…I came upon an article about an American presidential candidate who stepped down from his presidential campaign in 1936 to support a programme of social security. This included a minimum wage, the abolition of capital punishment and advocating a decrease in working hours for women and children. His name was John Gilbert Winant, who served three terms as Governor of New Hampshire. These two quotes are from an article by James O. Freedman in the Harvard Magazine.
‘In February 1941, Roosevelt appointed him ambassador to Great Britain. During the Battle of Britain, Winant walked the streets of London, ablaze from the aerial bombardments, offering assistance to the injured amid the rubble of their homes and stores. His shy sincerity and quiet fearlessness endeared him to the British people and helped buoy that beleaguered nation.’
‘To read his speeches is to sense the same greatness of soul, magnanimity of purpose, and simplicity of language that appear in Lincoln’s addresses. In June 1942, he told striking coal miners in Durham, England, ‘This is the people’s democracy. We must keep it wide and vigorous, alive to need, of whatever kind, and ready to meet it, whether it be danger from without or well-being from within, always remembering that it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail that…daring to live dangerously we are learning to live generously….’ His speech was a resounding success: by joining the life-or-death struggle to preserve democracy with the concrete social purpose of improving the economic circumstances of working people, Winant had deepened the war’s meaning for the common man. The miners went back to their crucial work.’
His own 1946 quote was: ‘Doing the day’s work day by day, doing a little, adding a little, broadening our bases wanting not only for ourselves but for others also, a fairer chance for all people everywhere. Forever moving forward, always remembering that it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail. That caring counts and that where there is no vision the people perish. That hope and faith count and that without charity, there can be nothing good. That having dared to live dangerously, and in believing in the inherent goodness of man, we can stride forward into the unknown with growing confidence.
I was so impressed by his humanitarian principles which transcended party lines and his own ego. If only there were more leaders around today of this calibre!!
This is a link to an inspiring story of a healing journey that contains the essence of what we are beginning to rediscover for ourselves.Terry Wahls encapsulates 100% commonsense combining historical evidence and the most up to date thinking and research on restoring health to our brains and bodies with readily available fresh foods.
When considering what our emotional needs are, I sometimes think back to how life was for humans thousands of years ago, to consider what we most need to get back to: the care, love and protection of a family, a healthy environment, community, balance, space, fresh air, exercise, play, creativity and of course fresh food. This ‘Teds Talk’ by Terry Wahls rings true in every word. The link to it is: http://terrywahls.com/category/video/
THREE STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE PASSIONATE TO PROVIDE REAL FOOD FOR OUR PLANET
I have just been watching two short, most entertaining and thoughtful talks on sustainable agriculture from Dan Barber on http://www.Ted.com. Both talks show what is possible if people follow the passion in their lives for working with the Earth’s incredible resources and the results they achieve are extraordinary and a lesson to us how to survive, way into the future without harm to livestock and creating something healthy and sustainable. The link to the first one is:
According to the above website, http://www.Ted.com: “Chef Dan Barber squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs today: how to keep fish on the menu. With impeccable research and deadpan humor, he chronicles his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love, and the foodie’s honeymoon he’s enjoyed since discovering an outrageously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method in Spain…Dan Barber is a chef and a scholar — relentlessly pursuing the stories and reasons behind the foods we grow and eat“
The second short talk. “A foie gras parable” tells the story of a small farm in Spain that has found a humane way to produce foie gras. Raising his geese in a natural environment, farmer Eduardo Sousa embodies the kind of food production Barber believes in.
The website, http://www.Ted.com shows a variety of short videos on many different subjects and what they say about Dan Barber is:
Why you should listen to him:
Dan Barber is the chef at New York’s Blue Hill restaurant, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester, where he practices a kind of close-to-the-land cooking married to agriculture and stewardship of the earth. As described on Chez Pim: “Stone Barns is only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but it might as well be a whole different universe. A model of self-sufficiency and environmental responsibility, Stone Barns is a working farm, ranch, and a three-Michelin-star-worthy restaurant.” It’s a vision of a new kind of food chain.
