The Twelfth Fairy: The Happiness of Assistance
Thursday, February 25, 2016 (written April 2, 2016)
In the milder version of “Sleeping Beauty,” a tale that made its way from gruesome narrative to love story, a princess is born to a hopeful and happy King and Queen. On the occasion of her christening 12 of 13 fairies are invited (sometimes in the story there are 7 of 8 invited). After eleven of the fairies have bestowed their blessings on the baby princess, the wicked crone breaks into the ceremony and, as revenge for being excluded, curses the princess to prick her finger on a spindle when she turns 16 and die. Just as the horrified crowd looks on, the 12th fairy steps out. While unable to reverse the curse, she is able to mitigate it. The princess will indeed prick her finger on the spindle but will sleep for one hundred years until the kiss of a prince awakens her and the entire court. All sleep behind a ring of impenetrable thorns until the special prince comes along.
I love the mythic and archetypal quality of this story—even this Disney-esque version—because it captures what most of us experience periodically in life: Things go along relatively well until we hit a crisis of epic proportion: we or someone close to us gets ill, we lose a job or a house, we suffer the break-up of a committed relationship, a friend betrays us, we cheat or are cheated upon. Something in life violates us and everything good and happy takes a backseat to this earth-shaking situation that threatens to completely overwhelm or even kill us.
But then this is not the end of the story, the last chapter. Someone—a friend, a lover, a parent, a sister, a congregation, a group of coworkers—mitigates our situation. Suddenly there is light in the void, a hand holding ours, a healing infusion of hope and help and caring surrounding us and lifting us up. The 12th fairy has arrived with a moist cool cloth for the fevered brow. Our curses may not be lifted entirely, but they are ameliorated.
Just as things can always get worse, they can always get better. We are connected within a matrix of energetic beings and channels of healing energy and inspiration promote our well-being. We also contribute to the well-being of others, and can do that more deliberately by becoming aware of those around us, hearing and seeing a need, and intervening even in a modest way.
As a psychotherapist I feel lucky to have ready-made opportunities to function as a Twelfth Fairy. Now, any seasoned therapist realizes that we are only a very small part of someone’s healing journey. The one hour a week or every two or three weeks that we spend with someone is far less contact than someone has with their family and friends—their inner circle of important others.
And yet, what is powerful, has to do with catalysis. The Twelfth Fairy co-catalyzes or revs the engine of healing within someone. After a therapeutic alliance has been well established, a client may say, “I could hear you in my head, Lisa, and I knew I had to broach the topic with my boss and set a boundary.” This is an example of introjection, where a sub-part of the client has been mobilized and is represented by an image of me. But really it is not me per se; it is the catalyzed sub-part of the client ready for action, fully engaged, and freed up to exercise options that had formerly been shut down or dormant.
In ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ we understand dormancy and shut down. A princess, with everything to live for, has ceased to act. She can only sleep in her life, until awakened. Awakenings come from moments of crisis, or from the dawning awareness that arrives out of lesson after lesson in life, or by the positive influence or presence of another being who gently awakens a de-activated or un-potentiated aspect of consciousness. The Twelfth Fairy and the kiss of the Prince have a lot in common. They both awaken healing energy within the recipient.
In our lives we harbor one or more sleeping princesses within. Regardless of gender, there are dormant or suppressed parts of ourselves that have something to contribute. Perhaps they have lived silently in the shadows due to shame, guilt, or fear. Perhaps they have never been invigorated with sources of nurturing and remain nascent as dried seeds. But to flourish, each sleeping princess must awaken and look around, and find herself fondly greeted by an encouraging and supportive presence.
So much inherent happiness thrives in doing what a Twelfth Fairy does, and in openly receiving what a Twelfth Fairy gives.
Guest Saddle: For whom have you functioned as a Twelfth Fairy? And who has offered you the hope, encouragement or validation of a Twelfth Fairy, even when you felt most in despair?