I have always loved books. My favorites are those with an unexpected twist of events. I do love fairy tales but not necessarily the standard simplified good versus evil where the demure princess is rescued by an unknown prince. I’m drawn to the retold fairy tales where where the villain becomes the hero and the hero the villain. I like the ones where the characters are more complex than all good or all bad.
The story of Maleficent is one of those reimagined fairy tales. She is the evil fairy who cursed the innocent Aurora when she wasn’t invited to the party. In the retold story, we find a much more complex character. She is both villain and hero, perpetrator and victim, guarded and vulnerable.
If the booming tv, film and book industries pumping out new versions of old stories is any indication, I know I’m not alone in my fandom. There is a deeper psychological reason for this. The characters in these stories are far more relatable. When we are young, our understanding of the world is very black and white. There is always a villain and always a hero, and ne’er the two shall mix. As we grow up, we find that there is more gray to be found than black and white. Many still struggle to understand this. We distance ourselves from those who we deem “bad” rather than seeking to understand. We numb our feelings of guilt because it threatens to overwhelm the image of ourselves we have created. Yet, if the retold fairy tales can guide the way, we can find a way to see ourselves with a deeper understanding.
The First Draft
Your story has already been told a thousand times over by many different narrators. These stories become a part of how we define ourselves. This is the first draft. Negative core beliefs are very often the characterization of another narrator. Our task is to reclaim the narrative role and begin to edit out what doesn’t belong.
This is where the magic happens. This is the opportunity to tell the more complete story. We don’t change the facts. The protagonist does not simply become the hero who does no wrong. In the retelling, the healing begins when we can look at ourselves and those around us with compassion, understanding, and honesty. When we do this, we can see ourselves and those who hurt us with both good moments and bad. For those who experienced childhood abuse, this is an important part of healing. It means we don’t have to cycle between the confusion and guilt of whether to trust our memories and feelings. We can remember and trust both the positive and negative memories which allows to compassionately set boundaries for our physical and emotional safety.
To Be Continued…
Your story is not over yet. The final chapters are not predetermined. The truth is that the future is uncertain. There could be an unexpected turn of events that could be a happy surprise or something that rocks us to our core. We can not always anticipate or change these things. Yet, as the next chapter unfolds, what is within our control is how our character chooses to respond. We can seek to find a thread of hope in the midst of darkness. We can evolve our character into who we want to be. The villain can become the hero. The victim can become the victor. This is your story. How will you tell it?
Hannah Lindsay, MSW, LCSW-C, provides individual and family therapy in or Sterling, VA office and virtually. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Hannah.