Barber’s philosophy of food focuses on pleasure and thoughtful conservation — on knowing where the food on your plate comes from and the unseen forces that drive what we eat. He’s written on US agricultural policies, asking for a new vision that does not throw the food chain out of balance by subsidizing certain crops at the expense of more appropriate ones.
In 2009, Barber received the James Beard award for America’s Outstanding Chef, and was named one of the world’s most influential people in Time’s annual “Time 100” list.
The third talk is a moving account of Brazilian farmer’s son whose life’s work has been to produce sugar cane in the most ethical, organic and natural way, linking the cane fields to his beloved rain forests in which he played as a child. It was broadcast on 10th November, 2013 on BBCRadio 4, Food Programme and is called:
The Sugarman of Brazil
It is an extraordinary story of a man who is showing us the way to produce our food. It is to be found on the BBC Podcast and the link to it is:
This is a poem I wrote after seeing Pratibha Parmar’s film “Warrior Marks and reading Alice Walker’s Book, Possessing the Secret of Joy about Female Genital Mutilation.
PURIFICATION (Published in “Did I Tell You? 131 poems for Children in Need, Wordaid, 2010.)
The girls spat at me, frothing like hyenas,
shouting, “kintirleey”. Theyrubbed mud
into my face telling me I was dirty
but I was wearing a crisp white shirt.
At home I cried and my grandmother sent cold
looks to Mama.
Mama went back to our old village to stay
while my auntie had her baby. Our new house
lost its dance and song. My grandmother
smiled like a crocodile. I felt sad. I felt naked
to the eyes of her sisters and cousins whispering
on the courtyard steps.
My first term of school ended. I woke to voices
chanting. My grandmother fetched me
telling me this was a special day,
telling me that the other girls would like me now,
telling me that the dirty thing that grew between my legs
was going to be taken away.
In her room there was a table with a clean white cloth.
There were lots of aunties and a man with a mole on his chin
and a gold front tooth. They told me to lay on the table.
My grandmother leaned across my chest and held me down.
Her breath was sweet as she moved across my face to whisper,
“the kintir will be removed now”.
Two of them take off my panties and hold my legs out far apart.
I can’t breathe enough to let out the scream sitting in my throat.
The man takes a pair of scissors from his bag and pulls my skin
down there. I feel sick. My body explodes into my head. I’m dying.
I wake and shake, see blood and shake, pee a burning fire and die again.
They sew me up like a football.
They tie my legs together.
My grandmother grows soft during the days
she tends to my wounds. She hums and washes me
telling me to be very still. She smiles and strokes my forehead
telling me, “You are pure now.”
The Cruel Cut Channel 4 documentary was shown last night and I was appalled to hear that despite the thousands of young girls who are mutilated and abused in this way, this practice goes on in the UK without any one case having being brought to justice. Please sign the petition below to make sure this practice is stopped here:
I enclose the summary to be found on the Channel 4 website with details of a petition we can sign to help stop this practice.
Leyla Hussein is an anti-FGM activist, psychotherapist, a member of the FGM Special Initiative and co-founder of Daughters of Eve, a charity dedicated to ending gender-based violence including female genital mutilation. She writes:
‘FGM is one of the worst physical and psychological scars a girl can be left with. I was cut when I was 7 years old. I didn’t know what Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was until the day it happened to me.
I remember speaking to Katie Piper at the Cosmopolitan award show in 2010. She came up to me and told me that she had been touched by my story and she understood what I had been through but realised that whilst her scar is outwardly visible, for survivors of FGM their scars are hidden from view.
There are many of us silent survivors of FGM in the UK; it could be the girl sat next to you on the bus, someone you work with, a girl in your child’s class at school. I want to give them a voice and encourage the government to take action. You can help stop FGM by signing the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52740. If we get 100,000 signatures our petition will be considered for discussion in the House of Commons.
FGM is child abuse and needs to be stopped. One misconception is that it is similar to male circumcision. It’s much more painful and can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications and there is no medical reason to do it. Another misconception is that it is something only practiced by Muslims however FGM has nothing to do with religion and isn’t mentioned in any of the Holy Books or condoned by any religion.
