A cultural myth of redemption found in a popular fantasy story

image.jpg
From the 100th anniversary edition

Realized or not or intentional or not authors project themselves into their stories. Successful stories depend on good writing but they also draw on archetypal aspects that at an unconscious level resonate with most human beings.

Earlier someone shared part of a dream that included the image of the Tin Man from the Wonderful Wizard of OZ (1900). This got me to thinking about the other characters and aspects of L.Frank Baum’s story and who or what they might represent symbolically. However, my projected meanings are in no way intended to convey the meanings that Baum had for them these are just possible meanings that one might entertain should they show up in their dreams.

 Tinman: a Tin Man may be someone with no heart but deep down a heart as big as it gets. It can represent someone acting without compassion or being unsympathetic, or be someone unforgiving or unkind. When oiled e.g. given some kind, caring attention he/she becomes less rigid and stuck in their position. Do you know someone like this?

Cowardly lion: a person who acts tough but misses a golden opportunity out of fear. Are you feeling inadequate? Do you need to face your fears? Are you or someone you know wearing the mask of the tough guy thus keeping people at bay? Often this is the definition for someone who bullies. Are you limiting yourself by adhering to an inner dialog that has you feeling less-than?

Scarecrow: someone who looks scary but is using it as a cover-up so as to protect a vulnerable interior. Do you think of your self as being inferior? Is your exterior not matching your interior? Has your self-presentation been tattered?

Wicked witch: the negative feminine, in this case her insensitivity, and lack of focus except inwardly thus creating self-involvement, and being socially rejecting thus separating herself from others. She is the witch of the west and symbolic of darkness and endings that which needed to be faced in order to bring back the light and a new beginning.

Consider also that a witch can represent ones mother and the magical effect she has on you i.e. she is both nurturer and punisher.

Wizard: your inner wisdom and hidden power. This wizard also played the role of the trickster and was symbolically he who helps us to transcend our conditioning e.g. our learned behaviors, the behaviors and attitudes that limit us in life.

Glinda the good witch: she is the antithesis of the wicked witch, a goddess figure and the divine mother symbolizing feminine power, nurturing, and the coming of age for a young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman. She is the witch of the south that is symbolic of new beginnings, vulnerability and emotions.

Note that each of these characters is representative of Dorothy herself. Feeling unloved, unimportant, disconnected from her real power, with low self-esteem, lost and feeling as though she doesn’t belong, she dreams of a place where she can regain her self by returning home to herself. All aspects of her show up in the dream so as to help her heal and come back to her core being.

The psycho-emotional healing in most stories seems to center around the need to bring resolution to separateness and to unify the disparate aspects of the story i.e. to bring things back into balance. When we get out of balance catastrophic things can happen to help us find our way back home. This goes for societies and countries as well.

This I think is the function of our nightmares (individual or collective), which surly were depicted in Dorothy’s feverish dream i.e. to shake us up a little so as to point out the wrong road we’re on and head us toward the better road, the yellow brick road of hopefulness that leads to a place of healing and personal growth i.e. the green city of OZ while along the way we reconnect and make friends with the rejected parts of ourselves. The monster in the nightmare is not the hero save that they point to the fact that something isn’t working in the individual or societal psyche. As with Dorothy it’s only when we face our nightmarish bully that we can find our way home.

A modern day Narcissus

is.jpg
Caravaggio– painted circa 1597–1599
In this painting he is gazing at his own distorted image in the water, a metaphor for what a true narcissist is doing with his own self-image.

While working on the Book of Dreams I came to an image where a dreamer once shared a dream about a bully in a schoolyard. This got me to thinking about bullies and narcissists. Both seem to think only of themselves and when they look as though they are thinking of others they are only play acting for, you guessed it, themselves.

A true narcissist is someone who gets gratification through vanity and ego admiration. In the DSM V it is considered a personality disorder. It was originally designated as megalomania.

If ones focus is predominately a self-focus with a strong lack of empathy, psychological awareness, a haughty, or arrogant, body language and hypersensitivity to insults real or imagined this might be designated as narcissistic.

People with this type of personality tend to exaggerate their achievements and importance and detest and demean those who do not admire them. They also seem to exhibit a kind of magical thinking that isn’t connected to any rational understanding of reality.

The bully part of their behavior comes from a lack of or incomplete boundaries with a sense of entitlement and willingness to exploit others regardless of their feelings or interests. They will say anything if they think that it will secure the admiration of others. Often when not recognized for being better than others they will fly into an abusive rage i.e. tantrum. Many are exhibitionistic.

We all have a little of this in us especially if we are feeling down on ourselves and many politicians seem to have a little more of this than the rest of us. But the self-interest of narcissism can also be healthy in a balanced individual. However, there are those who express this kind of behavior on a regular and often grandiose scale.

Normally people with this kind of personality are only a danger to themselves and maybe to those closest to them but once in a while they get themselves into a position of power that can negatively affect vast numbers of people. These people are all too often raised to the level of leadership and can cause much damage and havoc.

The true narcissist will do anything to achieve their distorted image of themselves. ANYTHING! Can you imagine desperately trying to have the world around and within you be the way it is not and can never be? How trapped, frightened, and out of control would you feel? What a nightmare! And if this were a dream we are all living in we would be caught up in this nightmare as well.

Though it wouldn’t be appropriate to make a formal diagnosis, you may have noticed that the current president of the United States presents many if not most of the diagnostic indicators of this kind of personality disorder. I shudder to think the damage such a personality will ultimately wreak upon not only the U.S. but also the world if they are not held in check. But isn’t that what the U.S. system does well and pride itself in i.e. it’s ability to keep its negative aspects checked and in balance? Let us pray that this is so.

Other famous narcissists include Saddam Hussein, Napoleon, Henry the VIII, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler of Gestapo fame, Rasputin, Joseph Stalin, Vlad the Impaler and so on. Not a very empowering or enlightened group.

The fact that such a personality has gained such traction in American politics is worrisome for it suggests that fear has become the all-consuming emotion of the electorate and where there is great fear there is little rationality. In fact, rational thinking is the first victim of a fear-based individual or society. There are those in this country who seem ready to throw away everything good for which they stood for the illusions and fantasies perpetrated by a psychologically dysfunctional individual.

Interestingly in the Greek Myth of Narcissus his followers would also do what was contrary to their best interests in order to support him or to curry his favor. And there are those who know better but who are giving up their right to vote or resist out of disgust, disappointment, and disillusionment and laying bare the field for this being’s success.

Some of the side effects of being around a true Narcissist who can cleverly distort the reality around them is a feeling of having been abused, brutalized, and asking if it is they who are crazy. Has the current political environment become so distorted that we have become a nation of fearful, self-indulgent and self-serving narcissists? We’ll see. But bringing back a balancing agent to our politics and our rhetoric is a first step in the national therapy our country needs for we have seen what happens to a society that is unable to heal itself and deal with its fears it becomes insular, delusional, domineering, dictatorial, and aggressive toward others and towards itself.