Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snow White's Seven Dwarfs

It is not so much a matter of what we do in life, as much as it is being able to whistle while we do it. The goal of any given moment is the understanding that all of Snow White's Dwarfs are essential to conceptual enlightenment and understanding of self, to be as conscious as possible in any given moment throughout our entire journey through life. Bringing as much depth and wisdom as they can to each experience, Snow White's Seven Dwarfs aid in our understanding of self, helping us uncover the obstacles that keep us from whistling and from the realizations that come from self-understanding in relation to the world around us. 

Even if we do manage to find enlightened understanding in each moment of our lives, what then? The answer to that question is as diverse as the population answering it. 

Returning to the realm of a child's imagination, let's examine how each of Snow White's Seven Dwarfs can help us better understand ourselves and how we relate to our experience of life and living with others. In their innocence, children often see clearly to the heart of things. Free from the illusions of how things "should be," freer to perceive themselves and others as they are. The innumerable "what ifs" coupled with the delightful curiosity we experience in childhood allows us explore the many possibilities of self as we try to decipher which Dwarf is needed to respond to the patterns that influence our lives.

This is a natural liberation of self toward its goal of understanding. It is essential to support this imaginative creativity if the individual is to remain open to the expansion of his or her own sense of self throughout its many changes of form. 

Pattern recognition is a skill that develops through life. From the recognition of a mother's face to the recognition of our ever-changing family roles, the assimilation of patterns moves from the simple to the complex. Each of Snow White's Dwarfs tells us something about ourselves and something about the world around us. Each becomes a part of the inner story of understanding that is constantly forming as we learn and grow.

In the search for meaningful identity, we often times embrace symbolic characters and their archetypal identities. When previously adopted personas no longer satisfy and our dissolution plunges into unknown realms where clarity and certainty no longer exist, attachment to a previous identity dissipates and ceases to taunt us in our dreams and fantasies, and the ability to open ourselves to a larger possibility of existing emerges. 


Snow White's first dwarf, Doc, is a universal identity. The more our conscious mind expands, the larger our identity becomes. As we ponder the elegance of the universe, we have the opportunity to transcend our smaller, more limited perspectives, and identify with others and the entire cosmos. 

This is a common theme in experiences associated with the preservation of the human architecture, otherwise known as the mind-body experience. When the identification with the smaller ego states gives way to recognition of a unitary identity with multiple experiences and sensations, the foundation for true self-knowledge is laid - the knowledge of the cosmos within our own being, the very fabric of the universe of which we are entirely composed. 

The Buddhist maxim Thou art That expresses the notion of the transcended individual whose purpose is to break through the bonding with smaller expressions of thought and sentiment to achieve a realization of grander, unifying thoughts and sentiments. This does not deny the reality of smaller identities; it merely perceives them as welcomed, co-participating parts of a grander identity. Whether that identity is unified is unknown but, presumably, it is integrated. 

Like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we ultimately consolidate our identities into the identity of Doc to sustain larger ones like Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and even Dopey. Glimpses of these other identities surface from time to time, in no particular order beyond our habitual, unexamined reactions to various internal or external stimuli. When one recognizes which identity is perceiving any given internal or external stimuli, examination of other points of view becomes easier and can often times lead to the discovery of a more unified response to stimuli that incorporates all of our sentiments rather than excluding specific ones because they have not been previously called into action. 

When we incorporate multiple sentiments toward a first blush recognition or understanding, we expand our awareness of the original sentiment. Ruminating on the perspectives of other points of view is as delightful as it can be cognitively expanding. No wonder Doc is a universal identity, recognized in each and every culture for the ability to examine very specific reactions in order to maintain the integrated state of existence. 

Doc does not criticize the ailments of others, he merely listens and tries to help. When individuals go to see Doc they are looking for the opportunity to be heard, to share their best thoughts on why they are identifying with Grumpy, and to receive help in identifying problems so solutions can be sought. 

Doc's understanding of specifics comes from his consideration of all of them. It is from this expanded scope of understanding that we identify, relate, and adjust according to our wants and needs. The sooner our needs are met, the sooner we can help meet the needs of others. 

Doc is the universal identity that helps us break through the tightly held bonds we form with thought and sentiment, freeing us to consider alternative thoughts and sentiments that might just prove to be the very thing we needed to hear all along. 