We seem to have been picking and choosing which children matter and that needs to stop. This is happening to British girls and the numbers are staggering – more than 24,000 are at risk and over 66,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM. It is time we took a stand.
Despite increased activities around FGM recently, we’re still failing to effectively stop this form of child abuse. We have multi-agency guidelines here that are not statutory and very little is practically being done at local level. Funding is minimal and noone is monitoring the situation or holding anyone to account, so let’s push the Home Office to take responsibility for drawing up and enforcing a National Strategy and Action Plan to eliminate FGM in the UK.
“Folklore is the boiled-down juice of human living. It does not belong to any special time, place nor people. No country is so primitive that it has no lore, and no country has yet become so civilized that no folklore is being made within its boundaries.” (Neale Hurston, Zora, (1999). Go Gator And Muddy The Water, ed. Pamela Bordelon, New York and London:W.W. Norton.)
Fairy tales were initially part of an oral tradition, told by skilled storytellers; then written down, initially for the privileged few and as more people learnt to read, available to a mass audience; and now available through a mixed media. They have been created universally and have endured for more than a thousand years. They appeal to adults and children alike, not simply as an entertainment, but as something important that stirs the very foundations of our emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and soul life. Such stories may not only inspire self-discovery by connecting us to a whole range of feelings but as works of art themselves they can empower us to expand our imagination and develop our own creativity.
Originally, the storyteller would have told stories to a whole village or family including all ages; no doubt around the fire. These stories might have been called: fairy tales, sagas, animal stories, folklore or folk tales and may have overlapped with myths, legends, riddles and fables. Fairy tales are usually plot driven and even flat characters are able to carry the dramatic flow and emotions of the plot; charged with anticipation, probabilities, a variety of switches of scene and series of actions. They usually have an inevitability and an optimistic ending; bringing a sense of satisfaction. They offer us a safe place to feel the intensity of our feelings and are rooted in the display of a variety of human behaviours and explanations of the meaning of life itself. Their scope is fairly universal in appeal and form.
It seems to me that the source of fairy tales is their rootedness in the inner landscape of human beings, the world of feelings and imagination which is surely universal and which can guide our patterns of behaviour and choice of actions.
Christopher Booker suggests, in his book, The Seven Basic Plot: Why We Tell Stories, (New York)Continuum, (2005), that there are seven main plots in all of literature. He makes specific references to fairy tales. The seven main plots he has defined as: Overcoming the Monster; The Quest; Journey and Return; Comedy; Tragedy; Rebirth; and Rags to Riches
Stephen B. Karpman, in his article, ‘Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis’, Transactional Analysis Bulletin, vol. 7, no.26, analyses fairy tales in terms of Script Drama Analysis which is used as a psychotherapeutic tool. A script, in this sense, refers to a set of roles and behaviour that seemed to be our best choice for survival as a child but which might limit us as an adult. He explores the drama of switches in role. These may be identity roles or action roles and bringing them into focus can be informative and transformative. A classic pattern of behaviour that, because of its inherent energy and drama, can suck people in and limit their ability to act autonomously is the ‘Drama Triangle’.
“Only three roles are necessary in drama analysis to depict the emotional reversals that are drama. These action roles, in contrast with the identity roles…are the Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim…Drama begins when these roles are established, or are anticipated by the audience. There is no drama unless there is a switch in the roles.”
Jung and Freud believed that the symbolism and archetypal characters in fairy tales act out our unconscious desires. I prefer to think more practically about such tales. They educate us subtly in terms of human beliefs, thinking, feeling and consequences. They show us a variety of roles and behaviour that we might try on for size and they develop our wonder and imagination so that we are able to look at things differently and accept in ourselves and in other people the possibilities of diversity and change. Some show us heroes and heroines with the courage to face challenges and take the risks needed to take new paths in our lives but they don’t tell us what to do.
Fairy tales and the wisdom found in them help us to accept the process of how we and others live our lives. Particularly for a child, their strongest emotions can be overwhelming and may create a desire in them to behave in the most heroic or villainous way imaginable. The fact that fairy tales often normalise a wide range of emotions and behaviour – our shadow side as well as our positive side – does a great service to all their readers and listeners.
