to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Getting to know the Monster

Jonah Goldberg has pretty good essay today about monsters, real and rehabilitated. He contrasts horrible real life monsters who abuse children with loveable furry Sesame Street and Monsters, Inc. anti-monsters. His essay falls short only in that it lacks any prescription for what we do in the face of a culture that has removed the vocabulary of evil and the categories of dealing with evil, especially from our children. It strikes me that the quick answer is to return to fairy stories. Not the Disney-fied versions but the Brothers Grimm et al. originals, clearly much more dark and frightening than contemporary versions. Which are true to the real world and so which should be engaged by children?
I have been reading Bettelheim's The Use of Enchantment to augment my course lectures on C. S. Lewis' Narnia fairy stories. While he is too psychoanalytic for my blood (I need to read Jungian anaylses of faerie - any suggestions?), I still think the following is relevant:

Those who outlawed traditional folk fairy tales decided that if there were monsters in a story told to children, these must be all friendly - but they missed the monster a child knows best and is most concerned with: the monster he feels or fears himself to be, and which also sometimes persecutes him. By keeping this monster within the child unspoken of, hidden in his unconscious, adults prevent the child from spinning fantasies around it in the image of the fairy tales he knows. Without such fantasies, the child fails to get to know his monster better, nor is he given suggestions as to how he may gain mastery over it. As a result, the child remains helpless with his worst anxieties - much more so than if he had been told fairy tales which give these anxieties form and body and also show ways to over come these monsters. If our fear of being devoured takes the tangible form of a witch, it can be gotten rid of by burning her in the oven! But this consideration did not occur to those who outlawed fairy tales. . . .

We do encourage our children's fantasies; we tell them to paint what they want, or to invent stories. But unfed by our common fantasy heritage, the folk fairy tale, the child cannot invent stories on his own which help him cope with life's problems. All the stories he can invent are just the expressions of his own wishes and anxieties. Relying on his own resources, all the child can imagine are elaborations of where he presently is, since he cannot know where he needs to go, nor how to go about getting there. This is where the fairy tale provides what the child needs most: it begins exactly where the child is emotionally, shows him where he has to go, and how to do it. But the fairy tale does this by implication, in the form of fantasy material which the child can draw on as seems best to him, and by means of images which make it easy for him to comprehend what is essential for him to understand (Bettelheim, 1975, 120-122).
I think "our common fantasy heritage" also helps children (and adults, if, as Lewis admonishes them to do so, they remain open to fairy stories) to confront the evil they encounter outside of themselves, namely in real life ogres, witches, trolls and whatnot.
(By "witches," of course I realize that there are differing views on them. So also Xander reailzed:
Update - Welcome Corner Readers.


who, me? said...

Golly! Jungian fairy tale material: Marie Louise von Franz, Robert Johnson, Inner City Books in general [ ], Gertrude Mueller Nelson, probably some of Edward Edinger and John Sanford on Bible stories would be instructive.

I haven't taken the time to list titles, if you want to discuss this further I'm at good_and_happy , then the "at" sign, then yahoo, dot, com. I got some of my education at Journey into Wholeness [] ; if you have time and resources, they might offer events you'd like.

And Bettleheim himself has some monster shadows, it would appear.



Jared Cramer said...

"Xander: It could be witches Some evil witches! Which is ridiculous 'Cause witches, they were persecuted Wicca good and love the earth And women power And I'll be over here."

AH HA HA HA. That is seriously one of the best lines in that episode.

Interesting thoughts on monsters, but I have no solid understanding of this sort of stuff (psychoanalytical and Jungian analyses of faerie tales), so I will just nod and smile. However, if you want to talk about the theological implications of the dualistic understanding of evil that persists in monster as opposed to ancient religions that understood evil as a part of all creation--even as a part of God (e.g. the interplay between God and "evil" in the Hebrew Bible), then I'm your man. :-)

cslewisfan221 said...

Apparently, there are Narnia Events going on all over the country that are movie "sneek peeks". I just found some information at Narnia Resources

C.S. Lewis said... Very cool desktop alerter that has regular updates on the new Narnia movie. Ijust installed and it is VERY cool!

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fish said...

When we are born our brains are like empty computers waiting to be fed information. As we grow our peers act as our programmers, they supply us with the knowledge which we channel through the conscious mind into the subconscious (our hard drive). The subconscious mind is the biggest hard drive ever developed - it stores everything we come in contact with and by no means is all of this information of a positive nature.
All that we have heard, touched, smelt, tasted and seen are stored in the recesses of our minds. The subconscious mind holds on to this information until we need to recall it. For example when you were young your curiosity lead you to investigate your surroundings. When you approached a substance that was dangerous, such as fire, your parents or guardians would most likely have rebuked or scolded you if you ventured too near the flame. Perhaps you may even recall an incident when you were physically burned. Your subconscious mind then began to relate scolding (or pain) with the intense heat of the fire and would therefore feed the feelings of the scolding incident back to you whenever you got too close to fire again, thus acting as an early warning system.
This is the mechanism used by our brains to learn. It is also the same method employed by the mind in every situation. The subconscious mind has a tendency to emulate what it sees - it tends to replicate its environment. This is why so many people find themselves in similar relationships and situations that they saw their parents in while they were growing up. Most people also hold very strongly or similar views of their parents.
Think of a time when you gave yourself praise. What words did you use? Do you use the same words that your parents or peers used when they were praising you? The same is applicable when you scold yourself.

Watch your internal dialogue. Look at it closely. It takes diligence to change the way you think. When you notice yourself thinking a negative chose to think the opposite. This way you neutralise the negative thought. Now the think the positive thought again! You have just reversed the negative thinking in that moment and remember you only have this moment. No other time exists!
Daydream about what might be. Imagine things they way you wish them to be. If you catch yourself thinking "this is just a daydream - a fantasy" then stop! Think the opposite. It is not a daydream it is your reality. Now think it again.

By doing this simple procedure you will begin to retrain your subconscious mind to think positively and you will ultimately begin to consciously create a life that dreams are made of! personal development

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