I made a particular journey this summer, a pilgrimage in many ways, to attend an intensive training with Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of “Women Who Run With the Wolves” (1992). I have been a fan of her writing for many years, using some of her methods for working with dreams, images and stories to understand the wounded places of the psyche, and the ways of healing and recovering that are often hidden in plain sight within the story or dream. I leapt at the chance to attend a workshop with her, despite the complications that come with travelling half way around the world, and up into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
I got more than I bargained for as the storytelling unfolded, sharing in a powerfully transformative experience with 99 others, and learning from this wise and deeply present woman, who at age 73 is acutely alive and glowing with her passion for the creative, emotional, spiritual and psychological work that is therapy. I have returned home with new ideas and concepts to play with, deeper theoretical understanding to work with, a recognition of the resources that we each carry within us that can be accessed through dreams and stories, and a profoundly lived experience of the challenges of integrating the different aspects of our being.
Fairy stories have many purposes, but one of the most important is their ability to show us ourselves, in all our guises – the hero/heroine, the villain, the bystander, the allies, the secret nurturers, the magic that each person carries which can ultimately enable them to learn from the ordeals and challenges that are set, and finally find more of the freedom and peace that they are yearning for. Each fairytale world can be seen as representing the contents of one person’s inner world or psyche. Archetypal psychology provides an additional layer of ancient and unspoken yet universal knowing – that water can symbolise emotional energy, that dark woods can represent the unconscious and the things we do not know about ourselves yet, that the witch may in fact be the wise old “crone” who has lessons to teach us, and so on.
My journey to Colorado highlighted some aspects of my own “fairytales” that have now come alive and are working on my behalf to enrich and broaden my living. I am looking forward to bringing this process more and more fully into my practice as a therapist, and supervisor, already finding how naturally it slips into the creative relationships that are part of counselling, psychotherapy and supervision.
SO, are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Once Upon a Time, long long ago…………….