King Thrushbeard: Interpretation of the fairy tale according to the Jungian perspective and analogy with brief dynamic psychotherapy with a Communicative analytical psychological orientation. <br> by Russello C., Berivi S., Casamassima S., Grassi A.

“Between being and essence”. Watercolor technique by Annarita Murri

King Thrushbeard: Interpretation of the fairy tale according to the Jungian perspective and analogy with brief dynamic psychotherapy with a Communicative analytical psychological orientation.
by Russello C., Berivi S., Casamassima S., Grassi A.

Keywords: fairy tale, King Thrushbeard, Animus, Anima, brief dynamic psychotherapy.

Abstract: According to Jung’s perspective, fairy-tale motifs are archetypal images that have great relevance to practical life (von Franz 1972). For Jung the archetype is an “a priori category of experience and knowledge” (1936 1954). Jung was able to say that fairy tales allow us to better study the comparative anatomy of the psyche: they are, in fact, the purest expression of the psychic processes of the collective unconscious and represent the archetypes in a simple and concise form (Von Franz 1970). Von Franz believes that almost all fairy tales revolve around the attempt to metaphorically describe the process of individuation, or rather, the process of incarnation of the Self. The author claimedthat after having worked for many years in this field, I have come to the conclusion that all fairy tales aim to describe a single psychic event, always identical, but of such complexity, far-reaching and so difficult to recognize in all its various aspects, that it takes hundreds of fairy tales and thousands of versions, comparable to the variations of a musical theme, for this event to penetrate the consciousness (and even so the theme is not exhausted). This unknown factor is what Jung called the Self. It constitutes the psychic totality of the individual” (Ibidem).

Starting from these premises, we would like to provide an interpretative key to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale “King Thrushbeard” by proposing an analogy in a clinical key, through a single case of a patient who completed a course of short dynamic psychotherapy with an analytical psychologicalcommunicativeorientation.

Our working group shares with von Franz the same study interest in fairy tales, in fact “for the scientific investigation of the unconscious they are worth more than any other material […]. In this pure form, archetypal images offer us the best clues for understanding the processes taking place in the collective psyche” (Von Franz, 1970).


The precious contributions of Carl Gustav Jung and his famous pupil Marie-Lousie von Franz have made it possible to understand that fairy tales speak of psychic contents that are very far from human consciousness and how much they are based on some universal functions of the psyche.

In the content of fairy tales, we observe the purest and simplest expression of the psychic processes of the collective unconscious. In fact they represent the archetypes in their most genuine form (von Franz 1970). Thanks to the psychology of CG Jung, it has been possible to obtain some conceptual tools that allowed us to fathom the meaning of fairy tales and to grasp their teachings and their beneficial effects throughout generations (von Fraz 1972).

The fairy-tale motifs which are, according to Jung’s point of view, archetypal images, have great relevance to practical life (ibidem). Jung defined the archetype as an “a priori category of experience and knowledge” (1936 1954). On the epistemological level, archetypes, as structural elements (a priori categories), fall within the scope of the possibility of perceiving and representing, i.e. formative factors of inner representations and therefore a priori conditions of their structuring (Jung 1927, 1931). On the ontological level, archetypes are impersonal and universal, constant and invariant, congenital, mythologically organized and therefore, producing “knowledge” in the language of myth (Berivi 2012a).

Among the various archetypes, those most present in fairy tales are Animus and Anima.

To orientateourselves in the interpretation of fairy tales, von Franz (1970) suggested following valid rules. Like how a dream is interpreted, the author divided the archetypal story into its various aspects starting from the introduction (time and place, “once upon a time…” and number of characters); then describing the narrative, or beginning of the problem; this phase is then followed by the peripétia and the conclusion . “When working on a fairy tale, therefore, we are faced with the fundamental structure of the psyche, a sort of skeleton from which the muscles and skin have been removed, leaving only the elements of general interest” (von Franz 2002) .

In light of this premise, our attempt here is to offer an interpretation of the fairy tale “King Thrushbeard” by the Grimm brothers, with reference to the Jungian psychic functions of the Archetypes Animus (inner image of the masculine in the feminine psyche) and Anima (image of the feminine present in the masculine psyche).

Furthermore, we would like to propose a clinical interpretation of these two archetypal functions through the demonstration of a single case of brief dynamic psychotherapy with a communicative analytical psychological orientation, carried out within the safe frame setting of Robert Langs (1973-74, 1980 , 1983, 1985, 1988, 1996, 1998).

Langs deepened the study of the “unconscious communication “of an interactional type between the patient and therapist, particularly analyzing the important role of the therapist’s interventions on the patient’s responses. His complex and articulated theoretical-clinical model of communicative psychotherapy is characterized by four fundamental aspects. The first aspect is the “decoding system” of the patient’s communications by derivatives[1], which represent the plot on which the therapeutic relationship is based. The derivative is a product of the emotional mind that takes the form of a coded message that symbolically communicates the exact perception of reality and of the emotional and affective reactions that reside in the unconscious and are unacknowledged by the conscience. Derivatives are observed in the patient’s associative communications, in the session, in the form of descriptions, stories of facts and characters, storytelling and film plots, dreams, memories, slips of the tongue and omitted acts. This method, based on the systematic analysis and decoding of unconscious communications, makes it possible to assume what the patient says, as an “unconsciouscommentary” of what happens in the therapist-patient relationship, increasingly considering the patient’s unconscious as a “supervisor of the therapist himself. The second aspect involves the new model of the mind elaborated by Langs who sees in the “Emotional Mind “the metapsychological corollary on which the concept of illness, treatment and health is based. The third aspect concerns the reformulation of the concepts of “transference and countertransference”. Langs differed from the classical analytic approach by reformulating the very concepts of transference and countertransference and of analytic neutrality[2].

The fourth salient aspect of Langs’ technique is the setting up of a methodological scheme which provides precise rules for identifying the “safe framework“. Thanks to his numerous clinical contributions, Langs (1976) revealed that in all patients there is a congenital unconscious arrangement of stable rules which governs the therapeutic relationship. From this, it follows that the inescapable task of the psychotherapist was to establish the rules of the setting, to maintain them and to interpret any attempt to go beyond them (Berivi 2012b). It is precisely these rules, agreed upon in the initial contract, which precisely determine the “safe framework”, i.e. the only one capable of promoting a curative psychotherapeutic process (Grassi 2012).

