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Muñoz, M.A. (2008). Fairy Tales and Trauma Presenter: Robin S. Goldberg, Ph.D. Date: May 3, 2007. Am. J. Psychoanal., 68(3):301-302.

(2008). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 68(3):301-302

Scientific Meeting of the American Institute for Psychoanalysis

Fairy Tales and Trauma Presenter: Robin S. Goldberg, Ph.D. Date: May 3, 2007

Michele A. Muñoz, Ph.D.

How is it that fairy tales endure the test of time across cultures? Dr. Robin S. Goldberg, Training and Supervising Analyst at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis in New York City, explored the psychodynamic reasons for the lasting power of fairy tales and their role in helping children deal with the calamities of childhood, using the popular Harry Potter series to exemplify how these themes are addressed.

Goldberg first discussed the psychoanalytic significance of fairy tales likening them to dreams in “their form and structure” in that “symbolization, condensation, displacement and distortion…. distancing and externalization…. primary process” and wish fulfillment are features of fairy tales. Their importance in the psychic life of children is evidenced by the frequency with which aspects of fairy tales are found in the dreams of adults. Goldberg referenced Freud's treatment of the Wolf Man in which the “image from a book of fairy tales was an important element in the analysis of a dream” eventually leading to the reconstruction of the primal scene. In a reciprocal manner, fairy tales and the mythology of a culture are derived from dreams that are then retold and elaborated by others with only those “that portray universal conflicts and fears becom[ing] tales that have an ongoing presence and significance.”

Referencing Bruno Bettleheim's book, The Uses of Enchantment, The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Goldberg explained that fairy tales take the conscious and unconscious existential dilemmas of children seriously promoting “hope, growth and development.” Unconscious oedipal anxieties and their derivatives are often the core conflicts addressed in fairy tales providing children solutions within a reassuring “cohesive structure and a predictable happy ending” that is not found through play.

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