Through the use of Jungian dream analysis this paper explores the significance of the Fairy Tale in its application to  psychotherapy and attemping to extract insight to further good practice. 

Key Words:


complex.   anima.  shadow.   feminine/ masculine.    Ego.   archetype.  


I have spent over twenty years reading  all the Collective Works of Professor C. G Jung and continue to find his theories relevant to my work as a Clinical Psychotherapist working with Psychiatric out-patience here in Ireland.  In this paper I try to illustrate several things:

First, I hope  to demonstrate the method of analysing a dream outlined by C. G. Jung:

Secondly, I will apply Jungian analysis to a  fairy tale as if it were a dream, and thereby illustrate the method itself and at the same time explore the relevance of Fairy Tale to the understanding and workings of the mind:

Thirdly, I venture to make a further deduction that  Fairy Tales are likened to ‘big dreams’ [who’s] ...’chief significance lies in their intrinsic meaning and not in any personal experience and its associations (Jung1960:291). I will  start with trying to put the dream into prospective per se and vis a vis its application to the fairy tale.

I assume most readers to be Psychotherapists or those who take the dream seriously. To do so would constitute developing a 'constructive’ approach or technique (Martin 1956:36-67, also see Jung 1971:147-163 and Jung 1990 80ff). Jung advises the therapist to see the dream as a welcome assistant in the treatment plan, as it illustrates the client's situation bringing memories, insights and experience to the fore. The dream is suggesting new points of view and ways of 'getting over the dreaded impasse in the momentary adjustment of one sidedness,' by offering deeper insight and experience to the analysis. Jung considers it impossible for anyone without knowledge of mythology and folk lore to diagnose the dream (Jung  1960:237-300). Whatever the case, when investigating the workings of the psyche from the unconscious and the conscious and all points between must be considered.


The significance of the unconscious:

We are still at a very primitive stage of understanding the workings of the psyche. The importance of dreams, imagination, myth and fairytale holds little credence set against the importance of consciousness and scientific study. And yet, historically the former has always been with us. All the great religions give the dream high priority and Christianity is no exception.  Fore instance, there are no less than five dreams associated with the birth of Christ, each playing a significant part in the story. Perhaps the semi conscious was acknowledged to play a greater part in events than is given credit nowadays, or is it the notion of chance and accident feature more now than in past times?


To take dreams seriously does not mean inflating the meaning of dreams or emphasising the significance of prompts in dreams beyond the ‘Ego’s’ own significance (Jung 1960:323). Likewise, refusing to explore the dreams importance could also become increasingly counter productive, resulting in suppressed feelings and eventually undoing conscious intention (Jung 1990:111). Jung saw the dream as an interplay between the unconscious and the conscious. I find most people today relegate the dream to yesterdays excess thoughts and feelings, and generally to ignore its content. I suggest we all need to ponder what our own attitude is to the dream.  I, like Jung, consider the dream a kind of video, but its language is in the form of symbol and metaphor;




Where and when does anything take place to remind us even remotely of phenomena like angels, miraculous feelings,  beatitudes and resurrection  of the dead etc,? ...during the unconscious state of sleep, intervals occur, called 'dreams,' which contain scenes [of] the motifs of mythology. For myths are miracle tales (Jung 1981:35).




The ‘constructive’ technique:

To aid our understanding of the therapeutic process involved in evaluating the dream I have use the fairy tale ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’(Opie and Opie 1980:211ff). I also will rely on two of four techniques defined in the 'Constructive Technique'(Martin 1956:36ff) to help understand the tale as if it were a dream by the hero Jack as the dreamer. So Jack becomes our client, who has just dreamed about the bean stalk.


The four techniques Martin extracts from Jung’s work are stated below and are worth quoting for the serious reader who wants to continue understand how to explore the dream (ibid).

However, techniques three and four below are sufficient to demonstrate the story.(The implication is that the therapists task is not identifying the problem so much as helping the Client understand the dream for themselves.)


 1. The Therapist needs to seek the Clients own amplification (i.e., accentuation, magnification and enhancement of the dream, but definitely not association).


2.Like the philologist's device of deducting meaning from an image that appears in many different dreams the Therapist helps the Client through a process derived from many dreams.


3. The Therapist helps the Client with the mythical background of an image.


4. The Therapist RE-presents the primitive or naïve interpretation. (e.g., from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Emperors New Clothes'

'"But he has nothing on!" a little child cried out at last.' (Andersen 1983:63)).

I would add a fifth point of ‘parallel’ whereby the Therapist demonstrates a ‘coinciding’ in the dream of any symbolic events and helps the Client link with what is happening in real life.


Seeing as we have only one illustration here No 2. above is redundant, and we cannot rely on the Clients own amplification in this paper, but No’s 3 and 4 remain valid.

To edify the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk in its authentic form I rely on Opie's historic findings in 'The Classic Fairy Tales' (Opie and Opie 1980). While exploring the details, I hope also to apply a little of Jung's notion of myth that is also present in the fairy tale. By ‘myth’ I use Jung’s definition of an expression of patterns of energy held deep in the psyche, common to all, known as the 'collective unconscious'(Jung 1960:11).



 Just in case you are unfamiliar with the story or want a quick reminder, it goes as follows:

When Jack was a baby in arms his father was killed by a giant of a man. The giant then sent off the mother and baby under the threat of death and proceeded to take all the loot to his castle afar off. Jack and his mother continued to live alone in poverty.

We are told Jack was a good natured, indolent boy until he reaches about fourteen years of age.

One morning when there is no food in the house except the failing dairy cow. Jack is sent off to market to sell the cow and meets a wily old butcher who, knowing Jack's ingenuous character, offers to buy the cow for a handful of beans saying they are magic beans. Jack accepts this offer, takes the beans home and incurs the wrath of his mother for striking such a poor bargain. She throws the beans out of the window and the next morning several have grown and intertwined into an enormous beanstalk reaching to sky. In spite of his mother's agitation, Jack climbs the beanstalk and finds himself in a strange land dominated by a wicked giant in his castle.