In light of this, Langs (1998) asserted that it was a dutiful “task to once again dispel the fear and doubt that these ground rules are too rigid, too difficult to establish and maintain, and too problematic for patients and therapists. […]. Successful therapeutic work will not be possible until the therapist offers the safest setting to his patient. Ultimately, a deep appreciation of the role framework and framework interventions makes all forms of psychotherapy much more effective” (Langs 1998). Conversely, the breakage of the setting represents what abruptly and clearly alters the rules of the treatment, consequently modifying the analytical set-up. This alteration sometimes comes from the patient, thus configuring a transference act; other times from an error (or an action) by the therapist, therefore countertransferential; finally others from a fortuitous circumstance, generally from irrelevant information that the patient receives from third parties. In any case, the context in which the process takes place is disturbed (Etchegoyen1986).

The meanings of the safe frameworktouch the fundamental areas of human vulnerability of the patient and of the therapist and the relief obtained through the deviation from one of the basic rules always has a pathological or inappropriate component (Grassi 1999). Thanks to the safe frame setting”the patient can recognize and face, accompanied by the therapist who shares them, the anxieties[3]that afflict him and from which he escapes through attempts to break the setting and madness” (Berivi 2012b).

In summary, maintaining a safe framework allows the patient to:

  • develop an underlying feeling of trust;
  • establish clear interpersonal boundaries;
  • have unconscious support for his contact with reality;
  • be able to establish a healthy therapeutic symbiosis with the therapist;
  • develop a context in which dynamic and genetic events converge on the patient’s core emotional disturbance, rather than on the therapist’s psychological problems;
  • perceive the presence of adequate holding and containment;
  • be able to receive adequate frustrations and wholesome satisfactions;
  • be capable of an introjection of healthy narcissistic aspects of the psychotherapist (ibidem).

In agreement with what Langs argued, our research group shares with the author the importance of maintaining a safe frameworksetting, as it offers the best possible conditions within which a curative psychotherapeutic process can be rapidly developed (Langs 1985).

In summary, if on one hand Jung’s theoretical-clinical contributions on Archetypes and von Franz’s precious studies on fairy tales allow us to underline their importance for the scientific investigation of the unconscious, on the other hand we believe that the communicative clinical method by Langs is the most suitable for observing these archetypal dynamics. In fact, by recognizing the patient’s personal shadow, i.e. the predatory unconscious nature of his inner conflicts, the therapist can, in the first phase of psychotherapy, accompany him towards self-awareness. In the second phase, which we could define as confrontational, the therapist will be able to support him in assuming an ethical behavior of the Ego towards the truths emerging from a stabilized relationship with the unconscious (Grassi 2012). “In order to catalyze the patient’s psychic transformation, however, the therapist is required to have already reached the same stage, as Jung taughtus” (ibiem).

Interpretation of the fairy tale “King Thrushbeard”

The Brothers Grimm fairy tale (1951) “King Thrushbeard” tells the story of a king exasperated by his daughter who, not wanting to marry, mocked all the suitors who come to court, rejecting them one after the other. Among these there was a good king, with a pronounced chin, appealed derisively by the princess as “King Thrushbeard”. Upon hearing this last slander, the father king lost his patience and threatened the girl to marry her off to the first beggar who knocked on his door. A few days later a musician, filthy and shabby, started singing under the window to ask for alms and when the king heard it, ordered him to marry the princess. The king had the parish priest called for the celebration of the wedding and at the end of the ceremony the musician and the princess leftthe royal palace and went towards the man’s house. During the journey, the couple crossed a large forest, then a beautiful meadow and finally arrived in a large city. At the sight of all this, the princess wondered who owned all those goods and her husband told her that they belong to King Thrushbeard. Arriving at her husband’s miserable house, the princess had to learn a trade (weaving rushes to make baskets, spinning, selling pots and pans at the market), but she failed in everything and suffered an adverse event. The husband patiently put up with the poverty together with the woman and tried to find a more suitable occupation for her. Eventually the princess agreed to be a scullery maid in the kitchen of the royal castle. To provide for both of them, she tied small pots to her pockets and then filled them with leftover food from the lunches and dinners of the noble castellans. One day the wedding of the king’s eldest son was celebrated at court and during the celebration the woman recognized the famous King Thrushbeard as master of the castle. Seeing her hidden behind the curtain, he took her hand and in the act of drawing her to him, the cord in her pockets broke and all the leftover food contained in the saucepans fell to the ground. Ashamed, the princess tried to escape, but King Thrushbeard stopped her and revealed that he was actually the musician, her husband. King Thrushbeard unveiled his disguise, explaining that all this had happened to break the princess’s pride and to punish the arrogance with which she had treated him. The fairy tale ends with the celebration of their wedding.

The starting point of this fairy tale focuses on the father daughter relationship from which, subsequently, the relationship between the princess and the musician comes to life and, through the unraveling of the events of the fairy tale, we witness the transformation of the interpersonal dynamic between these two characters, understood as the meeting of the masculine and feminine principle, between unconscious and consciousness, which finds its expression in the final coniunctio between Animus and Anima.

The characters appearing in the introductory scene of the fairy tale are: on one side the king, who wished to marry his daughter and on the other side the princess of extraordinary beauty, but haughty and disdainful who rejected all suitors.

From this initial configuration the whole plot unfolds. What emerges from the beginning of the story is the lack of a mother figure, one of the significant aspects of the problem presented. In her eminent work entitled The Animus and the Anima in fairy tales, Von Franz (2002) provided valuable indications on the meaning of the presence or absence of the mother figure and believed that in some fairy tales, in terms of personal psychology, her absence can often give rise to weakness and insecurity in all matters relating to femininity, thus exposing the woman to the danger of being unconsciously possessed by the Animus. We will deal with this topic later in order to clarify the meaning to be attributed to the absence of this character.

Following the norms that von Franz (1970 ) identified, let us now focus our attention on these two protagonists, the king and the princess, and on their relationship, in order to identify and understand where the exhibition or the beginning of the problem.

In the fairy tale, the problem can be traced to the princess’s behavior which, initially, is characterized by her contemptuous refusal to marry, thus maintaining her status as a daughter.

From here on we will first analyze the implications generated by this problem and then we will observe the process aimed at its resolution which, as we will see in the fairy tale, in turn produces the constellation of a healthy psyche. The fairy tale shows us how the process of abandoning the condition of daughter/princess to then become a woman and wife symbolizes on one hand, in relational terms, entering into a fulfilling relationship of communion with men and on the other, in intrapsychic terms, giving rise to the integration of the two archetypes Animus and Anima through the coniunctio (Berivi 2006). For Jung these two are the archetypes of masculinity and femininity. The Animus is the archetype of ‘meaning’ in women, while the Anima is the archetype of ‘life’ in men (Jung 1950). Archetypes are innate structures of the psyche that precede experience and consist of primordial preconceived images that transform into inner representations in the Complex created by the relationship of early childhood with the mother, first figure of the Anima, and with the father, bearer of the Animus. In adult life these complex inner images are transfigured into projections and experienced through relationships with men and women (Berivi 2006; 2012).

