The Freudian analyst Bruno Bettelheim is famous for using fairy tales to allow children to explore their feelings of fear and abandonment. A local lecture series at the Center for Psyche and the Arts in Lansdowne, Delaware County, is exploring how these stories can help adults during therapy sessions.
Therapist and lecturer Michelle Dean said having patients put themselves in the shoes of archetypal characters lets them try on anger or rage.
“We can identify with the characters in the story, the good the bad, the wicked witch or the princess,” Dean said. “We can actually feel the feelings of all the characters.”
Dean said she encourages her patients to bring up fairy tales that resonate with them. She also draws parallels to fictional characters who have overcome obstacles similar to those of her patients.
Temple University professor and art therapist Lisa Kay said she often uses “The Wizard of Oz” story as a tool during sessions to get people to see their own life as a journey like Dorothy’s. She said it is often easier for clients to open up when speaking in metaphor, and stories such as these are a good medium.
“There’s a universality in myths and fairy tales,” Kay said. “A lot of people from a lot of different cultures can connect with trials and tribulations and the hero’s journey.”
Dean’s lecture on Friday looks at topics of obsession in the gruesome fairy tale of Bluebeard.