On the first visit, before he reaches the castle, he meets a fairy in the guise of an old woman. She reveals to him that his father was once a noble upright man, murdered by the giant and robbed of his possessions. It is Jack's duty to take back what should have been his and eventually he must kill the giant. Our hero has to make three visits to the giants' castle, each time going against the pleas of his mother.


During these visits to the castle Jack stole or, rather, recovered three possessions. On the first journey he returned with a bag of gold and silver, and on the second journey he returned with the hen that laid golden eggs. Both times he had hidden in the kitchen and managed to acquire the goods while the giant slept. On the third visit he took the magic harp, which called out and woke his master. Jack was pursued by the giant, reached the bean stalk and called for his mother to bring out the axe while he climbed down. He had the advantage of youth and not having a heavy meal and wine inside him, unlike the giant. Jack reached the ground in time to cut down the bean stalk, which resulted in the giant falling to his death. Jack and his mother lived in peace and happiness with enough to eat and without anxiety.

Applying the Fairy Tale to contemporary problems:

Fairy tales are the stuff of the collective unconscious, in other words they are deeper than personal and occur during the critical phases of life (Jung:60 291). So essentially this is a story for boys who are reaching puberty, but it does not exclude girls. However, looking if we looked at this story as if it were a dream of a girl it would take on a different emphasis. I took the challenge of exploring a Fairy Story for girls and the implications of the dream taking the client as a woman when I analysed ‘Snow White and The Seven Dwarves.’


So in the main I confine my comments here as if the dreamer was a young male in this paper. Secondly, I use classical Jungian terms, so that the word 'feminine' refers to the 'Anima'[1] within our hero (Jung 1987 :138ff). So I am not talking about women per se but feminine qualities. I have feminine qualities and value them greatly. Having made the distinction between feminine and woman, needless to say, the distinction between masculine and man makes the same point. So this story is just as relevant to women, as we are all in there somewhere!


Now let us consider what would be the dilemma of a client having such a dream as this?

If the Client was in the same state as the story begins he would have a father who is absent and therefore as good as dead, and his ‘shadow (Jung 1960:208) would be represented as the Giant, (the damning male still unknown to him.) His feminine represented by his mother is anxious and struggling.

So our client would be a youth or a man with a boy -like mentality, a bit like Peter Pan, who had no shadow and was unable to grow up. One rule of dreams is that 'What happens in fantasy is ...compensatory to the situation or attitude of the conscious mind'(Jung 1995:310). To have an extraordinary dream like this would indicate extreme compensation for the client's real life situation. Our hero would probably not have moved out of home to face the world. I would suggest the primal relationship was the mother/son and therefor very primitive, as reflected in the development of the gods in ancient Greece. (For an excellent study of this subject see (Harrison 1991:257ff) where she describes the making of a goddess.)


Another basic rule is that the whole dream is part of the dreamer himself. Consider What if Jack, our dreamer, was never able to contact the giant within himself. The bean stalk is his only way of "finding out," or of connecting. Therefore, if there was no bean stalk, our dreamer might find himself unable to do anything about the giant within. He would be "split" and could find his personality taking on "giant" proportions unknown to himself. He may relive his fathers life, Clinically I work a lot with women who self harm. The act of self harm is thee act of communication between one complex and/or another or between the Ego and a complex[2]. The act of cutting is a primitive method of survival against gigantic inner forces.  


However, if the Ego were unable to keep in contact with the Complex Schizophrenia or megalomania might be one outcome for such an unfortunate.  So fortunately our fellow has the bean stalk and that path also resembles a phallic path to his ancestry, the emergence of puberty represented in the been/seed which was scattered by his mother.

A case example:

I have come across many a boy who was the classic Jack at the beginning of our story when doing Social Work with delinquent children, most of whom incidently, did not grow up with a father in the house. However, their problems were not clinical but anti social.

One child’s main problem was the absent father. He was a boy of 14 years who’s father died suddenly when he was five years old.

There were many siblings in his family, so when the tragedy occurred, this boy's grief had been overlooked by the remaining family members, no doubt stuck in their own grief.

He was a charming boy, but his social behaviour was stuck at the age of five years. When he was referred to me he was a leader of a gang of younger children, and when alone acted like a boy of younger years too. In the home he was quite capable of antagonizing  his stepfather to the point of fury. Like Jack's father, this child’s natural father was known to have been a good man. Part of my work with this boy included imaging re-entering the dark room where he lay ten years earlier stricken by grief and, as it were, let some light in (awareness). Only then could he face the grief he was suffering and move on. Thereafter, his social behaviour soon became age related. The antagonism between stepfather and step-son reached manageable proportions.


To return to our story, Jack's lack of 'father' (or lack of integrated 'father') resulted in Jack and his mother being stuck, and his mother sustaining him on milk from the one remaining cow. Her failure to maintain him alerted the crisis in the first place. Jack's dependency solely on milk for nourishment at his age is obviously regressive and totally inappropriate. He is dependant upon his mother, still at the breast as it were. The story states a little about his character. He is '...indolent and useless about the place,...careless and extravagant, quickly over remorse,..' and it seems, he was easily put into a temper and ‘silly...' If that were not enough he was also described as '...frightened easily...' (Opie and Opie 1980.214). He is obviously ruined by a mother who over compensates in her caring. These are the traits of "boy mentality," all too prevalent today. Sometimes such behaviour is not dependent on age. Men can behave like boys, unresolved and captured in a grown-up body some emotionally dependent on their mothers others emotionally dependent on their wives.