Jung (1967) stated that the Anima is the personification of all the female psychological tendencies of the man’s psyche, i.e. the vague and imprecise feelings and attitudes, forebodings, receptivity of the irrational, self-love, feeling of nature and the attitude towards the unconscious. While, “ the Animus is a kind of sediment of all the experiences that the ancestors made of man and not only of this: it is also a generating entity, a creator, not already in the form of male creation, but insofar as it produces something that it could be called logos spermatikos, a generative word” (Jung 1911).

The masculine archetype can give the woman the possibility of acquiring a broader and more impersonal knowledge and this allows her to perceive situations in a more objective way, thus detaching herself from the collective point of view. Furthermore, the masculine component within the woman can help her to better understand the man and to have a deeper relationship with him (Berivi 2006; 2012a).

The Anima archetype has a relationship function at various levels in the personality. On an interpersonal level it constellates the relationship with the woman in man, who thus becomes the bearer of the inner male image of theAnima. Through the love for the woman, the man can activate in himself the contact with his own interiority, with the unconscious. If man loses contact with the Anima, it is to lose his humanity in favor of the unbridled search for egoistic goals (Berivi 2006, 2012a; Grassi 2010).

Let us now observe more closely the nature of the initial problematic of the protagonist of the fairy tale. The princess in question is no longer a girl, but a woman. The Father wanted her to marry a man. In the fairy tale she is described as haughty, disdainful and dominated by a continuous repulsive and derisive behavior towards every suitor. This description allows us to trace the problematic nucleus: she appears possessed by an Animus that does not allow her to welcome the richness of the masculine. Furthermore, considering that one of the qualities of the Anima archetype is represented by receptivity, we can observe how in her this quality is continually mortified by recourse to the repulsion of otherness towards the masculine.

In the first analysis it is possible to observe how the use of this behavior is in fact functional to protect and maintain one’s status as daughter/princess. Within this tale it is possible to observe the presence of two interpersonal and intrapsychic dynamics, which follow diametrically opposite directions: one towards evolution and the other towards regression. In fact, it can be observed that, on one hand, the king wished to marry off his daughter, urging her towards autonomy and, on the other hand, the princess opposed this desire by rejecting all suitors, effectively opposing the evolutionary process.

Let us now analyze the figure of the king. In the fairy tale he organized a big party in honor of his daughter to find her a husband, invited all the suitors who wished to marry, to then presented them to the princess according to a precise order with respect to rank and class: first the kings, then the dukes, the princes, the counts and the barons and finally the nobles. What is the king offering the princess? The answer can be translated into symbolic terms: the king, through his paternal function, urges his daughter towards autonomy or towards a healthy encounter with man. The father offers and proposes to his daughter the richness of the encounter with man, not to be misunderstood with the merely material and transitory wealth, but that richness represented by the fulfilling relationship with man, understood as psychic enrichment (Berivi 2006). The king of this fairy tale is the equivalent of a healthy paternal function, he represents the paternal archetype of an affective, foundational, normative and symbolic nature. The king is not selfish, he is not jealous or possessive, there are no shadow aspects towards his daughter and he does not hinder the growth process; vice versa, he exhorts her and wishes her to be released from parental dependence to lead her towards individuation.

A queen, the mother figure, does not appear in the fairy tale. Here her absence suggests one of the critical issues underlying the princess’s initial difficulty. The female element that should accompany the king is absent, therefore the dominant orientation lacks the qualities of feeling and Eros (von Franz 2002). The absence of the queen indicates the absence of a valid perspective of feeling (ibidem) in both, ie an antithesis of power is created between father and daughter. Furthermore, this absence actually represents the lack of a barrier against incest, in fact, the princess, refusing every suitor, remains a daughter and effectively takes the place of her mother.

Freud (1912-13) allowed us to understand that the triangular structure of the Oedipus is the universal foundation of the psychic life of human beings.The author hypothesized that children’s affectivity is organized in this way around three to five years of age (Freud, 1905) and that, physiologically, this organization must decline at the time of latency to then undergo a partial exacerbation at the age of puberty. Physiologically, this psycho-affective organization is structured on one hand in a feeling of loving attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex and on the other hand in feelings of jealousy and hostility towards the parent of the same sex. For Freud this is the “positive” form of the Oedipus Complex which, however, sometimes presents itself in a “negative” form or through love for the parent of one’s sex and hostility towards that of the other sex. According to the author, the Oedipus complex constitutes the founding element of the structuring of the human personality and, if it were not to be overcome, it would constitute the basic nucleus of all psychopathologies (ibidem). In fact, “If the tenderness of the parents towards the child has succeeded successfully in preventing a premature awakening (that is, occurring before the physical conditions of puberty are given) of the sexual drive from reaching such an intensity that the psychic excitement overflows unequivocally on the genital system, it will be able to fulfill its task of guiding this child, who has become a boy, in the choice of the sexual object. Certainly for him the most natural thing would be to choose as sexual objects those people whom he has loved since childhood, so to speak, with a dampened libido. But with the deferral of sexual maturation sufficient time has been bought to erect, alongside other sexual inhibitions, the barrier against incest, by accepting those moral prescriptions which expressly exclude persons loved in childhood, as blood relatives, from object choice. Respect for this barrier is above all a civil requirement of society, which must defend itself against the danger that the interests it needs to establish superior social unities are absorbed by the family, and therefore it acts with all means to loosen in every individual, especially in the adolescent, the family bond which in childhood was the only decisive one” (Ibidem).

In the fairy tale it is possible to observe how the absence of the mother figure can hinder the creation of an adequate space within which it is possible to establish a balanced relationship between father and daughter. All of this can only happen when some pathological maternal aspects, such as jealousy and competition, do not act as an obstacle. In other words, when a mother is not jealous of the father-daughter relationship, this encounter becomes possible; conversely, not only the absence, but also, as argued by Neumann (1953), the dominance of the mother over the daughter prevents the individual and complete encounter between man and woman as a function of self-preservation, lack of differentiation and opposition to Sapientia (Berivi 2006).