According to Tatar, Maria (ed.), The Classic Fairy Tales, Norton & Company, 1999.
“…the staying power of these stories, their widespread and enduring popularity, suggests that they must be addressing issues that have a significant social function – whether critical, conservative, compensatory, or therapeutic…Fairy tales register an effort on the part of both women and men to develop maps for coping with personal anxieties, family conflicts, social frictions, and the myriad frustrations of everyday life.”
Strange to find realism within such fantastic tales!
From before birth, it has been discovered that humans play. Stories enable us to play in our imagination and play is a prelude to the development of our creativity which is the essence of a healthy human being. If creativity is stifled or stuck, destructiveness can fill the space where creativity would otherwise live inside of us. There have been attempts to dilute the potency of fairy tales, especially by the Disney cartoon films and in children’s books. It is ironic that as the horror of world news becomes more readily available to us, fairy tales have become increasingly anaesthetised.
The other side of fairy tales is that they will have had their own controlling influence on the evolution of human values, feelings and behaviour. When reading Sleeping Beauty, I wondered why no-one had told the young princess herself to avoid touching spinning wheels! No doubt scary stories would have been used to stop children venturing too far from home but may have limited them in other ways too. Other stories may have programmed our attitudes, assumptions and expectations towards romantic relationships.
According to Maria Tartar, Charlotte Bronte, ‘rejects the cult of suffering and self-effacement endorsed in fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast”’. Over many generations fairy tales have been used to frighten, restrict, control, oppress, free, empower, instruct and educate. They give us a wide blueprint of human behaviour with roles that we can choose to accept or reject.
It is impossible to talk about fairy tales without some reference to the story tellers. When tales were passed on in the oral tradition, certain individuals would be chosen for this task and it would have been important to them to keep to the familiar rhythms, patterns and skills of previous generations. Anne Cameron’s book, Daughters of Copper Woman, is a retelling of the tales shared with her by the Nootka women of Vancouver Island in Canada. These tales were carefully guarded from ‘the dawn of Time itself’ by generations of members of a secret society of Nootka woman. They finally gave permission to Anne Cameron to write down these tales in 1980. These tales, a mixture of fairy tales, legends and myths, were released to the world when it was thought that they were most needed to educate the world to other ways of living and being.
Stories are being written that have directly evolved from fairy tales, which are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. According to Carolyn Heilbrun in, “What Was Penelope Unweaving?” in Hamlet’s Mother and Other Women, New York: Columbia UP, (1990):
“Let us agree on this: that we live our lives through texts. These may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, like the murmurings of our mothers, telling us of what conventions demand. Whatever their form or medium, these stories are what have formed us all, they are what we must use to make our new fictions…Out of old tales, we must make new lives.”
A contemporary novel that uses fairy tales in a potent way is Kindergarten by P.S.Rushforth. The story is about three children coming to terms with the death of their mother, shot dead by the Red Phoenix terrorists. The book opens in the 1970’s with the oldest son watching news reports on television of a siege in a school in Berlin where children and teachers are held hostage and some are killed by the same terrorist group. It is Christmas time and their father is away. Their grandmother’s recovery from the results of the senseless violence of 1930’s Berlin, is entwined with the healing of the children. She has illustrated fairy tales which are referred to throughout the book as they are relevant to the situation the children find themselves in; the killing in Fitcher’s Bird; abandonment in Hansel and Gretel. Other tales are woven into the story: The Six Swans;The Juniper Tree; The Wilfull Child; Snow White and TheWolf and the Seven Little Kids. The oldest son finds letters, inside a copy of, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, from children wanting to escape from the horrors of Germany in the 1930’s and come to the school where the family now live. He had only discovered two years previously that his father’s family were Jewish and he was overwhelmed by this heritage so vividly portrayed in the letters he’s found. Several mentions are made of the phrase ‘dark pathless forest’ from Fitcher’s Bird. The story weaves back and forth, in a timeless way in and out of fairy tales, the children’s cartoon, Charlie Brown, the children’s story of Emile and the Detective. Fairy tales are helping the two eldest brothers, who are desperately attempting to come to terms with overwhelming feelings of loss, anger, terror and horror of their individual trauma; spending their first Christmas without either parent around; the realities of their everyday childhood and the innocence of their baby brother and how that fits into a world at war with itself. Several times there is a reference to a line, ‘Truly, this is the way of mankind,’ from, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, which is revised in Kindergarten to: ‘This is what mankind is like’.