Of the giant himself, there is even more description in the story than of Jack, he was a '..schemer, impatient, told lies,..'(Ibid:214) and actually murdered the boy's father. This situation is very symbolic because if I examine the psyche of the boy's father, we gain insight into what lies ahead for Jack. He had to reclaim the nature of the father, and balanced this with the nature of the giant, thus integrating the opposites within himself. Jack is as yet, unaware what his father was like, or even knew the giant existed. But his mother knows, and was afraid to tell him.  The feminine in the male represents his instinctive qualities.

He would know there was/is some secret his mother will not tell. Perhaps he dare not ask her what happened to father at this stage in his development. The attitude of ‘what you don’t know you don’t have to be responsible for’ is typically feminine. But Jack had an enormous urge to adventure.

A case example:

A mother, whose son was on a rehabilitation programme was  too afraid to let go of him even though her husband resented him and was jealous of her attachment. The relationship between mother and son was so interdependent it was interfering with his rehabilitation programme. The unit tried to detach him from his mother, but all attempts only succeeded in increasing her anxiety. It was through the psychodramatic technique of Role Reverse with her son that she became aware of her secret fears for her boy. This process helped her untangle her needs from his. After the work on her own needs, she was able to let him go both emotionally and socially. The same young man now lives away from home and is doing well. She herself went on to develop a more mature relationship with her husband.


Jack's mother also represents the state of his own feminine, as it is usually from the mother that the Anima is formed: '..thus confirming the psychological rule that the first carrier of the anima-image is the mother.'(Jung 1995:388) The indulgent mother, is aware, but too afraid to face her fears. This is all a bit like Adam and Eve, with Eve knowing first about the fruits of the tree of knowledge. Adam had to bite the apple himself after Eve. Perhaps this symbolizes the feminine within the male is the first to know. The duration between the two bites was not defined in the Old Testament. The feminine or anima carries the knowledge of the ancestral problems but is unable to relate this information as the impact upon the immature Ego (Jack) would be too great for it to bear.


The gap between the conscious and unconscious is great at this point in the story and renders Jack to suffer from 'moods' which further aggravates his inability to deal with the world.


Analysing the masculine in the Fairy Tale:


Now enters the next figure in the story of Jack, the butcher, a man who eats meat, kills animals and transacts business with people in the marketplace, every day of his working life. There are only three other males in this story besides our hero, and the butcher is the only "normal" person we are to meet. Although he had a brief appearance in Jack's life he is very significant and seems to have been the turning point for Jack.


The butcher appeared hard and cunning, yet he is the therapist and the catalyst Jack needs. The Client who is at this point of seeking help is also at the point of maximum vulnerability. Consequently, at this stage of Jack's life, our milk-supping wimp, is no match for the butcher, as the story prove. Jack has no sense of value, and money is the symbol of value, the exchange between people and money is a mystery to him. The butcher offers the boy beans (seed). This is a tale of a boy who has reached adolescence (makes seed). At this point in life it is appropriate to begin an adventure involving "making father within". It should be addressed before attempting to "make father without". The notion of seed is inherent in the story.


Jack climbs the bean stalk (up his rejected seed). The ancestral single bridge between father/giant through the brave action of the son. The bean stalk is like the mystic tree reaching heaven and is a very old concept (Eliade 1989:70). In alchemy the tree symbol grows out of the male loins, whereas for the female the tree grows out of her head (Jung 1993:256, 267). Could this latter symbol suggest the woman's development might be hidden in educating her shallow opinions and the mans development comes from control of his passions or moods? But sure! Such a remark might be considered sexist if it were not of mutual concern to both gender.


Before a child can 'make father within' he has to face what his own father has avoided. In Jack's case his father was so benevolent he lost contact with his darker nature. This darker nature rose up within the father, gigantic and totally unconscious, exaggerated or out of proportion and very dangerous. A man is dangerous to himself and others if he is unaware of his darker side. There is a saying here in Ireland for such a man ‘He is a street Angle and house Devil.’

On an international level the act of splitting the good from the evil can be useful to the State but of limited value to the individual. Placing the evil onto others can be instilled through proper gander where the public projects his dark side onto his enemy. ‘The Axis of Evil’ is an apt illustration.

(I constantly remind myself the S.S. were 'The Police'.) If driven to an extreme a person becomes a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In our story, psychological splitting resulted in the father dying.


Observations from Practice:

When working with adolescent who broke the law, most of my "therapeutic" work involved the young person owning their negative projections.

I once introduced them to a group of adolescents who had learning difficulties. Initially the young law breakers were afraid. They then moved to a point of being very protective of their less able friends. They saw the needs of others rather than their own fear of others.


Consider the father of Jack himself. Here is a man who has never known his own shadow. It seems the Shadow tried to take over the Ego itself, for we learn the giant was 'hoping to integrate himself into his fathers favour. He removed quickly into [the fathers] neighbourhood ...'(ibid:217). This is a case where the Shadow hopes to integrate but ends up usurping the ego. When you think about it, it is the father, the good side of the personality that should integrate the bad or darker side, not the other way round. It is indeed a huge problem Jack faces. His father’s problems are out of proportion, even giant, and therefore unconscious and ignorant. This means that, at this point in the story, our Jack lacks any awareness of greed, cute knowledge and native wit just like his father, because all these qualities are held within the giant.


Interesting, the "national psyche" of the English fairy story is about tales of "cunning". For example there is much cunning found in the hero's of ‘Puss in Boots,’ ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ and no doubt others.



Analysing the feminine in the Fairy Story:

The story states Jack’s mother loses her temper and then feels remorse, fails to teach her son anything and also fails to learn anything from the experience. Instead, all is a useless expression of concern and no resolution is forthcoming. This regression to "mood" is typical of the inferior feminine aspect of the male psyche. It is only when Jack defies his feminine, do things begin to happen, that is, the Ego becomes sufficiently differentiated from the unconscious feminine within to be able to act alone.


