Sunday, 27 October 2013

the first step to live more like yourself

Wanting to live more like oneself is probably one of the most natural desires people could have.  Sometimes we are hesitant to follow this desire, however, because it looks rather selfish in a given situation or disturbing for relationships with others.

There is a well known fairytale by Grimm called The Frog King.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who was adored by everyone.  One day when she was playing with her golden ball, the ball fell into an old well.  As she was crying, a frog appeared and said he would recover her ball if she promised that she would share everything with him from then on.  The princess secretly thought it was out of question, but she promised that she would.  The frog gave her back the ball, but she ran away to the castle, leaving him behind.  Next day when she was having a meal, the frog came and said she should keep her words.  The king, her father, agreed with the frog and told her to share her meal with the frog.  The princess reluctantly obeyed him.  Furthermore the frog wanted her to let him share her room and her bed, and she could not stand it anymore.  She cried, "That is the bed for you!" and threw the frog to the wall.  At the moment the frog transformed into a handsome prince.  He told her that an evil witch turned him to a frog.  He asked her to marry him and they were happy.

What do you think of the story?  Some people might think, "What a spoilt child the princess is!  She should keep her promise if she made it whatever the reason," or wonder, "Why could she be happily married to the prince?  Does she deserve it?"  In fact they are what I first thought when I read the story.

Nevertheless, now I think we can get a very important message from the story if we understand it from a different angle.

Let us look at the story again.  An adored princess meets a frog.  She does not like the creature.  Her hatred and anger for the frog increase as she and the frog develop their relationship.  She loses herself in a rage and refuses the frog in a violent manner.  It results in the frog’s transforming into a handsome prince.

It sounds unreasonable and ugly that the princess becomes violent because she does not like the outcome of her own behaviour.  However, if her irrational anger did not grow so much, the frog would not have turned to a prince, and the story would not have ended in a happy way.
Consequently the important point of this story is that the frog prince is set free from the curse when the princess's selfish anger is at its height.

The story begins with the description of how beautiful the princess is and how carefully she is brought up.  She is well protected in a castle and praised for her beauty all the time.  However, she is probably just like a beautiful adorable doll, playing with her ball.  No matter how beautiful she might be, there is nothing like herself as an individual person.

The frog must be the very first strange and uncomfortable thing she encounters in her life.  Meeting with the frog, she begins to feel unreasonable hatred for him.  She runs away from him, making a promise she has no intention to keep.  Her act is childish and insincere, but probably this is the first time for her to place her own feeling ahead of other things, such as others' concerns and social rules.

The king, her father, says that promises should be kept.  His proposition is orderly and clear, showing an important principle for society.  While his justice might be well established, however, it does not have a space for a personal feeling of the princess.

If she had no feeling just like a doll, she would have followed the king with no resistance and accepted any requests of the frog.  In such a case, while the frog might have been treated well on the superficial level, there would have been no emotional exchange between the princess and the frog whatever they do together.  Thus the transformation of the frog would have never happened in the end.

If the princess was emotionally more mature, she would have expressed her negative feeling to the frog in words.  She could have told him that she could not keep her words, made an apology, and had a discussion with him to seek other ways to solve the problem.

However, the princess must have had no experience of reflecting herself or facing conflicts with others or dealing with her own negative feelings.  Moreover, her feeling to the frog does not fit with the king's principle as well as a general image of a “beautiful princess” as she must be expected to embody.  In consequence, it is no wonder that she could but explode in such an abrupt way in order to express herself.

It is impulsive, immature and ungraceful that she throws the frog to the wall in her rage, but the first attempt of expressing oneself tends to be awkward and to look "out of character."  And yet, the explosion of her feeling is the turning point of the story; the frog prince is set free from the curse.  When understanding this fairytale as a story of the princess's psychological development, her outburst must be the important first step for her to live her own life like herself.

In other words, she is transformed to a unique individual from a beautiful doll, through her outrage caused by her relationship with the frog.  She marries to the frog prince at the end, and it probably suggests that she is now ready to esatablish an equal and conscious relationship with someone different from herself.  Thus it can be said that this ending of the story illustrates her growth as a person, for if she had remained to be a doll, she would not have been able to develop a relationship with the frog.

When trying to live our own life like ourselves, we cannot help facing conflicts and our own negative feelings towards something/someone, and the feelings might feel unreasonable and ugly.  Nevertheless if we recognise those feelings as our own and keep working to find a way to express them, the process itself reflects our unique being and reveals the inner beauty as a person.  I think the story of The Frog King gives us an image of the first step when a person starts this process.

(* This article is published in Personal-Development.Com Newsletter issued on 29 October 2013.  Thank you!)