So, perhaps, as “a tutor of mankind” fairy tales assist us to gain insights into both ourselves and the world we inhabit. It is a relief to have our most extreme and polarised feelings, normalised. It helps us to accept ourselves as ‘human’ to know that there is a shadow side inside all of us and that, given certain circumstances, we can easily move between innocence and murderous thoughts and feelings. Children and adults alike who experience strong negative emotions can believe themselves to a bad person, ‘a monster’, and this can lead to self-loathing and a heavy burden of guilt.
Humanistic therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy assume that umaniwe are able to understand our conscious and unconscious processes by recognizing how we and others behave, think and feel and what beliefs may drive us, and that we are capable of making changes in our lives and taking on new life enhancing choices. Fairy tales show us that transformation is possible.They enable us to imagine and to understand both the outer landscape (our relationship to the world) and the inner landscape (our relationship to ourselves) with their language rich in metaphor, fantasy and polarities. When someone tells a story with characters with whom we can identify, it helps us to feel less lonely and more connected to the world; a sense of belonging. Each person would derive different gifts and meaning from different stories according to where they are in their own development. The themes of the story are often something we can connect to. Marie Louise von Franz in her book, Interpretation of Fairytales, Spring Publications Inc., (1970), explains that in the fairy tale, Three Feathers, there is a theme of balancing male and female energies or power:
“The story ends with a marriage – a balanced union of the male and female elements. So the general structure seems to point to a problem in which there is a dominating male attitude, a situation which lacks the feminine element, and the story tells us how the missing feminine is brought up and restored.”
The themes commonly presented in therapy are similar to those of fairy tales: competition and jealousy between family members; fears of surpassing mother or father; unavailable fathers who hide behind strong women; rivalry and bullying between siblings; the polarity of siblings into ‘the good one’ and ‘the bad one’; people who feel ‘different’ – ugly, born into the wrong families; people who were abandoned, abused or neglected as children. Fairy tales depict real feelings about real experiences and give hope that whatever happens to a person, there can be a happy ending. Their strength is that they are exaggerated with magical elements to produce the drama and encourage the creative imagination that claims the attention of the reader and listener to move deeper into their inner self. Depending how they are used and read fairy tales can become our own personal guides. We may need to hear or read the same tale again and again until we have taken what we need from it. I heard of a young girl the other day whose teacher read the fairy tale of The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids but she stopped the story before the ending. This little girl cried herself to sleep despite being read the whole story by her mother and would not go back to school the next day. This was an important story to her and had not been treated with respect.
Children who act out fairy tales and other stories are using them physically to play; to try on different roles. Our imagination is the engine that drives our creativity and fairy stories and the feelings that they arouse are a satisfactory fuel for that imagination. Their heroes and heroines role model for us the courage to risk journeying either into the outside world or inside ourselves to find our passion and the desire for self-expression and success. The fairy tale itself is a work of art and as such may inspire us to produce our own works of art. They are also an important psychological tool and just as dreams might be our way of processing the past and releasing some of our excess psychological baggage, I believe fairy tales move us into the future, helping us to normalise, accept and understand ourselves and others better, empowering our journey towards autonomy and creativity. They will continue to be a ‘tutor of mankind’ and will continue to inspire us to play with our imaginations and playing is living creatively.
What would you write if you were to write your own life as a fairy tale?
We didn’t plan to visit the Vallee de Tortues. We’d intended to walk up the Gorge Lavail in the Alberes in the French Pyrenees but we couldn’t find the right road and we ended up outside a tortoise conservation centre.