On his journey to meet the Giant Jack has a (chance) meeting with the second female, the old woman, or guardian fairy, and discovers the secrets about his father’s death and loss of fortune. She describes at length what a good man Jack’s father was. Referring to the giant she actually said '... this man  was altogether as wicked as your father was good...' (Opie and Opie 1980:217) [emphasis own]. Jack’s father could not accept his own shadow, so it killed him. There is clear evidence in the story that the father was totally unaware of the giant's wish to kill him even at the point of death; '...the giant took the opportunity and stabbed him. He instantly fell dead...' (Opie and Opie 1980:217).Perhaps it is as well to remember that if the ‘shadow’[3] chooses to turn on the ego, you would not last the night (Jung 60:208).


Another feminine part of our hero can also be found in a footnote the Opie's mention in an earlier version of the story where the old woman Jack met en rout was depicted as a beautiful young woman with a peacock (ibid:216n). This image of a peacock is an ancient alchemical symbol that represents the soul or the unified self (Jung 1993:419). This second woman presented herself as such a symbol, enabling the youth overcome all obstacles (a recurring theme in the 'hero' fairy tale). She is his guide, the inner woman, whose task it is to lead the soul. She gives him guidance '...Never let your mother be made acquainted with your journies beforehand...' Remember his mother was '...stupefied with horror and grief his father's death ...and was motionless...' So she remains '...locked in pathological grief and is in need of help herself to break loose from her trauma...'(Opie and Opie 1980:217-218).


So on our hero goes to meet the next feminine figure of significance,  the third and final woman in our 'story cum dream.' Jack meets the giant's wife. He 'begs' for help from her and so learns what it is to be cunning, and by that learning enters the castle (ibid:220). If we reflect for a moment, Jack has to break away from his mother, first by defying her, then by keeping a secret from her and then learn about his own father from the second woman en rout. Finally, he has to learn to deceive the third woman. By so doing he draws closer to his own complex, that ball of energy holding a whole life of its own: The Giant and the giant's wife (who is also the feminine part of the complex.) In this case she is so much underdeveloped  she unwittingly is the means of her husband's death.


The Application of Moreno’s Co-unconscious:

Moreno termed a notion of Co-unconscious which he defines as ..moments of “joined” inter association (Moreno 1975:52). ...a common content, or what might be called a “co-unconscious” (Moreno 1975:50).

Throughout the story this co unconscious described by Moreno occurs between some of the roles within the story and in some instances helps resolve the conflict. Fore instance there is an eventual healing relationship between Jack and the Butcher. But this is not always the case, as in any relationship one person might be more aware than the other as to what is going on as was Jack when deceiving his mother and the giants wife.



A ‘critical path’(Lang:1970) becomes evident in the story illustrated in Figs 2 to 4 above, which needs to be discerning and requires timing in its unfolding. The psychodramatic method per se does not allow for such discernment and can even disregard the unfolding required to reach a constructive conclusion when exploring co-unconscious relationships according to Moreno’s own examples of practice:

‘People live in close symbiosis, like mother and child...., develop in the course of time... I have frequently been confronted with emotional difficulties arising between individuals living in close proximity. “I was then not treating one person or the other, but an interpersonal relationship or what one may call an interpersonal neurosis. I, the physician, became their auxiliary ego’(Moreno 1975:50).

Although there is a need to work with the co unconscious I would disagree with Moreno’s enthusiastic explanation that to do so would always be useful or even wise.


A case example:

A young single mother with a new born child could no longer accept the security her own mother offered. It increasingly felt like dominance. The frustration built up until she gained enough strength to take charge herself. In the mean time she practised psycho dramatically to face her mother.(Without her mother knowing.) At one point it felt like jeopardising all that was secure (a sacred cow)  for some proposal, (mere magic beans). Like Jack, her journey did not include hurting her mother needlessly either.


The need to integrate the masculine and feminine:

There is always the contrast of opposites. The boy, upon meeting the butcher, makes his first step towards manhood (albeit then unknown to himself). The old woman whom Jack later meets on his journey to the giant's castle, is actually a fairy who was turned into an old woman as punishment for not protecting Jack's father. She was restored to full power at the same time as Jack met the butcher (Opie and Opie 1980:218). Here we have an example of mutual integrated growth of both the masculine and feminine forces within the psyche actually stated. It seems that when the male part of the psyche faces a reality, the feminine is then in a position to disclose some inner truth to him. However, the duration between the feminine knowing and the telling had not yet transpired, for we read that first his feminine (at present portrayed by his mother) throws his seed (beans) all over the garden. She too is an equally important part of his development. Both female figures are unconscious and need integrating. Jack (who represents the Ego) has to addresses the integration of the mother before he can start his journey. At present he can now only enter a "mood" when faced with difficulties. He is unable to face feelings or cope with stress. The nature of his mood is aptly described when we read about his mother.


A case example:

A young male client, I once worked with therapeutically, shared all he had with his family and held nothing back. Through role reversal, we discovered the extent of power his mother held over him. I suggested he keep back ‘one stick’ when he next chopped wood for his mother, without her knowledge. This one stick proved the changing point for him. He went on to secure his own life outside his extended family.


For Jack to know the truth, there is a price (as with all truth!), Rather than face the truth within ones own soul, man would rather seek flight as the means of coping. It takes as much energy to avoid what is to be avoided. Our Jack, however, does not run off at this stage. If he did, this would become the basis of a neurosis. 'Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call... is threatened with neurosis' (Jung 1995:304). Not following the call of the archetype hero may result in Jack resorting to a more primitive image, that of the archetype[4] primordial child. Cybele’s devoted child Attis.


