Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revisioning the familiar - Seeing the Old with New Eyes ...

Sue Monk Kidd writes:

The story of Rapunzel, recounted in Grimm's Fairy Tales, reveals a false-self pattern common to many of us at certain times in our life. Rapunzel was the damsel imprisoned by a witch in a tower without a door. The only access to the tower was through a solitary window at the top. When the witch wanted to visit, she stood below and called for Rapunzel to let down her long, golden hair from the window. Then the witch scampered up, using Rapunzel's hair as a ladder.

Year after year Rapunzel sat in the tower, singing sad songs and waiting for someone to come along and rescue her.

As I identified my false selves, I recognized Rapunzel in myself. She was the part of me that wanted daddy, mummy, husband or SOMEBODY else to come and fix it, the part that languished in whatever struggle I found myself, singing sad songs, and looking outside instead of inside for help.

Rapunzel is the helpless damsel waiting for rescue. Locked in a "towering" problem or difficulty, she waits for deliverance rather than taking responsibility for herself. her waiting is negative waiting, not the creative, active waiting that initiates growth.

As I thought of Rapunzel, stuck all those years in a tower without a door, I wondered why Rapunzel couldn't figure out a way to get out. AFTER ALL, THE WITCH WAS INGENIOUS ENOUGH TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET HER IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. When I re-read the tale, especially the ending, where the witch in a fury picks up a pair of shears and cuts off Rapunzel's hair - I wondered why it had never dawned on Rapunzel to cut off her hair herself and use it as a ladder. THE ANSWER WAS THERE ALL ALONG, ONLY SHE (RAPUNZEL) WAS SO BUSY WAITING FOR RESCUE SHE DIDN'T SEE IT.

It's important to be able to ask for, and accept help, but not Rapunzel's way. She chose to forgo the contemplative experience of taping her soul-strength, (the dark night of the soul) to bury her problem-solving potential and project it onto others. Struggling with the difficulties of life, we may adopt the idea that we're too weak, too dumb, too busy, or too incompetent to take care of ourselves and extricate ourselves from pain and problems. A tape recording plays in our heads: "you can't manage that ... you aren't able to figure that out yourself ... you are too weak to do it on your own ..."

When that happens, Rapunzel makes her grand appearance.

The Rapunzel pattern reminds me of an insight ... received while watching the opening credits of the television programme "Mystery" on PBS. As the credits roll, a cartoon-animated woman whose ankles are tied waves her hands in the air and cries "Ohhh!! Ohhh!!" waiting for someone to come untie her.

I watched that show for a long while before it occurred to me that the woman's hand's weren't tied. She could, if she were so inclined, bend down and untie her own ankles.

That perceived helplessness is the sort of thing Rapunzel feels ...

- When the Heart Waits

As I read that, I thought "huh!!"

Too often we have come to believe that the only way out of our place of discontent, suffering, unhappiness, and even pain is by having someone else rescue us ... I think this is ESPECIALLY true for women - we see it over and over in abusive and neglectful relationships where she waits for things to improve, or for someone to rescue her - but the story of Rapunzel shows us that we and ALL people - have the means of escaping from that place with us all along.

The woman with tied ankles cries for help when all she needs to do is reach down and untie the ropes.

Rapunzel sittings month after month in her tower singing sad songs and calling for help when all she needs to do is cut off her own hair and climb down ALL BY HERSELF!! (and the metaphor of her cutting her hair and being free is HUGE !!!!)

But instead fear kept the woman crying for help rather than untying the ropes, and fear kept Rapunzel sitting waiting for SOMEONE to come and rescue her ...

The means of rescue and escape to a life of wholeness has been there all along - these women (and others) need only open their eyes to what others can so clearly see ... and when they do ... Good things can start to happen ... Rapunzel will escape and re-claim not only her freedom, but her LIFE !!!

It's ALL about perspective ... and open our eyes to what is ALREADY THERE !!!


Anonymous said...


You hit the nail on the head when it comes to my past circumstances. I know all to well the need to "cut my hair" I did it just in time too. It may have taken me a few years to get my act together once I left, but I did and I have never been happier. There are still times when the past resurfaces, but those too are becoming less and less. And I am learning how to deal with them so they do not bother me as much anymore. It is still tough, but it is happening.

I never thought I could do it on my own. But have realized that you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it.


shauna said...

Love this post, Shawn. It's so insightful and has reminded me how important it is to be resilient and stand strong, no matter how tough the struggle. Thanks for the reminder!