When I was 9 years old, I found a tortoise on a path at the back of our house and took it home. We asked all around but no-one knew who it belonged to. I loved it, even when it embarrassed everyone by pooping on the lap of my favourite uncle! After a couple of weeks, it escaped, never to be heard of again. I remembered the look of it, the feel of it, the prehistoric quality of it.
So here we were and I was really excited, not knowing what to expect. Well, I fell in love with them all over again. I felt that sense of wonder that I remember feeling as a little girl. There were tiny babies in the nursery, the smallest must have been quite recently hatched. All sizes, shapes, and beautiful designs, their eyes seemed to take in everything around them. Just watching them slowed me down and made me think about the balance that is often missing from modern life, that ability to ‘be’ and just take in. They had the quality of trees and those that stayed very still seemed to be deeply rooted into the Earth. Others moved towards new patches of grass and then chewed contentedly. I was reminded of that wonderful primal connection that we have with the animals and plants on the Earth when we take the time to ‘be’ with them. Time passed very slowly in that place and I found myself smiling a lot.
I attended a poetry reading organised by S@ve As Writer’s Group to hear an inspiring poetry reading by poet June English. The reading was to help raise money and awareness for research into the metabolic disorder, Mucolipidosis. Little Gracie Bella Sims came too, with her parents and grandmother, to warm all our hearts, with the love that surrounded her. It takes courage to love a baby that may not thrive and will face multiple difficulties from this, thankfully rare, metabolic disease.
I was moved by the fact that we never quite know how long we have to love those people that we love and wrote this short poem:
Now A poem dedicated to Gracie Bella Sims
Now is a place where there is no word for work; there is just our doing. Now is a place where there is no word
for perfect; there is just our being.
Now is a place where there is no word
for future; there is just our living.
Now is a place where there are no words; there is just an unwrapping of this moment and an opportunity to love.
Maggie Yaxley Smith
June knows what it is to be born ‘different’ and this was one of the poems that she read, from her collection, Sunflower Equations, Hearing Eye, (2008):
Mum hangs me upside down and taps
my lungs to make me cough and spit,
she always says Im, sorry love. Is that what other mothers say
after they’ve played the tip-tap game?
Mrs. Rutter, Yvonne’s mother
says Mummy coddles me too much,
a bit o’muck’d do me good.
She’d have no can’t do this or that,
If I was ‘ers I’d smarten up!
I don’t know why I’m always ill, Yvonne Rutter never is – I bet her Mum’s a better thumper. Maybe I should smarten up, It’s hard to run, but I could try. ***
It’s summer now, Yvonne and I
are playing ‘camps’ in Blackman’s quarry,
Snotty Robert’s got a cold. Mum
said, You’d best stay clear of him, but he’s the Daddy in our game.
Yvonne, who’s Mum, is belting me,
and shouting, Smarten up, or else but Snotty Robert slaps her one
and says, it’s bed-time, git to bed so I lay down, pretend to sleep
I don’t remember getting home,
it seems the milkman carried me.
Mum said, You silly girl, the ground was damp, you’ve taken chill. My head’s
a blazing furnace, filled with dreams:
I’m walking barefoot over mountains, a devil’s prodding me with knives, I’m lost. Alone, I’m terrified – The mountain’s gone, it’s forests now I’m running fast, my lungs will burst.
Mum leans the folded ironing board
lengthways from settee to floor;
she holds my toes while I slide down
to play my Walk-on-ceilings-game, where lights grow upwards from their stalks
and little folk, with chalk-white faces
(only seen by Mum and me)
play silly games, like Wonder why. I asked them once why pigs don’t fly –
they said because they’ve learned to swim…
Mrs. Rutter’s been to see me, she says I’ll soon be up and running,
if I was hers I’d smarten up,
a bit o’muck’d do me good –
I’d like to poke my tongue at her,
but Mum is smiling down at me,
that knowing look that tells me Don’t – the folk round here don’t understand, you’re different see – a special girl. When you grow up, you’ll show them all…
And I have to say is that she really has…
A blog for counsellors, counsellors in training and anyone interested in counselling related topics by Maggie Yaxley Smith