Awake: The Sleeping Beauty Depth Perspective

I feel moved to write in more depth on my choice of practice name, as it feels important for the concept to be clear and accessible. The original intention was to invoke the underlying message of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, if the story is viewed from a depth perspective, wherein each character and element of the story is understood to be an aspect of one individual’s psyche. The deepest intention of my practice has been to help people with waking up, for lack of a better way to put it, their deep self, or their soul, sometimes (when appropriate), viewing their presenting concerns as doorways to get there. Modern mystic Andrew Harvey, in a Sounds True interview, surmised that most of us are “drowning in the comatic soup” of the culture, and feel impelled to turn off or numb the internal signals that something needs to change, or that we’d like to live a life that is more in alignment with who we really are.

I recently attended a workshop with therapist Jane Latimer, wherein she described the essential self (or Buddha nature, Atman, or whatever you want to call it) as a dot in the middle of a piece of paper, with the ego structure and ego defenses as a large circle extending around the dot. Much of our ego structure, and all of our ego defenses, were constructed as adaptations to the world we found ourselves inhabiting as children. Since we relied on others for our survival, we found ways of being in the world that were most conducive to getting our needs met and being pleasing to others in that early environment. This does not just include family of origin (and that is a huge topic, about which I will just say that parents tend to do their best with what they have and know at the time), but it also includes teachers and other, broader societal systems. When the early environment is traumatic, the journey towards finding our inner stability, clarity and calm can feel even more daunting, as the most painful self-concepts and defenses tend to cluster around the middle of this circular map, sort of as the last dragons to be calmed before getting into the inner sanctum, or getting into the tower of the sleeping beauty, if you will 😉

Often, these very unhelpful adaptations, or ego defenses, are the impetus to seek therapy, or to go on other journeys to find a way towards wholeness and peace. In this way, trauma (big trauma, or small trauma) in early life or later life, can be an invitation to go on this journey. I noticed, as Jane was speaking, that what she was describing reminded me of one of the many mandalas that Carl Jung drew in The Red Book, or the older mandalas (from which Jung drew inspiration) that can be found in so many mystical traditions throughout the world. Here is an example, taken from Jung’s Dreams:

And another one, from the same book:

I realized, that if we view Sleeping Beauty’s castle from above, it is a similar image:

Forgive the slipshod rendering! My intention was to emphasize the fact that, in the original fairy tale, the tower is surrounded by thick layers of thorn and bramble, and anyone intending to get inside has to find a way to cross through this challenging terrain. Think of that aspect of yourself, the “prince,” if you will, as the aspect of psyche that intends to commit to health and life; the aspect of psyche that decides if would be a good idea, for example, to seek therapy. It is trying to get to the center, just as the prince, in the fairy tale, is intent on rescuing the princess from her imprisonment in a perpetual sleep. One of my favorite things that Jane said during her talk was that this essential self, at the center of the mandala, or at the top of the tower, however you want to view it, can never be damaged by trauma. It remains, with all of its innate gifts. The vestiges of trauma are what clog the way to this essential self, sometimes producing the illusion that this other, more whole self can never be reclaimed. But it can; it is inviolate.

This is what I have noticed in working with trauma. Often the gifts and charisms remain, in clear view, for others to behold, even with the vestiges of trauma still causing suffering in the carrier of those gifts and charisms. Everything that makes the traumatized person lovable is often still clearly, and obviously, there. It is just not obvious to the trauma survivor. Often, they are too caught up in their pain to be able to see themselves clearly.

We do not have to identify as trauma survivors for this map to be applicable. I believe it applies to all people, which is why its variants can be found in so many world cultures. Often, though, it is particularly applicable in the case of severe, or obvious trauma. All the old fairy tales originally acted as allegories, or maps, for helping us understand processes of psychological transformation. I hope this is a helpful map for any who stumble upon it, and an interesting insight into the name of my practice 🙂

Photo by Pixabay

Published by annaliseoatman

I am a heart-centered, trauma-focused, licensed therapist with five years of experience working with traumatized, system-involved children and youth, adults moving through addiction and recovery, and older adults in skilled nursing facilities with HIV/AIDS-related health struggles. I earned an Oxbridge Masters in Philosophy (Mental and Moral Sciences) at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and a Masters in Social Work, with a concentration on mental health and direct clinical practice, at the University of Southern California. I love empowering, and healing trauma, and doing soul work with passionate, free-thinking, creative women, or anyone who has ever identified as having the female experience. My approach is warm, empathic and grounded, and I integrate an attachment perspective with a somatic and depth approach to healing trauma.

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