The princess responds to the king’s offer by rejecting every suitor, always finding something to say about each of them in a derisive way, thus attacking her own transformative process, effectively remaining trapped in the Oedipus Complex.

The turning point in the fairy tale, which breaks this vicious cycle, is represented by the episode in which the king intervened when the princess made fun of the “good king”, who was nicknamed “Thrushbeard”. The father, no longer able to tolerate the contemptuous attitude of his daughter, became furious and promised to marry her to the first beggar who knocked on the door of the royal palace.

This important decision of the king, which at first glance could easily be misunderstood as a harmful act towards his daughter, actually represents a benevolent and loving although imposing act thanks to which the transformative process begins to come to life. In fact, the king father set a limit to the “whims” of the princess and carried out his decision to the end, keeping his promise.

Following this paternal decision-action, the daughter begins to confront all those problematic parts of herself dominated by pride and arrogance. The self-destructive aspect perpetuated by the phallic attitude of the princess towards the suitors proposed by the king, recalls the dynamics found within the analytic relationship typical of those patients who employ a lot of their energies in therapy to destroy every intervention, only to its paternal meaning. For example, in all those cases in which patients ridicule the therapist’s interpretations with the aim of destroying the relationship, the healthy dependence on the other, they thus mortify every aspect that gives value to the relationship, effectively vetoing the depth in the relationship. This also happens in all those cases in which patients try to alter the rules of the setting, which are an expression of the paternal function in psychotherapy.

Returning to the fairy tale, the next step is represented by the fact that the king kept his promise and, despite his daughter’s protests, delivered the princess in marriage to the musician, having the parish priest celebrate the wedding. It is interesting to highlight that the father wanted her to receive the sacrament of marriage before sending her away. After the wedding was celebrated, the king exhorted his daughter to leave the castle, with a clear message represented by the diligent invitation to follow her husband, since as she was no longer a daughter she had to leave her father’s house. So the newlyweds left the palace to head towards the house of the musician.

From here on we can observe how the princess started her own transformative process, through her marriage to the musician, the consequent exit from her father’s palace and the journey to her husband’s house. In fact, it is precisely during the long journey that the bride began to get in touch with those emotional aspects that previously did not have access to her consciousness. Here we witness the first introspective moment in which both rethinking and regret for the consequences of one’s contemptuous, arrogant and proud attitude surfaced, which refers a bit to the famous proverb “those who despise buy!”.

During the journey to the musician’s house, the princess saw the riches of King Thrushbeard: a beautiful wood or a place full of shrubs, vegetation, flora and fauna; a beautiful meadow that recalled the aspect of the fertility of the earth, to be cultivated, which gave its fruits and also nourishment to the grazing animals, and, finally, a beautiful city that opened doors to new realities and new opportunities.

The fairy tale continues by telling that the spouses reached the small house, without servants, where the woman had to deal with herself, using the husband’s words “you have to make yourself what you want“. This precisely represents the evolutionary passage from being looked after as children by one’s parents, to taking care of oneself autonomously and also being able to dispense one’s own care towards the other, in other words the abandonment of psychic neoteny, i.e. that psychological situation in which a person who refuses or is unable to grow up, to become an adult and to assume responsibilities. Entering this new home/reality confronts the princess with her total inability to look after herself, but it also represents a great opportunity to learn how to do it. In fact, she didn’t know how to light a fire or cook, but we observe that thanks to her husband’s help she learned how to do it. When all the supplies ran out, the man first decided to teach her to make baskets by weaving rushes, but once again she was not able and hurt her hands. As a second choice, her husband tried to teach her to spin, but the princess hurt her fingers with the Thrushbeard; “ You are good for nothing ”, commented the husband. These two episodes allow us to understand that the Anima without the contribution of the Animus becomes incomplete, incapable, lacks directed willpower, action, planning and has a significant self-harming potential (Berivi 2006).

At this point the husband offeredhis wife a third option that was to sell earthenware pots and crockery on the market, which she accepted, albeit reluctantly for fear of being mocked by the people of her father’s kingdom. At first the woman managed to sell and received more money thanks to her beauty; in fact, people bought the goods because they were attracted to her, while others gave her money without buying anything. The second time the princess went back to the market she displayed the goods and then sat down in a corner of the market, but suddenly a drunken hussar arrived at a gallop and ended up with his horse among the pots, shattering them all. This second episode highlights not only the difficulty of designing of the princess but also the lack of a sense of responsibility and the disregard for one’s work. Being in a corner corresponds to the difficulty of completing a task. The woman tearfully reported the incident to her husband and he admonished her by saying: “ Whoever goes to sit at the corner of the market with earthen crockery” and continued by saying: “You are good for nothing. ” The contribution of the husband is representative of the contribution of the Animus towards the Anima, he invites the woman to become aware of the self-harming aspects put in place: putting crockery and earthenware pots in a corner means exposing yourself to the risk of destruction. In fact, what the Animus offers to women is an important teaching, which first of allallows them to demolish the aspect of carelessness and irresponsibility, but above all it allows them to come to terms with their own inability to carry out a directed action, the possibility of maturing (Berivi 2006). As von Franz (1970) maintained, the effect of the pressure of the Animus can lead the woman to a deeper femininity as long as she accepts being possessed by the Animus and works hard to bring her Animus into reality (1970).

Once again, thanks to the last intervention of the Animus, the woman finally found another occupation. The husband turned to the king of their kingdom to ask for a job for his wife. On this last occasion, the woman was called to be a scullery maid in the kitchens of the royal palace.

Interestingly, in this part of the tale, for the first time, the woman neither refused nor complained. She agreed to carry out strenuous work and used small saucepans to bring leftover food home, to be eaten with her husband; in this way she therefore provided for the sustenance of both. For the first time the woman bends to the will of the man, does not rebel, does not disobey, but silently accepts that condition of misery. This submission to the husband’s will should not be confused with passive acceptance, vice versa it represents an active decision by the woman. This allows the woman to definitively divest herself of that infantile attitude which made her unable to work, to complete a task and which prevented her from entering into a deep relationship with her husband. For the first time we see how the princess finally lets herself be guided by the Animus.

In the fairy tale we are now witnessing the decisive turning point, which corresponds to the episode of the wedding day of the king’s eldest son. Taken by curiosity for the event, the princess climbed the stairs to see the celebration and when she saw the decorated room and the table, at that precise moment, she cursed the arrogance and pride that had led her to that state of misery. In this episode of the fairy tale the protagonist finally recognizes the true nature of her problem, i.e. of having been possessed by such destructive aspects that have created within herself the condition of psychic misery that she herself had always refused to contact, so that both pride and arrogance defended her from feeling totally incapable and inadequate. Furthermore, she realized that these aspects were in fact functional for maintaining her status as a daughter, an Oedipal maternal substitute.