Ah, Grumpy, the first level in our hierarchy of identity. Self-preservation is the key identifier of Grumpy. In this state we identify with the body - when the body is hungry, I am hungry, when it hurts, I hurt, when it is tired, I'm tired. The body cloaks the invisible identity, revealing its shape and expression. When we identify with the body, we are primarily focused on the physical form, as well as its physical qualities of male, female, young, old, beautiful, healthy, or sick. 

Physical identification is necessary to maintain biological health. It allows us to recognize adverse symptoms or sensations and seek help from our Docs. Without Grumpy to monitor and know what we can and cannot do, we might jump off a building anticipating flight. We would not recognize when we needed to eat, sleep, or move. Without Grumpy our health would become seriously compromised. Without Grumpy, we would become dissociated from the body and disconnect from the physical experience. 


Nestled right beneath the surface of Grumpy is Happy. Happy is King of our Emotions. Happy wears the clothing of our feelings. When we experience strong emotions, Happy comes alive and identifies with feelings in all their glory. Even our language sounds happy. I am happy, I feel happy. (Other languages in the realm of emotions exist: I have fear or anger but Happy is King, the ruler of the Kingdom of Emotion.)

I feel therefore I am, or more accurately, whatever I feel is what I am. Emotions vary depending on the state of one's internal kingdom, but ultimately the entire kingdom looks toward its ruler to determine the ideal state of the kingdom: Happiness. 


Sleepy represents our identification with our will, behavior, and our actions. This is where we realize that we are a separate entity with the power to choose our own actions and consequences. Sleepy is the ego identity, oriented toward self-definition. The irony associated with Sleepy is how active Sleepy is ~ though you'd be hard pressed to recognize it at the surface. Sleepy is sleepy because he is exhausted. 

Sleepy identifies Sleepy with what Sleepy does. When Sleepy does something right or achieves something difficult, Sleepy feels good about Sleepy, relaxes and goes to sleep. When Sleepy makes a mistake or fails to achieve a task, Sleepy stresses out, believes Sleepy is bad, and falls asleep from sheer mental anguish and the physical exhaustion that comes from mental turmoil. 

Sleepy thinks that what Sleepy does is a statement of who Sleepy is. Ego emerges from Grumpy (physical) and Happy (emotional) and can be thought of as the inner executive, as the middle manager in charge of all of our mental gymnastics ~ no wonder Sleepy's sleepy.  


Sneezy is our social identity, also known as the persona. The persona is the personality created to interact with others - it is the part of ourselves that the ego allows to rise above the surface. Whether we choose to sneeze, laugh, complain, analyze, teach, or martyr ourselves is entirely a matter of taste. Our social identity may be the compulsive helper, the pleaser, or the entertainer. In our families we often take on the role of the artist, musician, Yoda-like wise one, or the fun-loving, fun-to-be-around, best-liked, most likely to succeed one. 

Sneezy identifies with self through social engagements and relationships. As Sleepy matures, the identify shifts to include how we perceive our role of service to others, or how we have learned to give and embrace a world beyond our ego-oriented Sleepy self. In the identity of Sneezy becomes our basis for self-acceptance

Sneezy has the ego as its foundation, yet continually expands others. As we react to Sneezy's sneezes, we begin identifying and recognizing our reactions. We might react to another's sneeze with compassion, resentment, or downright disgust, but whatever our reaction, self-understanding can follow. 

Once we recognize and understand our reactions to the many sneezes of the world, we embrace an awareness of others.  As we break away from the sole identity with our Sleepy self and learn to equally care about other people in the world, our social identity expands. How we present ourselves to others depends largely on how we react to flowers. 


Bashful is the center of our creative identity. Bashful identifies with our self-expression - what we say and produce. Initially, Bashful identifies with our world through commitments. I have committed myself to marriage and by that commitment I am a wife or husband. I write, therefore I am a writer. I paint, therefore I am an artist. I am good with numbers, therefore I am a financial analyst. 

Through our creativity, Bashful identifies with the artist, teacher, entrepreneur, politician, mother, or father. (Bashful may also identify with mistakes and failures.) The creative identity expands outward through its ability to contribute and give back to the world at large. 

As Bashful matures, the ability to identify with larger possibilities and to reach for inspiration from the great works of civilization, from the inspiring acts of heroes and saints, poets and painters, inventors and explorers. 

