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Chapter Three

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Vasalisa the wise!

I remember reading this as a kid, it was this beautiful picture book I can't seem to find anywhere now.

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I am wondering about the idea of the "too good mother" that estes talks about.

I read an article in which someone was referring to the death of the parents in Frozen as more parental casualties from Disney, and that Disney hates parents. Which is actually not the case. As there is the "too good mother" in this particular classic archetypal tale about Vasalisa there is the archetype of the too good parents. And as with both Frozen and Vasalisa the parent(s) death becomes the catalyst for the women of the story. They are kicked out of the nest so to speak and set forth on adventures in which they grow up through facing obstacles.

But what happens when you never had the "too good mother"? I certainly never did, and many don't. Maybe the death of the TGM in this case occurs only in our minds when faced with the flaws of the actual parent. Or the abuse by the actual parent is a metaphor of the death of the TGM, and we start our adventures much earlier than most. And instead of having the wise voice of the little doll in our pocket we actually have to do the work of finding our own voices of intuition.

Of course in the story the little doll is a metaphor for Vasalisa's intuition passed down/taught by the TGM. But in the case when you don't have a TGM that wisdom is not always passed down.

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"To grasp the [meaning/lesson] of such a tale, we understand that all its components represent characterizations of a single woman's psyche undergoing and initiatory process. Initiation is enacted by completing certain tasks. In this take there are nine tasks for the psyche [intuition] to complete. They focus on learning something of the ways of the Old Wild Mother".

The tasks are meant to imitate the intuition or psyche and learn by having to use the intuition to complete the tasks therefore growing its strength. I feel like sometimes we don't know where to look for our intuition and circumstances of ending up somewhere as scary as Baba Yaga's hut can call it forth like we would our instinctual fright flight. Sometimes ending up in abusive relationships or abusive family dynamics can also cause us to dig deeper as we search for ways to survive and overcome. I have often felt a need to connect with that deeper intuition to help me heal up from the abusive family dynamic.

" Through completion of these tasks, a woman's intuition-that knowing being who walks wherever women walk, looking at all things in their lives and commenting on the truth of it all with swift accuracy- is re-set into a woman's psyche."

I found the answer to my earlier question about the too good mother:

" For some girls, however, the process of developing a new, more shrewd, inner mother-the mother called intuition-was only half completed then, and the women so inducted have wandered for years wishing for and wanting to the complete initiatory experience, and patching themselves up as best they could. The arresting of a woman's initiation process occurs for various reasons, such as when there as been too much psychological hardship early in one's life-especially when there has been no consistent "good- enough" mother in the early years. The initiation may also be stalled or uncompleted because there is not enough tension in the psyche- the too -good mother has the stamina of a formidable weed and lives on, waving her leaves and overprotecting her daughters even though the script says, "Exit stage left now." In this situation, women often feel too timid to proceed into the woods and resit it all they can."

I think that perfectly sums up my urge to not wander into the "woods" and how I feel very much paralyzed. I think for me this process was stalled because of the childhood abuse.

"there is a good wise remedy. A re-affirming of, a re-tracing or initiation will re-set the deep intuition, regardless of a woman's age. And it's the deep intuition that knows what is good for us, knows what we need next, and knows it with lightening speed... if we will just take down its dictation".

I think to know how to hit that reset button I would need to know what those experiences in everyday life outside the fairy tale look like and how I can re-create them. Estes talks about moving from preadolescence to adolescence and I am assuming if you have been stalled in the process you are dealing with an inner child who needs to complete the journey. Adolescence is full of drama and new experiences and initiation among our peers and initiation to their processes/cultures. So is the process perhaps coaching the inner child through the feelings of those different stages in a more fast track way?

I think we all know that the TGM that has stayed to long sounds a lot like an inner critic or better yet:


So maybe that makes me like Rapunzel, unlike Vasalisa I have never had the TGM die and never been given the little doll or ventured off into the woods. I am still running this script:


So because I am a Nice Girl (syndrome) I stay in the tower, and remain terrified of the world outside but also very curious.

I want out but can't imagine not listening to the TGM.


Maybe Rapunzel provides the much needed archetypal story for someone (me) who has been stalled and is not yet a Vasalisa. We can actually see the process of either not having the TGM or having it take over. And we see Rapunzel go through this process and feeling torn about leaving, but then she finally does anyway. We also see her finally venture into the woods and come out the other side. Eugene could even be seen as her animus/guide that help propel her forward and helps her navigate new surroundings and circumstances.


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The second task- exposing the crude shadow; the Rapunzel perspective.

"The stepmother and stepsisters represent the undeveloped but proactively cruel elements of the psyche. They are shadow elements, meaning aspects of oneself which are considered by the ego to be undesirable or not useful and therefore are relegated to the dark. On one hand, shadow material can be quite positive, for often a woman's gifts are pushed into the dark, hidden there and waiting to be discovered."

I think of the shadow elements in Rapunzel being all those murals painted in her bedroom that link her to who she really is. They are continually under nose but not in the conscious mind.


"On the other hand, negative shadow material-that which busily kills or detains all new life-can also be turned to one's use, as we shall see. When it erupts, and we finally identify its aspects and sources, we are made all the stronger and wiser."

I think that Mother Gothel aside from being a TGM or "Smother" is also some of the shadow elements that try and choke and kill new life springing up in Rapunzel or at least any new life that is a threat.

"In this stage of initiation, a woman is harassed by the petty demands of her psyche which exhort her to comply with whatever anyone wishes. Compliance causes a shocking realization that must be registered by all women. That is, to be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. It is a tormenting tension and it must be born, but the choice is clear.

We see Rapunzel go through this torment when she finally leaves the tower.


I have felt this way pulling out of an abusive family system, and recently telling my sibling that I could not be what they wanted and I could not be torn in two anymore. I think this picture/scene captures that first feeling of freedom, then the grief, freedom, grief and maybe even a little anger (I know I was/am angry). But as Estes says the choice becomes clear and we separate from that which is asking us to tear ourselves in two. I know I have mentioned and others as well how you are really armoring up and preparing to feel like an a-hole, as well as brace yourself for exile.

(Yes I am gleefully adding all these pretty images forgive me if there are too many)


"As Vasilisa [Rapunzel] is not yet fully conscious of her powers, she allows this evil crimp in her lifeline. In order for her to regain her life, something different, something life-giving must occur."


Eugene is perhaps not only the animus aspect of Rapunzel but also the change catalyst that shakes up her world, that "something different" Estes describes when he climbs up the tower.

"The same is true for us. We can see in the story that Vasalisa's intuition into what is happening around her is quite flimsy, and that the father of the psyche doesn't notice the hostile environment either; he is also too-good and has no intuitive development himself".

In the Rapunzel story, the father is completely absent = metaphorically not intuitively available.

As I go through this particular story I keep thinking how much the idea of "Nice Girl Syndrome" comes up.

"Like Vasalisa we may try to be nice when we ought to be knowing."

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