Only through the contribution of the Animus (her husband’s comment “you are good for nothing”) was she able to become aware of her own problematic nucleus and thanks to this insight she can abandon and curse these shadow aspects of the Animus to leave space for its light aspects. Following this, the appearance of the prince, all dressed in gold (gold as a symbol of incorruptibility), invited her to dance. Initially we observe that she refused to dance with the king’s son for fear of being laughed at, because she recognized him as King Thrushbeard, the suitor whom she had previously rejected and mocked.

In this final scene of the fairy tale, a scene similar to the introductory one is recreated, but with the difference that now it is the woman who was mocked by everyone because, while she tried to escape the invitation of King Thrushbeard, he pulled her towards him. At that precise moment, the cord that tied the pots together broke and fell to the ground, scattered here and there with all the leftover food. In the throes of embarrassment and shame, the womanl tried to escape towards the door, but was brought back by King Thrushbeard who at that moment also revealed the secret of his disguise.

The story ends with a great transformation, the woman can finally put on the most sumptuous clothes and celebrate her wedding. Finally she welcomed, reconciling, her father who had arrived with the whole court to wish her well on the wedding.

The character King Thrushbeard is representative of a healthy masculine principle, he is a good king who disguised himself as a musician out of love for the princess. He came up with this trick because he realized that behind the princess’s selfish attitude, which she used to repel all suitors, lays her true potential. King Thrushbeard took care of the princess, supported her and helpedher to shed light, even with her rough determination, on the pathological aspects that prevented her from seeing all the qualities and richness he was endowed with. The king therefore allowed the woman not only to confront the inability to look after herself, but taught her how to remedy it by making her confront more and more with her self-sabotaging attitudes that dominated her. King Thrushbeard is therefore moved by love and resorts to disguise only for the purpose of bending her pride and punishing the arrogance with which she had treated him, as if he wanted to teach her what the famous saying goes “don’t do to others what you would not want done to yourself”. The lesson that the king imparted to the princess is based on the virtue of humility. The princess was possessed by pride, i.e. an unruly love of herself and an illogical presumption of being superior to others. Pride originates from the Latin adjective super, i.e. above, because the proud believe themselves to be above all. Pride has many synonyms: pride, vainglory, presumption, vanity, arrogance. In the Christian tradition it is the first capital sin and represents the cause of all vices.

In the light of these considerations, it is probable that, on a superficial reading, the profound meaning of the message conveyed by the fairy tale is lost; in fact, the role of King Thrushbeard can be misinterpreted and confused , attributing to him vindictive characteristics towards his wife. In our view, it is instead precisely through the Animus that the Anima can access the transcendent plane and come into contact with the sphere of spirituality. “The spiritualization of the Animus, which is a cognitive function, leads to an easier recognition of the Shadow and to its integration and allows the development, in women, of an all-female thought connected to eros: a Sapientia which is a synthesis of feeling and thought, not merely intellectual knowledge […] The Animus therefore does not only intervene in spiritual or masculine activities, but above all it causes a spiritual attitude to develop in women which frees them from the limits and prejudices of a point from a strictly personal point of view” (Mazzarella 1991).

In the fairy tale, King Bazza of Thrush helped the princess to free herself from infantile attachments, helping her to enter into a relationship of communion with the Animus, thus fulfilling a higher wish or rather « Man will leave his father and mother and the two will be one flesh ” (Genesis 2:24). This passage reminds us that a mature man/woman union effectively breaks ties with the past and inaugurates future ties. In fact, the previous family, the experiences of youth, the ties of the past still remain, but they evolve and are overcome by the new horizon that opens up before the new family that is being born.

In conclusion, the fairy tale allows us to observe a tiring journey that leads to the structuring of a healthy psyche; in fact, the path that the princess takes is one of the most widespread representations of the process that Jung calls individuation. In the fairy tale the princess experienced a transformative path, full of suffering and misery, but it is only by dealing with this suffering and being subjected to the condition of misery that she managed to bring about a real change, made possible mainly thanks to the contribution of the Animus of both the father and of King Thrushbeard, both bearers of a healthy masculine Animus.

The happy ending of this tale shows us that only through love is the union between the two protagonists accomplished, the love represented by the coniunctio between Animus and Anima (Berivi 2006).

Clinical vignette

Below we illustrate a brief clinical example through which it is possible to trace the archetypal functions Animus and Anima within the therapeutic relationship.

The following clinical vignette concerns the treatment of a case of brief dynamic psychotherapy with an analytical-communicative psychological orientation (lasting six months for a total of 24 sessions) by Annalisa, a woman of around 55 years of age, who at that moment in her life was facing the traumatic event of job loss. Below we illustrate excerpts from three sessions. Duringthe first welcome session, scheduled before the start of psychotherapy, the rules of the safe frame setting [4] were defined.This psychotherapeutic framework included stable elements.

Session n.1

Pt: I’m not talking because I’m afraid I want to take control.

T: take control?

Pt: yes (one minute of silence).

T: what goes on in your mind in this silence?

Pt: I don’t know, I think: “what test awaits me?”, “why are you silent?” (phone rang). Sorry (turned off the phone). Then I think: “Will she do this to everyone or just me? Shall we spend the whole half hour like this in silence?” (silence). Silence is a punishment, when I’m angry with my husband I’m silent, ah, I had a dream, I didn’t bring it to him but will I tell him now?

Dream: “I had to unload the luggage from the car, I don’t have a licence, I took out two shopping trolleys, they were full of food and I took them to a friend’s house, I also unloaded a cabinet from the car, but I left it unattended and while I returned I realize that this cabinet was on a boat. I see a boy from behind on that boat and at the same time I find myself on another boat and I’m chasing him, I’m not driving. Now comes the scene from the outside, the boat is being driven by a girl younger than me, she has red hair and dark eyes, the boat catches up with the other boat because it had stopped and entered a place. At that point I’m not interested in the bedside table anymore, now this guy turns into a musician and there are other guys and they play a concert and a guy asks this girl who was driving the boat “Do you like me or him?”. And I reply “I don’t like you nor him, but him” (the boy on the boat who had stolen the bedside table) and I don’t know why I find myself walking around with this boy embracing and we meet again at XX, and I realize that he has the face of a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for many years. I’m still hugging him and we walk through the streets of XX, and I tell him: “I’m happy when I’m in XX and you?”. And he replies: “no because I didn’t pass the pronunciation test”.