As Bashful expands into the creative flux of the external world, Bashful identifies with the path or journey of the individual. The path or journey is the realization of our personal contribution to the world at large. Ideally, the path leads to an ever-expanding growth of consciousness and the eventual transcendence of the personal self into the transpersonal self. Its foundation is a healthy ego, social confidence, and a sense of compassion for others. 


Dopey expands into our archetypal identity, transforming the individual I into something transpersonal. Our personal story is now seen as an event in a larger story. If we suffered in childhood, we carry a piece of the archetypal story of the degradation of the inner child - the loss of the archetypal "me". The power that our parents lacked was the same power that has been stripped from human beings over millennia, stripped from the archetype itself. Those who suffer from early childhood wounds carry a piece of the larger story of disempowerment and as a result often times focus on the centered values of the home. 

Dopey in his own eccentric way enlarges our understanding of Self as we find our own life themes reflected in fairy tales, mythology, movies, and real life stories. We experience self-reflection in the world at large. We realize we are characters on a stage shared with others. As Dopey matures, he embraces the evolution of the archetypal characters that spoke to him early in life. Once we grow up and head out to work in the diamond mines of the world, we are doing more than going to work - we are contributing to a larger archetypal cause - human progress. 

Snow White's Seven Dwarfs

Each of Snow White's Seven Dwarfs can interfere with our health and undermine our identity. When a dwarf is overly focused on their perspective or their thoughts, it undermines Snow White's ability to keep a tidy house. 

This results in a type of counterforce that opposes the natural identity of the Dwarf. This counterforce usually results in a strengthening of whatever the Dwarf identity opposes. The presence of this irrational bonding keeps the Dwarf from doing its job, but that challenge also enables us to bring more awareness to that specific Dwarf's job, so eventually we can do it better. 

Development of the skills and concepts related to each Dwarf occur progressively in life, each completed stage supporting the healthy awakening of the next. Although Doc tells us that we function through all our specificities most of the time, there are specific habits and perspectives that keep the identify in its prime state of existence. 

Snow White's Seven Dwarfs built an abode for themselves and in doing so were able to welcome in Snow White. The bridge they crossed to work each day representing the entrance to a Norsian Valhalla or diamond mine. 

However many diamonds they mine in a day is less important than the individual tune they whistle as they work. While Snow White was not meant to dwell with her Dwarfs forever, their invitation allowed her to become conscious, despite eating an apple and losing consciousness, so that she too was able to find her higher purpose: to smile and sing a song, which eventually led to her finding her Prince Charming and living happily ever after. 


Anonymous said...

I once had a notion that the seven dwarfs were nothing more than a deconstructed representation of Snow White’s self. Living with them for a short time reflects a stressful time in her life, fleeing from all that once rooted her in wellbeing. By breaking down into her parts, she was able to find her next landmark in life and thus leads her to letting go ( the apple being the metaphor for this particular phase) I like to think, ‘letting go’ allows one to disengage the autopilot in order for us to stop fighting the tailwinds and bring order to the slipstream; aligning oneself back in the air. In this case, it leads to the archetypical consummate love. Just a thought I felt compelled to share. * repeat last line in an echo like voice diminishing into the night air :D


Soph Laugh said...

Interesting insight, Mark, and so hauntingly expressed...

Before this article I had only thought of Snow White's Dwarfs as adorably funny, little men who with all those diamonds shouldn't have been single at all! lol

Sophy :D

Anonymous said...

Yeh (that’s right, I’m using some of my colloquial vernacular) I wanted to share that thought with you but I was in a reflective mood when I had it. Now I’m thinking why did they have such a small house, with tiny beds when they had so many diamonds???? They just worked and worked and dug up these pre-cut gemstones! Perhaps on the other side of the hill, there were more dwarfs mining 9ct gold engagement ring blanks??? Perhaps they had names like...Dizzy, Lazy, Dirty, Silly, Thirsty, Wary and Bob. Who were they working for? Were they part of the elusive illuminati? Why didn’t they use some of that money to outsource the work to some other dwarfs? These are the questions the public have the right to know.

Me :D

Soph Laugh said...

You are an absolute treat!
Your mind makes me SMILE!

Thanks YOU! :D

Anonymous said...

You are very welcome x

Mark :D