fairy tales, lived experiences, Self-care, therapy, workshops

The therapeutic power of fairy tales

I have been fascinated with storytelling, and more specifically fairy tales, not only for the rich and indirect teachings they offer to people across ages and cultures, but also for their gentle and visceral access to issues and inner dynamics that we normally do not engage with via our linear thinking.

Fairy tales, long told around fires in twilight and in darkness, provide ancient maps for the collective unconscious. As Freud spoke of Dreams being the Royal Roads to the subconscious, I see fairy tales and myths (both being quite different in structure and moral) as these highly elaborate structures built by language but also by body, tone, context, and expressiveness of the storyteller, that disrupt the rational mind and go straight into the unknown, the mysterious, the deep layers of your psyche that usually get very little air in our everyday live.

I was first drawn to fairy tales during my childhood, growing up in Eastern Europe in the 80s there were plenty of Russian folk tales that were told and re-told from generations, each adding its own Bulgarian flair. I remember being fascinated with ‘Mashenka and The Bear’ story. I spoke it in whispers almost every day at bedtime to my only doll. I remember sitting in the backseat on the floor, on that raised little spot of our car Lada (no seat-belts, of course) and going with the story on repeat. Every single weekend on our way to my grandma’s village. My favorite moment was the one where Mashenka yells from inside the basket: ” I see you, Bear! Do not sit for a rest, hurry to get the hot meal to my grandparents!”. My poor parents! I did scream these phrases over and over again with the most dramatic voice!

The idea of the story is of a clever young girl called Mashenka who managed to outsmart the cruel Bear who had kidnapped her. She used wits and the Bear’s weakness to trick him, hiding in the basket and making the Bear bring a hot dish (banitza – a typical Bulgarian dish) to her grandparents and thus escape being his servant for life.



I recently revisited the tale and analysed aspects of it. Such analysis seems to be critical for one’s own psychic integration process. Going back and exploring the stories that were dominant during our childhood illuminates the main ideas that used up most of our mental space and energy. Exploring this can provide an insight into the structure of our own ‘becoming’, as well as a good leeway for change.

For me, it must have been all about outsmarting the adults in my life. I will not go into that but I will only say that this revelation managed to make a lot of unconscious material suddenly click and fall into place. Such moments I call the quiet ‘aaaaa right…’s that move us from a stuck place to one of more air and potential for growth and self-compassion.

The image of the Bear is not without its complexity either. I quite enjoy the Archetypal energy of the Bear symbol. In the Myth of the Goddesses: An Evolution of an Image (an absolutely fascinating read!) the very first concrete representation of the Mother image (4500BC) was the one of a bear. A small animal totem of a Bear holding her cub made out of clay. I will leave the images work its magic for you here…


I believe that all children are entertaining the same archetypal dynamics and these usually relate to their interactions with parents and carers, as well as their own internal configurations of Ego and Self. It is these interactions that become alive and are visualized, concretized, and transformed into visible actions in fairy tales and in myths. Each step, each character, each place carries a significant aspect of the human experience.

Entering the dark forest, for example, is a clear symbol of one’s acquaintance of the dark and unexplored aspects of one’s Self, regardless of developmental stage. For a little child this represents all the unknowns and mysteries of life and the unimaginable future of becoming an adult, hence, the forest is unimaginably scarier.. For an adult, this can be any new undertaking, new milestone of unexplored before emotions of experiences.

Eventually we come to think of every character of the fairy tales as an aspect of ourselves. The evil stepmother or the cruel scary witch are the inner teachers or the Freudian representatives of the superego – all those imposed moralistic ‘should’s that are there first to be obeyed, and then to be resisted, usually after a rite of passage or a whole hero’s (and Heroine’s) journey – to be finally overturned. Only then can we emerge as grown and balanced integrated selves.

The role of fairy tales is to ignite the process of integration through the works of Active Imagination (a term CG Jung uses to describe the process of Individuation and of becoming one’s true and authentic Self).

Does this story serve you any longer?

I have been fascinated in using such creative approaches to therapy in assisting people to first become familiar with their own inner story, the one they usually tell the world and themselves, and then to unpack and explore that story. Only after we can approach the key question of whether this story serves us any longer. Or does it need mending, stitching or a complete re-writing. All these are possibilities. Actually anything we can imagine, we can do!