The journey to the Complex:

Consider for a moment the whole description of the land where the giant lives as inclusive of the complex itself. This includes the castle described as 'having a sight of grandeur', but it is also 'forsaken and desolate' (ibid :220). This indicates the complex has a 'mood or atmosphere.' Jack is in the realm of the unconscious where other parts of the self dwells '...the groans of those  poor victims whom the giant reserved in confinement...' (Opie and Opie 1980:220). There are many rooms within oneself too. 'In my fathers house there are many mansions' (New Testament-John 14:2)). The Self has many components and in the case of this complex parts that are seldom used as it is described as 'dark' indicating the lack of awareness. In this dark place, deep within the complex there is alchemical gold to be found. A complex is all energy, trapped off from the Ego. Jack, the Ego (the subject) is affected by the visit to this land. The object, the land and its buildings is also affected by the Ego.




There is much to learn about what affect terrain has upon the psyche. I often address the place where an injurious offence or trauma took place in my clinical work. The place itself is actually neutral and not causal. However, to neutralize the area within the psyche may involve revisiting through active imagination or through psychodrama or even encouraging the client to revisit the scene of the event. The terrain can actually form part of the complex itself. Such a visit can be healing, and especially so for post trauma syndrome. All religions have rituals that help transform the terrain, rituals to bless and clean out, to rid as illustrated by Harrison citing the ancient Greeks ...And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited. (Harrison1991:105).




The notion of a parallel is becoming apparent here. Consider for a moment that ‘what if’ our idiosyncrasy is like washing on the line. What we are examining here is not the washing, but rather the washing line itself. It is that line upon which our essential differences hang. The cloths are Beliefs themselves. Without our beliefs we are naked. If we push the notion further then fairy stories are but patterns on the clothing which we can weave into our lives offering contrast to our beliefs and values offering an additional means of overcoming and coping. Consequently, these excursions to the land of the giant impact elsewhere in the story. As any development in one part of the psyche is always reflected in the counterpart. I recall Jung saying where there is a high there is a corresponding low.



When Jack eventually returns home triumphant from his first trip to the land of the giant there is no surprise to learn he also had to overcome several hardships at home to redress the imbalance. He is now able not to tell his mother when he plans to return.

He acquires new strength He is able once again to climb back up the bean stalk knowing where there is pending danger: He has to become hungry, and he has to 'rest on stones'. But he has more ability to cope with the increased difficulties.

Observations in Practice:

Part of my brief as a therapist is to help the clinically neurotic face the unacceptable part of themselves, to assist the client visit their secret memories of their own giant within (the complex) and help them steal back some silver and gold (energy) locked in there. The energy, thus rescued, can help further healing, in spite of the discomforts experienced upon return. Time is also needed between journeys, for the client to digest what has been learned.


It seems it is not enough just to counterbalance, but also to use what was brought back from the complex in the real world, (to make conscious). The energy restored from the trip to the complex may take the form of well being, sleeping better or able to do tasks previously considered too perilous. This restoration should also encourage the client to embark on a further exploration to the complex like our Jack did.


The danger to the Ego:

Jack's visit to the complex must be short, or he will be in danger of becoming part of the very problem. The Ego also affects the complex itself: the giant smells the blood of an English man and instinctively becoming more aware. The opposite must also be true as the story tells, for the wife of the giant hid Jack in the oven, the bread bin. This is at the very centre, or the "womb" of the castle where Jack heard even more truth. Revelations unfold from every direction for our hero.  The Ego is more aware at the expense of the unconscious complex. There is no attempt to integrate the complex into the Ego.


The route is established so upon arriving at the castle for the second time, the woman outside is 'as before', which means the complex has not increased in consciousness sufficiently to detect another assault. And so with the help of a disguise, he again "conned" his way in. He even sympathised with her, because she was angry with the last visitor as '...both wife and the giant lament its [the gold and silver] loss...'(Opie and Opie 1980:222). Jung talks of the complex having a personality, and here we can see the complex cannot itself develop without the aid of the conscious ego. Here we see the ego choosing to deceive the complex, keeping it ignorant and wanting to rob from it. We also  can conclude that some complexes remain too difficult to integrate with the ego. Thus, the Ego has to salvage what it can, but the complex is increasingly alienated and angry. Perhaps, Jack’s complex is so ancient that it cannot be integrated.



Expanding the theme:

...What if...Jack were to identify with the complex? Would this result in 'hero worship' of the giant? His symptoms would be like an actor always on stage, performing or acting out, trying to impress the giant within. Jack might even start a fan club!


Again, what if....the giant took over Jack himself? The medical condition of Psychosis would then result. Equally, Jack might find himself in front of a forensic psychiatrist, facing murderer and/or thief, or living off stolen proceeds (similar to the giant). Of course, the giant, dominant in Jack, would not listen to reason. This sounds like trying to persuade men who batter to see reason and give up their tyrannical reign. Freeing Jack from that situation would require a new fairy story.


Exploring emerging patterns:

Between visits, our giant's behaviour has deteriorated somewhat. His riches are declining and he has resorted to abusing his spouse. Because of the loss of the gold the giant blames his wife who narrowly escapes a beating by going to bed. Perhaps it is the unconscious desire of the giant's wife to bring down her husband that lets Jack in the second time. There are deep stirrings of increased anxiety felt by the complex, for this last visit by Jack the giant has a little dog that starts barking when he has a nap. Jack has to feed it meat to placate it. The dog represents the instinctive part of the complex which is becoming more aware. Another indication of growing awareness can be found in the statement that '...daylight is breaking as Jack attempts his escape...' (Ibid:225).


