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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

on March 20, 2013
Are all of ML von Franz's books this one inspires and takes the read to new places in the quest for redemption
After the absurd shallowness of so many on the road to "addiction to perfection" the deep Jungian world is about living in the TAO and trusting the gods to lead us to trust our deepest instincts.
This is so refreshing in a world determined to have results at any cost.
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on September 27, 2009
There is no doubt this woman is a genius. However, there is one statement somewhere in the book which assumes the American Indian is on a concrete level of cognition. I had to then assume she was prejudiced against them, based on my belief they had very spiritual beliefs and a love of nature. Besides this bothersome referral, I found the book useful for the possibility of utilizing fairy-tales for therapy. There are references in the index to the actual stories.

Teresa O'Connor, M.A.
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on March 17, 2012
This is an exceptional book. Von Franz links the common theme in fairy tales of the hero or heroine cursed by a devil or witch or held captive by a troll, giant, or monster with that of the psychological complex that brings about neurosis. There are many fairy tales in all cultures where someone is cursed or captured and either the curse must be lifted or there must be an escape from captivity. Likewise, we all know of persons or situations where someone acts in an irrational way, almost as if they were cursed, to some circumstance that doesn't warrant the extreme emotional response. We all know someone who is a wonderful person but who rebels and acts irrational when dealing with someone in authority. This is just once example of how a complex, shifting and partially emerging in the unconscious, impacts conscious functioning. Thus in the same way that the witch's curse must be removed from the princess, the complex that is causing such irrational or unexpected emotional behavior may be relieved of this burden by a therapeutic process. It is fascinating that the ways curses are removed and a princess escapes from an evil troll have resonance with the Jungian therapeutic process.

The cursed hero often behaves destructively until they are redeemed. The fixated neurotic also behaves destructively until the symptoms subside and they are healed. Whereas fairy tales offer many ways that the curse is removed from the hero, it is dreams that indicate to the fixated neurotic how the unconscious proposes a cure, which von Franz says will be unique for the individual. In fairy tales, the redemption may take place several ways but getting into a cool or hot bath, taking on or off animal skins, taking on or off clothing, and beheading talking animals are all schemes that help redeem the hero of the curse.

Whereas the ego is the conscious aspect of our psyche that must deal with everyday life, the ego rests upon the larger more formative Self with moderates all the ever changing and growing and shrinking archetypes within the unconscious. A complex is when an archetype or cluster of archetypes becomes fixated and begin to emerge and impact conscious functioning, often in a negative way. How does such a complex develop? Von Franz points to repressed impulses or instincts that become unbalanced and are alienated from the other instincts. She also says a psychological function has been damaged and can't operate normally. Thus the entire psyche is not neurotic, just some internal archetypal structure, which the neurotic then senses as something being wrong, not right, out of control and bewitched.

Because the destructive complex isn't completely revealed, the complex could be put in a cool bath of intellectual understanding to cool it off or put in a nourishing bath to help it emerge into consciousness, or put in a hot bath. The complex can also be amplified in analysis. Even if the complex is not resolved, positive steps can be taken which keep the complex from drawing psychic energy away from the personal individuation process.

The destructive complex may contaminate the anima, in which case the hero/ego needs to take action even if the contaminated anima/destructive complex is only partially revealed. The destructive complex may suppress the expression of the anima so that the expression is hostile and animalistic. There is a social organization of the archetypes and complexes which are overseen by the organizing self. They all influence each other and may even melt into one another. If the destructive complex isn't recognized it will continue to do damage. Active imagination allows the conscious mind and unconscious mind to bring the complex into view and have a relationship with it.

Von Franz gives excellent examples from fairy tales of removal of animal skins or clothing as an analogy for the process of removing the layers needed to amplify the destructive complex and bring it to the surface where it can be dealt with in relationship. Also, when under the influence of a destructive complex, humans may regress to more instinctual methods of interacting and acting. Thus friendly talking animals in fairytales offer an analogy for this instinctual behavior. But often the talking animal then asks to be beheaded, which means there is no longer a need for the instinctual behavior and once beheaded, the animal becomes a prince or princess or some other companion to the hero. Von Franz gives many examples of how symbolic thinking and active imagination are tools in getting the half hidden destructive fixated complex to emerge and to be gradually better integrated with more adaptive, strategic, inclusive, growth oriented behaviors.

Von Franz is brilliant. She writes beautifully and her breadth of knowledge is outstanding. Her insights into psychology and Jungian theory are unmatched. This short book is outstanding.
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on April 11, 2010
Steven B. Herrmann, PhD, MFT
Author of "Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul"

This is one of the most fascinating books on fairytales I have ever read! In this book von Franz is clearly at her best. What I find most helpful is what she has to say about bewitchment. By "bewitchment" she means the experience of being overtaken by what C. G. Jung called a complex and its archetypal core. Typically the subject who has become "bewitched" has been possessed by something larger, evil, and toxic, often in early childhood or latency. To be "bewitched" means that "a particular structure of the psyche is crippled or damaged in its functioning and the whole is affected." To become free of bewitchment through Jungian psychotherapy, the object-imagoes of the complexes need to be projected onto an analyst, then re-collected as inner psychological structures belonging to the patient, whether a child, adolescent, or adult, who is the projector. This is the only way, von Franz asserts that "the value or the energy invested in the image can flow back to the individual, who has need for it in his development." For instance, when the toxic core of the negative mother complex is projected onto an analyst, who becomes the carrier of the Witch archetype, we find, as we do in fairytales, the condition where some character in the story or dream, or some functional complex in the patient's object relations, has been "cursed or bewitched and through certain happenings or events in the story is redeemed. This is a very different condition," Von Franz says, "from the Christian notion of redemption." Sometimes the Witch functions together as a pair, as in "The Wizard of Oz." From an analytic standpoint, von Franz writes "any archetypal complex, any structural unity of the collective unconscious psyche can be cursed or bewitched." Bewitchment is made translucent in von Franz's masterful analysis of the story of Hansel and Gretel, where a latency-aged boy and his little sister are companioning together towards overcoming a psychological state of distress. Their father, a poor woodcutter has been "bewitched" by a famine in the land; he has been put under a spell by the children's evil step-mother who has power over him and tricks him into abandoning his biological children. As Von Franz says, Hansel and Gretel presents an answer to the problem of bewitchment. The solution comes by way of a feminine wisdom-ethic, an ethical teaching that reveals clearly how a person might dissolve the complexes that are poisoning her psyche; first, by finding a suitable hook to hang her projection on, then, by recollecting and integrating something of the Witch's trickster-like characteristics, as an aspect of her own personality. Both father and step-mother are possessed by Evil in the story. The "redemption motif" is latent in the pattern of the two companioning siblings that are faced together--as hero and heroine--with the problem of redeeming the poor father, and liquidating or eliminating the curse of the evil step-mother. As von Franz says, the "accent on the girl and the witch-like, rather evil, mind of Gretel" is what saves the two siblings from their curse of bewitchment. The accent on "compensatory values" is stressed in the story: "the natural mind of women and their seeming wickedness" is "represented" as the most important redeeming "factor." For anyone interested in depth-psychotherapy, dreams, fairytale interpretation, or Jungian analysis, this is a valuable book to have. It is practical, down to earth, and full of wisdom.
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