests in the following:
The most frequent way in which archetypal stories originate is through individual experiences of an invasion by some unconscious content, either in a dream or in a waking hallucination -- some event or some mass hallucination whereby an archetypal content breaks into an individual life. (von Franz, 1996, p. 24).
Once this pruning has occurred, to extend this metaphor just a bit further, the client (or patient, as analysts tend to call the people with whom they work) the client is much more likely to be able to see the forest without the trees getting in the way. (Bearing in mind, of course, that there is an intellectual contradiction here, albeit an emotional truth.)
Von Franz would argue that there are different ways of pruning that are equally valid, even if she does not take up this particular analogy. One way of "pruning" this story, that is, of understanding it in a way that is personally relevant while remaining archetypically sound) is to focus on the fact that it is a story about falling in love. This would be most helpful for some patients, depending upon what is central to their lives at the moment and what personal problems or tasks they are engaged in. For others, the most relevant motifs will be those that focus on punishment and death. Different archetypes appeal to different individuals throughout their lifetimes (Von Franz, 1980).
But all individuals can find wisdom in fairy tales, because they provide some of the purest material for psychological work. Von Franz writes: "Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic processes. & #8230;They represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest, and most concise form" (von Franz, 1996, p. 1).
The fairy tale that has been examined here is aesthetically flat. Even in the version cited above with some elegance of language, the story does not sing. And yet it compels us because of the force of the characters and how they interact with our own dreams and memories. The nature of archetypes is precisely this: They speak to us not through the beauty of melody or brushstroke or arabesque but because in the archetypal story, we see not only ourselves but everyone else in our world.
The archetypal lovers in this story could be us, or we could be them. And in examining and considering what happens to them, we are at the same time examining and considering what may happen to us, and whether we should run toward each of these possible fates or run from them.
Armenian poetry. Retrieved from http://www.hyeetch.nareg.com.au/armenians/poetry_p15x4.html
Aziz, R. (1990). C.G. Jung's Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity (10th ed.). New York: The State University of New York Press.
Jung, C.G. (1985). Synchronicity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Odajnyk, V.W. (2004). The Archetypal Interpretation of Fairy Tales: Bluebeard. Psychological perspectives 47(1): 10-29.
Segal, R.A. (1998). Jung on Mythology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Thompson, S. (n.d.) Index of motifs. Retrieved from http://www.ruthenia.ru/folklore/thompson/index.htm.
Von Franz, M.-L.( 1980). The psychological meaning of redemption motifs in fairy tales. New York: Inner City Books.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1995). Shadow and evil in fairy tales. Los Angeles: Shambala.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1996). The interpretation of fairy tales. Los Angeles: Shambala.
Von Franz, M.-L. (2001). Feminine in Fairy Tales. Los Angeles: Shambala.
Walker, S.F. (1995). Jung and…[continue]
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