The feminine in the conscious ego is also suffering along with her female counterpart in the complex for when Jack returns home he discovers his mother has become ill. For one thing Jack now knows all there is to know about his father so his mothers deadly secrets are known. She must worry for her sons safety as he was away the longer on his last visit. Another reason for her suffering is that he cannot tell her when he plans to leave because of the rule imposed by the third female in our story, the old woman or guardian fairy.

The fairy (or old woman) who only appeared after Jack met the butcher was the one who produced the conflict for the other two. It was she who gave him motive and reason to seek out what was rightfully his.

This parallel can be found among the three male forces where the butcher plays the same role. He introduced Jack to the real world, the market place of life.


Exploring the significance of symbol:

Let us reflect here on the significance of what has transpired:

There is an increase in the disturbance of the complex and there is a parallel increase in the awareness of the Ego.

On the first visit he stole silver and gold which was eventually spent. The loot of gold and silver represents energy which has been shifted from the complex to the self. Initially Jack and his mother enjoys the spoils and repairs the house (i.e., the body).  Perhaps it is noteworthy that in the analysand the client needs to utilise energy thus gained before proceeding.

The next item of energy taken from the complex is the hen who lays the golden egg, symbolising both spiritual and worldly energy 'whence the double eagle is hatched, wearing the spiritual and temporal crowns...' (Jung 1993:201). With the magic hen, Jack returned to face his mother 'boldly'. The spoils of the second visit resulted in an endless supply of wealth via golden eggs from the hen. The egg represents promise and is a symbol of the unified self to be, or "to become". Jack's theft is far more valuable the second time.

He has no reason to return!


There is an increase of awareness in the mother too, for we learn from our story that '...In the three years with his mother, his mother has become more aware too....and endeavoured to discover the cause...but Jack is mindful as the ...fairy's menaces were ever present...'(ibid:224).


Although Jack had returned with the loot it was not a peaceful time for him. He chose mid-summers day to return the third time - when the light (or awareness) is at its height '..the longest day... '(ibid:224). Again he defies his mother's explicit wishes - thereby increasing his own identity and breaking the incestuous bond of mother/son. Our client must chose a time when they are at their strongest before attempting such a hazardous journey again.

Jack is not safe while the giant is at large and the beanstalk is still standing. Consider the consequence of leaving a client in this predicament!

As before, the mask must go on for his final return. When he approaches the dark feminine (the giants wife) he continues to show respect, recognising her status as a key figure to his future success. Although he has mixed feelings about her, there is reference in the story that Jack was experiencing fear and prepared to die as '...Jack thought his death-warrant was signed.' (Opie and Opie 1980:225). This part of the story is reminiscent of the Shamanistic experience of near death and also journeys into the sky (Eliade 1989:482-494). Death suggests something is about to change.


Last time it was the dog that made things difficult, this time it is the harp that raised the alarm by its shouting. The harp itself did not want to displace the loyalty it felt for the giant, but perhaps it was blind and unaware of the nature of this master. Music falls upon the ears of the good, bad and indifferent. Its master is the one who listens. The harp represents the gift of music and artistic appreciation and is an integral part of the complex itself. Having a good time seems to accompany a blackguard.  Music has to do with quality of life and it could not be rent from the giant without notice.


Taking a lesson from this, we can conclude that not all parts of a complex are bad. When one begins to be cut off, it can also take with it such things as ‘quality of life’ and thus leave the ego bereft. We are all made up of complexes, even the ego is a complex. What is not good is the spit of a complex from the ego. So thanks to the bean stalk Jack can at least retrieve something.

Observations in Practice:

When working with people who self harm a symptom of minimal communication between complexes occurs when a client is cutting themselves. There is a ‘co-unconscious (Moreno ibid) communication between the complexes. So in one way, thank goodness the separation

is not yet complete! In such cases I focus on the cutting as a means of

a ritual that addresses the complex by the ego, albeit not a very useful one.


It seems Jack is not going to get all he wants from the complex as he must now abandon the castle, leave the spouse and the poor captives trapped behind iron doors, (Iron being the ancient enchanted metal from out of the sky- it was used  as far back as Egypt to fashion the Anc).

Having grabbed the harp, its shouting wakes the Giant to hot pursuit. Jack uses the long day to facilitate his escape and eventually enlists the support of his feminine, his mother by shouting for her to fetch the axe as he descends the bean stalk. Without her help he cannot defeat his enemy. She helps him to defeat the monster, or has a hand in it, so to speak. This contrasts with the giant's wife, who's role in the tale seems to have destroyed her man. Cooperation between the feminine and masculine recurs again and again in myth and fairy story. King Arthur was provided with the sword from the very depth of the lake by the nameless ‘Lady of the Lake’ is also an excellent example.


The story ends with the giant falling to his death in the garden, (still in the ego space of awareness.) Now the enemy lies harmless within the home ground, by contrast when our story opened with the mother fleeing in fear from the giant. In the footnote of Opie's book, the mother is confronted by the fairy, both women could unite in understanding (Opie and Opie 1980:226n). So both male and female forces benefit simultaneously, within our hero. It could be said that the giant and Jack unite in the only way possible too. It seems there has to be a compatible development of opposites, if this was not so, one will undermine the other.

Observations in Practice:

When working with clients who present with a 'low' self esteem or depressed aspect of themselves, I look for the compensating 'high' even fascist aspect of themselves hidden somewhere within.( Whatever presents consciously, has an opposite corresponding unconscious.)


Jack still needs to reconcile the feminine within himself. To do this he asks forgiveness of his mother and promises faithfully to look after her, and all benefit from the elusive spirit in the form of the harp. Jack attains the good parent within, that is, he integrates the qualities of his father with his own cunning and can move on to attain fulfilment. Jack has father and spirit, along with the feminine, all integrated as four in one.