The therapist invited the patient with regard to the dream to freely associate without subjecting to criticism, evaluation or censorship, as far as possible, all the emotions, thoughts and sensations that pass through her.

Pt: From a physical point of view, I associate the bedside table with my parents’ bedside table, it has the shape of my bedside table, but the material is that of my parents and in addition it has wheels, I can’t associate it with anything else, it has no drawers for storing groceries.

The girl who drives the boat, I’ve never seen her in my life, she’s not beautiful and full of freckles, I can’t associate her with anyone, she has red hair (pause), her boyfriend has a red beard. My daughter’s ex had red hair. She is very different from me and in the dream I think that at that point I don’t have to worry about driving the boat because she takes care of it.

The guy who hugs me, we were together in middle school, at the time I wasn’t engaged, he was engaged to my friend, he now works in the healthcare, then he got married to my friend and now they live in XX.

He is a healthcare professional, after middle school we lost touch, he was handsome and liked him, but at the time I liked someone else, I don’t remember having great conversations with him, we were in different classes, I was glad to know that he married my friend.

He was 13 or 14 and I was in seventh grade, but we were shy, at the time I think we weren’t interested in each other, he was always with a friend of his and I didn’t think much of him, he seemed stupid to me and instead he worked his way up, he graduated, he got married, I remember it was good. The inadequacy is linked to the fact that he didn’t pass the test in the dream, he was talking about this pronunciation test. I remember that in middle school my parents sent me near xxx to a family for a cultural exchange, but I didn’t understand and they didn’t understand me for the pronunciation, while my classmates understood us. And after growing up I studied languages in university and realized that it’s all about pronunciation.


The therapist communicated to Annalisa her attempts to rebel against the rules of the setting, first of all that of associating freely, she is silent because letting go makes her angry, she resorts to the use of You to establish a symmetrical relationship, but basically Annalisa does all this to avoid entering into an intimate relationship with the therapist. And she adds that she, through the image of the girl driving the boat, is communicating to the therapist that if she lets go of this dimension of control she can relax and let herself be guided by the therapist (I find myself walking around with this boy embracing – Unconscious derivative / function of the Animus archetype ).

Pt: I’m not angry, so I undertake to address you, but know that I only do it because you ask me to. It’s not something I do with everyone, yes I tend to put myself in an equal relationship, because I mistakenly thought that we did the work together, me and you. At work there is usually a great need for collaboration and often we immediately switch to “you” and people find it hard to call me “you”, I call “you” even to older people than me. I’m sorry that it is interpreted by you as a way to discredit you, I don’t mind being guided but I like it if someone drives, so I relax, I don’t have a boss, I had two partners and when I had to take responsibility I was sorry because, even though we are partners, in the end I made the decisions.

Session no. 19

In this session Annalisa began by recounting a dream she had a few days earlier. In the previous session she had expressed the desire to continue the therapy until the end of the 24 sessions and the therapist presented the possibility to her.

Dream n.1) I am in one of the breakwaters of the Lido di xxx beach. The sea has wonderful colors between blue and green. I want to swim but I can’t dive because the tide is low, the jump is too high and I would sink to the bottom, so I go down the iron ladder to enter the water. Once I get to the bottom step, I notice that although the water is beautiful and clear, it is full of dead black birds. I have no way around them as they are everywhere. I decide not to swim and go up the ladder, but when I’m at the top step I realize that the top of the ladder is too far from the level of the dam.

There is a boy there who instead would have no difficulty taking that step which is too long for me, that young man holds out his hand to me, but I say no.

The therapist invited the patient to associate freely.

P: then I went to the lido of xx and in the dream the sea seemed to me that of an Italian island. I’m on a wooden platform and you dive from there. But in the dream I see that the tide is low and I can’t throw myself and I go down the ladder, I realize that as soon as I get to the water I see small dead birds, they look like crows, even the beak is black. I don’t know why but there was death and I don’t feel like swimming among the carcasses. I change my mind, I climb up and find myself trapped because the ladder has detached from the platform and I think I can’t jump up because it’s too far away. Then that young man appears and holds out his hand to me, but I say “no”. I know he’s younger than me and can help me, but I say no, he stretches out his arm and I say “no” because I don’t want to jump, because I know that if I jump, I think I’ll fall because the dam seems too far from the ladder. Below is the void, the water is too shallow and if I jump I would hurt myself. As children you quickly learn that if you jump from there you have to pay attention to the water, because the water is deceiving, there is high and low tide. And there have been accidents, even fatalities. Now they put up the posts for the tide.

T: the dead birds?

Pt: they remind me of times in the past, when polluted water and fish came back to the surface. But in the dream they were birds, there’s something wrong, there’s something of death, it’s disturbing, it’s like a catastrophe looming, something bad.

In the mountains, I saw crows alive and well, I’m not familiar, some look like bats, they can remind me of pigeons that are prey to seagulls. It’s a generic thing, it’s a negative thing and it erases this beautiful sea.

T: the young man?

Pt: he is a stranger, I have an image of his arm, there is no face, I imagine he is young and I think it is easier for him to make this leap, I think “but why is he inviting me to make this leap?”, it would be dangerous “what are you inviting me to do?” and then I don’t shake his hand. Now a memory comes to my mind, I was 20 years old I was on a cruise ship for work and I was on a break, we went for a ride on a vespa and one day we ran out of petrol and we wasted time and we ran in front of the ship that was about to leave, I was about to jump on deck and they blocked me because it was dangerous, then the captain sent me a small boat to pick me up and I managed to get on, the captain was generous, he could have fired me. And when I went up, he called me and I went up to him and said “I know.” And he said to me “if you know, then go do your job” and I didn’t get fired. In the dream there was a solution, I went down into the water and I would have had to cross the dead birds and I got to where I was supposed to get, but I stayed on the ladder.

The therapist told Annalisa that through the dream her unconscious comments on the fact that on one hand she has consciously asked to be able to continue the therapy, but on the other unconsciously does not want to continue for fear of facing those deadly aspects symbolized by dead birds.

Pt: Sure, it was in the agreement, but I won’t deny that I was convinced that I wanted to continue. It’s the first time that the unconscious gets along with the conscious, I don’t know how to interpret it. I don’t know if it’s a step towards a symbiosis between conscious and unconscious, because I’ve always considered them separate. I seem to be more one like the union of body and mind, if conscious and unconscious communicate together and it seems to me that it seems beautiful, as more integral versus separate and incoherent. It’s as if my rationality goes in tune with instinct. My dreams worried me more when you told me things about myself and my unconscious and I said to myself “but is it possible that I know myself so little?” and it surprised me negatively, now it amazes me positively.