I am creating a 5-week in-depth exploration of the story on Feminine Intuition, where we will collectively explore our own stories, guided by the ancient fairy tale of “Vasalissa, the Wise”.

Ask within for advice

Join me in this adventure, starting June 20, 2019 in Geebung, Brisbane, Australia.

Love, Aleks

5-weeks Feminine Intuition Workshop


Reviving the neglected parts of our psyche through story-telling and art.


This is a 5 consecutive weeks event aimed at exploring The Archetypal force of the Wild Woman and the powerful initiation process of awakening your Intuition. Your Intuition is your best adviser, your compass, your guiding light.

We will dive deep into story-telling, sharing and learning about the inner work needed to integrate the parts of the psyche that support a whole individual.

As women, we live in a contemporary age where life demands a lot of us. Oftentimes, we can feel drained or depleted physically, energetically and emotionally due to all that we give of ourselves. This series is designed to help replenish, strengthen and sustain a healthy, robust and functioning SELF that directly influences our day-to-day activities and relationships.

• Explore the age old psychic mapping of your soul through Fairy Tales
• Dive deep into the Maternal, the Shadow, the Wise Old Woman, and Non-rational Archetypes
• Learn about the role of Archetypes in your life
• Learn the 9 tasks to initiate your own Intuition in a deeply personal and safe space
• Reignite your own creative fire and set concrete goals
• Experience a deep sense of healing and wellness
• Feel empowered, nurtured and in touch with your true self
• Enliven some hidden or silenced creative parts of your soul
• Feel re-energized
• Create your own piece of art to solidify everything you have learnt (during the last session*)

Lara will co-facilitate the 1st and will lead the last sessions.

WEEK 5 will culminate in applying all our knowledge creatively and engaging with hands on ART with LARA. Basic materials are provided, you will be guided to select your own additions as the workshop progresses, as each piece must carry your own meaning and small material.

Join me in dropping down to your true nature, awakening and activating a softer, more intuitive, sensorial and responsive feminine self, while being held and supported by other women in our “Horo” (a women’s open circle).

Work with me while supported in a genuine, accepting and judgement-free space. Facilitate an inner approach to leading a prosperous, spiritually connected life.


Aleksandra Staneva is a Bulgarian woman, a mother and a world traveler. She holds a Doctorate in Psychology, specializing in Maternal Mental Health (BA and Masters in Psychology). Aleks she is passionate about story-telling and the power of re-writing our own stories. She supports women and mothers, struggling with distress. Aleksandra is an author of numerous academic publications in Psychology, Feminism, Midwifery and Health, book chapters in Mothering studies, and a series of children’s books on understanding and normalizing mental illness. She uses psychoanalytic, art, gestalt- and mythological-informed approaches to work.

Larissa Deak is a Brisbane based artist and mother with a background in physical and visual theatre; her current focus is puppetry, crafting, and community engagement through creative play. Larissa has worked with Vulcana Women’s Circus; Access Arts; ERTH Visual and Physical Inc.; Stalker Theatre Co.; Windmill Performing Arts; Hands On Art; QTC; Korea’s LATT; Sydney Puppet Theatre; Plasticiens Volants; and The Wiggles; amongst others.
Larissa holds a BA in Theatre Theory and Practice (UWS) (Intercultural Theatre; Theatre Making in Communities) and a Grad Dip. in Management (Arts) (UniSa).


5-weeks on Thursday evenings (20 June; 27 June; 4 July; 11 July; and 18 July)
Allow between 2.5 and 3 hours per session (feel free to stay and migle for the last 15 minutes), and some reflection between each week (journaling, etc.)
This is an intimate space for up to 8 women
Tea ceremony and art materials included.
Bring your yoga mat, a shawl, and journaling materials (if you wish).

Total cost $250 paid at booking
Aleksandra Staneva
BSB: 064210
AN: 10220897

Location details: Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness House
293 Ellison Road, Geebung, 4034
“GROUPS” entrance

Contact and more information at: horoforwomen@gmail.com
More about Aleksandra: www.aleksandrastaneva.com


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