I can’t wait to see the new movie “Mirror Mirror” with Julia Roberts that’s being released later this month. I love fairy tales and fables and their messages that fill our culture with certain paradigms, archetypes, and important truths.
The Snow White story has one that I always found particularly poignant and relevant for my clients.. and for me. There is an “Evil Queen”.. a women who is deeply invested in being the most beautiful one “of all”.. you know the story. She checks in with her mirror..often.. to be reassured that indeed she is the most beautiful one of all, until one day the mirror tells her that there is a younger more beautiful one who has now taken her place, her title.
The Evil Queen is unable to bear her feelings of being displaced.. her entire identity rests on being seen a certain way, on retaining and protecting her place at all costs and she goes into a murderous rage, and wants Snow White dead. No ambivalence there, right?
There are other Disney heroines, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty come to mind, where a scorned or narcissistically injured woman seeks to harm or punish the younger, more innocent girl in the story. Hell hath no fury.. as the saying goes.
This piece is not about mother-bashing but I do want to acknowledge that for many of my clients who struggle with food or weight, there is often a similar dynamic in their background. Many mothers are very good at nurturing their daughters and loving them without seeing them as threats to their own needs for love and attention. And unfortunately there are many other mothers who did not get “enough” love and attention or good-enough mothering in their own lives, who believe there may not be enough to go around.
Many of my clients picked up at an early age, that they were never to outshine their mothers. Sometimes they got this message in direct ways, but it was often more subtle. I believe that women with eating and body related issues are sensitives and empaths that are bombarded by others’ emotions.. intruded on by all of the emotional energies they pick up from others without even trying. This makes it hard to take care of oneself, hard to stay focused and know how to be grounded and set good boundaries. It often turns women in to over-nurturers and caretakers because it’s so uncomfortable to FEEL what everyone else is feeling all the time.
Girls and adolescents very much need the “mirroring” of their mothers to reflect back healthy feedback to them. To give them messages of worth and love and approval and help create an internal sense of being whole and lovable in the world. When the mother herself is either depressed and unavailable, or so narcissistically challenged that she sees the daughter as a threat to her own supply of love and attention… it’s going to get complicated.
Thankfully, most of our mothers don’t set woodmen out to murder us in forests, or turn us into scullery-maids in the kitchen… the damage is usually more internalized. But having a mother who saw you as competition or as a threat, or who was too shut down to let you really experience your own beauty and gifts and lovability… creates lasting patterns.
I love having clients do this little piece of writing. Write your own fairy tale. Make it big and bad and epic. Hugely exaggerate and caricature the characters.. make the bad ones really bad, and make the good ones sparkly and innocent and beautiful. Let the playful parts of you free with this and spin the tale of your childhood in true storybook fashion…. with all the trials and tribulations put into symbolic format.. Then, create the beautiful ending you long for. You really do get to rewrite all of this and this is a good way to start. As an adult you get to be the writer and the director and the star.. make it beautiful, make it epic. I want that for you.