Session no. 20 (on time).

Pt: good evening, here I am. I had a dream: I dreamed that I went to my brother’s house, but it was a shop and I placed my cell phone on a piece of furniture and then I went out and found myself outside the lobby of a hotel in xx, hotel xxx, there they were friends and my two partners. A colleague arrives with a tray of chocolates covered in dark chocolate which is my favorite, I taste them, they are good. In reality, she has a passion for pastry. Then we decide to go for a cooking course but I’m not very convinced about taking the course because I consider myself a good cook, and then we leave the hotel. We’re on the street, I join this group of friends, but I don’t know where the place and time are, but I follow them, but I realize I’ve left my phone at my brother’s house. So I should have gone to get the phone and I would have joined them, but I realize that my right leg hurts, I realize that I have a limp. I would like to run and instead I say “damn, today I should run and today I’m slow” but I realize that I don’t have the keys to my brother’s house and then I wake up while I’m looking for a solution . The dream ended before finding a solution or conclusion.

T: you left your phone at your brother’s house?

Pt: yes, I have the image that I leave the phone on the mobile. The telephone reminds me of the need to have the telephone just in case, when you have it it facilitates the situation, more than the telephone it strikes me that I support it, I didn’t need to put it there, I could have put it in purse, I felt silly. One time they stole it, another time I sat on it and cracked it, and forgetting it bothers me. I just don’t know what else to associate it with, it’s annoying, not having it, it’s not a liberation.

T: the colleague who brings the chocolates?

Pt: she’s my favorite, she’s more similar to me, there’s more harmony than the other, she’s the one with whom I have a relationship outside of work, I consider her a friend, there’s a lot of trust, we confide in each other, our phone calls start with “I need some advice”. I don’t remember a serious conflict, just once a wrong interpretation but she apologised, our relationship never stops, we’ve known each other for a long time, it’s really a presence, a constant, we see each other in the summer, when I work in the field or in smartworking, we have closed the office, we also work in smartworking from the beach to the sea. Now work is recovering, even if minimal compared to before.

T: the cooking class?

Pt: I associate it with my business partner, because she has done so many, it is something that I associate with her, people follow her, she is a popular leader, if she launches an idea, people follow her, even if she says nonsense , the others have an attitude of subjection to her. I’m not convinced of taking the course, in the dream I see the mass of people who follow her like sheep because she has said to take the cooking course. I agree for the common good, but I’m not convinced.

T: does your right leg hurt?

Pt: it hurts in reality, but in the dream the impediment bothered me, because I would like to run instead I have to submit to the limits of my body, and I hope it passes. The right leg is the strongest leg, my entire right side is stronger, more elastic, less stiff, I feel more connected to the right side, but it is the same part that makes itself felt most when it hurts, I have pain in the shoulder, in the right arm, it’s the thing I rely on most the right side.

T: through the dream you told me that in the relationship with me I have offered her a chance to proceed, you told me through the cooking class, basically you know how to put these emotional ingredients together to give them meaning, but you told me you interrupted communication with me, unconsciously, in the dream when you left the phone at your brother’s house.

Pt: so I try to go and get my phone back (laughs), but I found an impediment, really interesting. But why do all my dreams revolve around the relationship with you? And not around my husband or children? You know, I probably expected to discover things about myself and others, I find it hard to consider you as a daily thing, you know half an hour a week we see each other. It amazes me that I dedicate my dream activity to you, as if I didn’t take care of the people in my daily life, it’s as if people are more marginal than this space. I am neither pleased nor displeased, it is an observation that surprises me. So often the elements that are considered refer to you.

T: look, you tell me through her partner, you told me that you like working on your emotionality here with me, but you are also telling me that it’s tiring

Pt: how can you not be interested in emotions, maybe there are people who are afraid? I don’t know! I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, this is a journey for me, maybe I’m more focused on the journey (pause). Even if it’s difficult, it’s a commitment, it’s tiring, and it’s not always a downhill or flat road. I live it as a job more than a pleasure or a chat.

T: deep down, you know through dreams you talk to me about your relational modality, you tell me that if you entrust yourself to me in an intimate relationship, you fear being guided, and specifically with me you fear being guided by me, because it means for you to be a sheep, in the sense that you fear letting herself be guided, because if you enter into an intimate relationship of emotional dependence with me then you would lose control of the situation.

Pt: interesting, I’ll think about it, I hadn’t thought about it (silence until the end of the session).

Clinical analysis

In this clinical vignette we observe how in the first session Annalisa implemented actions aimed at deviating from the rules of the setting in order to avoid an intimate relationship with the therapist, through which she can address those emotional aspects that do not have access to consciousness.

The parallelism with the fairy tale King Thrushbeardallows us to analyze how, like the princess who rejected all the suitors proposed by the king-father, Annalisa also initially rebelled and rejected the rules of the setting or rejected those interventions that are expression of the paternal function (function of the Animus archetype) represented by the rules of the setting and by the interpretations.

In this initial session, it is possible to observe, as Langs (1973-74) affirmed, that the safe setting gives the patient a strong feeling of holding and containment and favors a healthy functioning of the ego. The basic assumption of the safe framework is that it mobilizeshis healthy resources, together with the patient’s claustrophobic anxieties and death anxieties, therefore necessary for the realization of a therapeutic process, making these anxieties more tolerable, reducing the neurotic and psychotic defenses (Langs 1980). The alteration of these rules precipitates the psychotherapy from the safe framework into a psychotherapy from the deviant framework (Ibidem). “In the latter, the price paid by the patient is a strengthening of neurotic and psychotic defenses and an increase in death anxiety combined with the sensation of psychic fragmentation which only reinforce his pathology” (Berivi 2012b) .

The holding of the setting operated by the therapist guaranteed an adequate holding to Annalisa, who, despite the initial resistance highlighted by the attempt to deviate from the established rules, managed to let herself be “guided” by the therapist, freely communicating dreams and associations.

In this regard, Langs (1980) identified a communicative style which he defined as type A, in which the central role was played by symbolism and illusion. In this case the two-person field (patient-therapist) that was created was characterized by the formation of a play space or transitional space in which the patient felt sufficiently free to communicate analyzable derivatives of perceptions, fantasies, memories and unconscious introjects . Therefore the type A communication style “is a style characterized by the presence of dreams, which in terms of quantity and quality, are used symbolically as references to the therapeutic relationship and with a tendency to insight” (Langs 1973-74).