Working with Fairy Tales in practice:

Some complex conclusions:

Through using Jung’s ‘Constructive techniques’ in Dream analysis I have tried to demonstrate some of the mythical background of the images, re-present the obvious and looked for patterns or coincidence to make connections with therapeutic practice.

My first reference to practice was helping a boy overcome the grief of his father’s death, but even total absence of the father, as in the case of Jack, there remains quite infantile or non-knowing fantasy. The therapists like the butcher in the story, offers the prospect of change.

The story points to a pattern or sequence of developmental events that are useful in dealing partially with men who present with infantile behaviour carried over into adulthood.

An assessment of symptoms can help identify at what stage the journey a person has reached. This will involve addressing the clients relationship (or attitude) to the complex, eg., denial or reluctance (resistance) to seek the hero within. 

If the client is still suffering abuse caused by another, no venture on any hero journey should be contemplated until the abuse has been resolved or stopped.

The Therapist (like the Butcher) offers the prospect of change through insight into how to approach the complex. The seed of the possible is planted in return for the sacred cow of security.


Such a confrontation with the Client will have an impact, recalling previously suppressed knowledge, involve returning to, or anticipating unresolved traits in the Clients own family which have carried over into their lives. From what has been observed in the story it is the internal problems, the complex, that will predominate in the analysand and not the external or manifestation of the problems in the world.

However, Moreno would utilise the Co-conscious approach to increase awareness.

Later the focus engages the complex with the Ego forcing a separation of their story from themselves. At this stage the patients story is part of them and not he who is the story teller.

It can also be seen from the story that the consequence of co-unconscious  between the significant auxiliaries in the story as the tension mounts in the protagonist Jack.

This process develops until the Ego forms sufficient 'differentiation' or separation from his/her mood. Once sufficient differentiation is formed, visiting the complex itself can be undertaken via a variety of techniques within the function of 'active imagination.' (I myself use psychodrama and mono-drama and hope to develop a technique I call sand-art.)


I know you probably think I’m obsessed with them, but here are my ‘Complex Conclusions.’


I wish to sum-up advisedly by taking the (therapist) reader through some of the essential steps with a patient who presents with similar problems to our hero Jack.

Contrary to Moreno’s Co-unconscious approach resolving mutual unawareness alone is not enough to solve problems. When the why of the problem is understood, the problem still exists! It seems that for the patient  to re-enter a shadow complex safely several things need to be sorted:

!         The Ego must remain in charge at all times:

!         The purpose of entering the complex must be made clear:

!         The way froward and exit must be available: (which may include developing a psychic place of safety before hand.)

!         Resistance is an internal boundary preventing the ego from being swamped by the complex. Resistance needs respecting.

!         The client will determine when to re-enter the complex.


!         In the mean time, parallel work can be done by the therapist with the patient on the surrounding terrain in which the shadow complex resides, which is likened to the stage where the drama took place (the Temenos). This approach can have a tremendous positive affect on the client and will act as a guide to feelings for the therapist to determine how able the client is to proceed.


!         All of the above produces a strange mix of events. It must increase tension to get the client to move from the presenting impasse and at the same time if the direction is positive, new energies are found and insight gained.


!         Due to increased insight there is a higher degree of discontent with what went before, as the client now sees (with new eyes) what they are doing. This is very frustrating to witness. Behaviour that previously went undetected by the Ego is now all too apparent, and it seems the client still is powerless to do anything about it. The symbol of the spiral is useful here. The client is not going round and round but unfolding and increasing their experience. So if they pass by the same feelings the spiral helps them to see they have ‘been round and gone round’ since then and gathered extra knowledge. So it is not ‘the same again.’


!         Evidence of identifying with the complex or being overwhelmed by it is all too apparent at this stage. This work must be balanced with Ego strengthening tactics so that the client becomes more aware of their own state and previous damaging patterns of behaviour.


!         The tension then mounts as the 'Transcendent Function' comes into operation (Jung 60: 67). The shift in attitude by the Ego (Jung 60:311) results from the increased awareness which is robbed from the complex and thus shifts the perception. Thus the ego becomes increasingly dissatisfied with what was acceptable before. There is a shift in energy from the complex to the Ego.


!         When working with complexes I take as a yardstick of developing the most useful attitude, the most helpful attitude, and the most constructive attitude toward the content of the complex. From thousands of hours practice I have concluded there are four steps or stages the Ego needs to transcend to arrive at ‘the most useful attitude’.

!         Willingness to proceed is paramount, and has the power to withstand the problem in hand, but being willing alone is not enough, it requires the second attribute of Acceptance.

!         To accept the complex and its content is primary and like willingness, it needs to be continuous or renewed. This attitude never stops but will continue all ones life. An acceptance of ones lot!

!         The third attribute to have toward the complex is Respect. Respect is two way. Jack had to respect the giant of he was dead, dead, dead. Likewise the Client needs to respect themselves.

!         And finally once the above attitudes are consolidated in the Client, negotiation between the Ego and the complex can take place.

!         Conversely, I never get into what is right and wrong as this is the stuff of the Priest and not the focus of psychotherapy.

!         Complexes themselves are not the problem per se nor will they ever 'disappear.' The problem lies in the attitude to the complex. A differentiation of the Ego from the client’s 'story' helps initially. Awareness itself changes both the Ego and the complex, expanding the former and diminishing the latter, but unless the client is prepared to addressed behaviour in concrete terms there is no point in pursuing the work together as the insight gained still has no focus or objective.


I have come to acknowledge the tremendous contributions both Jung and Moreno offer to my work with psychiatric out-patience. Jung offers me the context and Moreno the  methods to explore the inner story of the patient and help them get back the energy previously disparate within them. I feel tremendously humbled and at the same time invigorated in my work. I offer an image of my own to conclude:


Bent with the hunger, hooked with the cold

a frail woman hobbled off in dark cloths.