In Annalisa’s dream image a cabinet appeared which she left unattended and which she found on the boat driven by a boy. From his successive associations it emerges that the piece of furniture had connections with one’s parents, this means old relational modalities.

Basically, this dream shows us how, within the therapeutic relationship that is coming to life, the therapist through the stability of the setting and the interpretations “steals the link with the past/parents” symbolized by the cabinet stolen by the boy. For Annalisa, this can represent the possibility of abandoning that dimension of control that she attempted to exercise over the therapist. Through the dream, Annalisa unconsciously communicated that if she was freed from that controlling dimension she could relate in a more welcoming way, embracing her Animus dimension through the relationship with the therapist.

Just as in the fairy tale, King Thrushbeard disguised himself as a musician to marry the princess, also in Annalisa’s dream, the boy who stole the cabinet (ie her Animus) turned into a musician. It is possible to hypothesize that the therapist, through her interventions, the maintenance of the setting and the interpretation provided the patient with the possibility of contacting her own emotional world, symbolized by the dreamlike image of the relationship with the musician. Through the associations of this boy, Annalisa unconsciously communicated that she had to change her mind about the therapist’s work. Just as the princess in the fairy tale changed her mind about the qualities of King Thrushbeard, Annalisa also changed her opinion and unconsciously appreciated the interventions of the therapist.

In the sessions n.19 and n. 20, the stimulus event was represented on one hand by the end of the 24 sessions and on the other by the possibility of being able to continue with another cycle of psychotherapy. In both sessions the central theme was represented by the fear of continuing the therapy, because if Annalisa descendedto a deeper level of analysis, shadow aspects would emerge from which she defended herself.

The possibility offered to Annalisa to continue the therapeutic path is commented through the dreams of the patient by what Langs calls “Deep Unconscious System of Wisdom or Emotional Mind” (1996). According to the author, this system effectively uses deep perception and deep emotional intelligence to receive and process information and unconsciously processed meanings (this is the system that generates coded communications). Derivatives are recognizable in the patient’s associative communications in the session in the form of descriptions of facts and characters, storytelling and film plots, dreams, memories, slips of the tongue, failed acts and, in general, most of the events reported that relate to situations outside the analytical relationship. Since the derivative is considered by Langs as a coded message, the decoding system for him represents the central point of the psychotherapeutic process, to the point that the decoding system of the derivatives within the therapeutic relationship precisely represents the treatment of the patient’s psychopathology.

Through the dream of session n. 20 Annalisa communicated that she was frightened by the possibility of continuing psychotherapy, in fact her unconscious notion that “accepting the cooking class” means deepening those dysfunctional parts of herself (symbolized by the dead crows from the dream from the previous session) . The Deep Unconscious System invites the patient to continue – “I should have gone to get the phone” – otherwise she would remain lame or incomplete and dominated by the Animus. In Annalisa’s dream, the reason why she didn’t want to continue also emerged: «I’m not very convinced of taking the course because I consider myself quite good as a cook». In this regard, Emma Jung recognized in the woman “possessed by the Animus” the attempt to spiritualize and recognize the masculine element, but this suffocates femininity and becomes exhibited phallicism (Berivi 2006). The arrogant self-confidence flaunted by the “Animus woman” masks the shyness and lack of personal conviction and is, all in all, the sign of an identity only incompletely achieved (Jung E. 1983).

In the fairy taleKing Thrushbeard, the protagonist, despite her attempts at rebellion, submitted to the musician’s requests and faced the various vicissitudes that allowed her to come to terms with the shadow dimensions of her Animus. Thanks to this we observed how this allowed her to access to the coniunctio Animus/Anima. Unlike the protagonist, we see that Annalisa could not bear to bend to the requests coming from her own unconscious in order to avoid facing her own Shadow aspects. Contrary to the invitation from her deep unconscious to continue the therapy, in our view, the patient refused this possibility for fear of deepening precisely those Shadow aspects. Despite this, this brief psychotherapy allowed Annalisa to draw benefits in terms of support and emotional processing in reference to the loss of her job, allowing her to find the drive to undertake a new work situation.


The goal that we have set in this paper is to propose, through the Jungian interpretation of the fairy tale “King Thrushbeard”, a starting point for reflection on the functioning of the Animus and Anima Archetypes and their integration through what Jung defined as the coniunctio, which leads to individuation. We wanted to enrich the theoretical discussion with the clinical analysis of Annalisa’s case in order to illustrate the archetypes’ functioning within the therapeutic relationship.

Our working group shares with von Franz the same study interest in fairy tales: in fact “for the scientific investigation of the unconscious they are worth more than any other material […] In this so pure form, the archetypal images offer the best clues for understanding the processes taking place in the collective psyche” (Von Franz, 1980). In this form the archetypes provide clues for understanding the processes taking place in the collective psyche (von Franz 1970). Von Franz believed that almost all fairy tales revolve around the attempt to metaphorically describe the many faces of the process of individuation, or rather the process of incarnation of the Self (Von Franz, 1980).

It is thanks to Jung’s theoretical-clinical contributions on the concepts of Animus and Anima that the author has allowed us to understand how they represent not only the aspects of masculinity and femininity as deep cores of our identity, but also represent aspects of functioning of the mind which, integrated (coniunctio), allow the process of self-knowledge.

In conclusion, in our opinion, these archetypal functioning, observable within the therapeutic relationshipfinds the possibility of integration within a “safe framework” psychotherapy[5](Langs 1973-74, 1979), or rather the only one capable of promoting a curative psychotherapeutic process (Grassi 2012). The secure framework, adopted in brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, allows the patient to confront, on one hand, the dimensions of grandeur in which he can short-circuit the therapeutic process without defined limits of time and duration, on the other hand, forcing the patient to experience the sense of limitation and the correlated death anxieties that animate the solution represented by the symptoms of his psychopathology.


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  1. Langs (1979) elaborated the concept of derivative which has a three-level structure:

    1) Manifest content, 2) Conscious and unconscious implications, 3) Coded, i.e. masked, meanings.

  2. See Langs 1980

  3. Langs (1988) talked about four types of anxiety: claustrophobic, persecutory, separation, and death. It is a fifth form of anxiety that can be defined as health anxiety, understood as death (Berivi 2012b).

  4. See Langs 1973-74, 1980, 1988, 1996.

  5. See Langs 1973-74, 1980,1988, 1996