Her haggard look exceeded her years,

as scars of abuse hung about her ears

like a swathe of pain cutting a wake

gross her shame and engrossed in her ache.


The wrecker had left her shrine dark and bare.

Every orifice had been forced, ruptured

leaving his seed of destruction festooned,

manifestations of harm  there clustered,

planted in the torn flesh of a small bairn .

This was the tale I felt  privileged to bare .



Anderson, H, C, (1983), The Complete Illustrated Stories of Hans Christian Andersen Chancellor Press London.

Eliade, M, (1989), Sharmanism Arkana/Penguin, London

Jung C, G, (1995)The collected Works. Vol. 5 Symbols of Transformation. Routledge London.

Jung C, G, (1971)  The collected Works. Vol 6 pt XI. Psychological Types' Routledge London.

C. G. Jung (1990) The collected Works. Vol 7 Two essays on the analytical psychology

Routledge London.

Jung C, G, (1993) The collected Works. Vol 12. Psychology and Alchemy  Routledge London.

Jung C, G, (1983)  The collected Works. Vol 16 'The Psychology of the Transference' Ark Paperbacks. London.

Jung C, G, & Kerenyi C, (1993) Essays on a Science of Mythology  Princeton Chichester, West Sussex.

Jung C, G, (1960) The collected Works. Vol 8 The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. Routledge London.


Jung C, G, (1987)‘Dictionary of Analytical Psychology (Extracted from The collected Works. Vol 6 ‘Psychological Types’)  Ark Paperbacks. London.

Martin P, W, (1956) Experiment in Depth  Routledge London.

Harrison Jane Ellen. 1991 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion.  Princelton

Opie P,& W, (1980) The Classic Fairy Tales. Granada Oxford.

Moreno J. L. (1975) ‘Psychodrama’ Second Volume ‘Foundations of Psychotherapy’ Beacon House

Lang D.W.(1970) ‘Critical Path Analysis’ St Paul’s House. London,


   I use Jung’s definition of ‘anima’ as soul, whereas animus is spirit.

                 Historically, the former is feminine in nature and the latter masculine (Jung 1960:342).


  Jung’s definition of ‘complex’ is a fractured piece of psyche that may well

                have it’s own limited consciousness (Jung 1960: 97).


 Jung reminds us that the Shadow contains all that the Ego rejects.


. Jung describes Archetype as inherited presuppositions... of psychic life of our ancestors

               right back to the earliest beginnings (Jung 1960:112).



You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


  • You're welcome, Esther. I'm glad I made you smile. :)

  • Thank you J.D. for your submission. Very insightful, and I learned a lot from it.

    “The dream is suggesting new points of view and ways of 'getting over the dreaded impasse in the momentary adjustment of one sidedness,' by offering deeper insight and experience to the analysis. Jung considers it impossible for anyone without knowledge of mythology and folk lore to diagnose the dream (Jung  1960:237-300). Whatever the case, when investigating the workings of the psyche from the unconscious and the conscious and all points between must be considered.”

    A die-hard fan of M.L. Von Franz, I couldn’t agree more with your analysis of Jack and the Beanstalk, citing references from your own experience in the therapeutic setting. As a layman, I find it hard to accept the seemingly direct prompts from the unconscious, which is trying to correct behavior or provide insight to me (the conscious attitude) in my dreams. Several times throughout the article, I related experiences from my own dreams and this exposure mounts the ‘evidence’ that I am accumulating, understanding that each experience (or dream) is unique and other factors are considered.

    In a dream from this year, I had dealt with a shadow figure a bit harshly. Later in the dream, a friend said, “you’re in trouble. You’ve been on this level for too long.” Thinking that my ticket had expired, I dismissed the comment. I ran into another dream character who also attacked me. Handling this incident better, I was then presented with a taste of incredible, Wonka type candy (which was a specific dream goal of mine: taste). I attribute the experience to working it out, yet I’m not confident enough to firmly claim my analysis. There is a lot more of this type of content in my dreams, which I attempt to corroborate with experience like this.

    The next item of energy taken from the complex is the hen who lays the golden egg, symbolising both spiritual and worldly energy 'whence the double eagle is hatched, wearing the spiritual and temporal crowns...' (Jung 1993:201).

    This particular symbolism is very interesting to me personally. I appreciate any and all references to it and have enjoyed the commentary and pictures from Jung, vol. 12, Psychology and Alchemy (picture 20, page 64 among others). I was exposed to the symbolism before reading Jung and having the capacity to understand it, so I relate to it profoundly when I see it.


    • Dear Randy,
      I consider the dream is an expression of the psychic immune system which helps retain psychic balance. This applies to my own personal development and for those with whom I help create the necessary temporary adjustment that Jung referred to as 'healing'.
      With reference to the symbol/emblem of the two eagles/birds, it remains important for you to understand and eventually integrate what this means for you, even if I knew, it is totally irreverent. There are many facets of such an image. And may well be a symbol of unity/balance where two unite to make one, etc,.
      The most important dreams for me in retrospect are Warning dreams which have stood me in good stead, helping me avoid calamity even misfortune as well as offering a way forward. A deep knowing accompanies such times.
      There is another paper I need to consider for this forum, only on the basis to let it go while I am able.
      Regards. JD Stephen.
      • Thank you, JD Stephen. Yes, I think that my dreams have shown me in obvious ways when I needed to retain or achieve psychic balance, often in situations I had no idea that I had a one-sided conscious attitude.

        I had meant to say that I understood that the symbol was archetypal, but that I had these personal associations to it. I haven't dreamed of it but wonder if its motifs can be found in the content. There is a lot more for me to learn, of course.

        Yes, please post more on these topics, especially the fairy tales analyses, which are fascinating.

  • I want to study this article and approach more carefully

This reply was deleted.