She was also segregated from her friends and forced to live away from the rest of society. The crucial importance of communion and access to multiple kinds of relationships are vital to healthy development. The Queen's forcing Snow to flee for her life resulted in Snow's development being obstructed and negatively impacted.
The great pressure to find refuge in an unforgiving forest imposed different demands on Snow. These demands have competing expectations, all urging Snow, as an adolescent, to present "normative" behavior, such as cooking and cleaning for the 7 dwarfs who took offered her shelter.
While awe struck by her beauty and kindness, they had not the capacity to recognize her unique expression of individuality. Without regard to the authentic unfolding and true realization of her uniqueness, the dwarfs left her unattended and at the mercy of the Queen's pathological determination.
Snow, like most adolescents, was judged based on an overt, external, observable factor: her beauty. This simplified and overt focus negated her authentic inner life. With her beauty emphasized, her life in turn became focused on performance and competition - to the detriment of wise and healthy emotional development of all aspect's of a youth's capacities and potential. Over importance on any one externally observed factor, be it beauty or grades on a report card, exacerbates the imaginings of self-importance or, conversely, feelings of deep inadequacy and depression.
The Evil Queen's step-parenting skills were not unlike those of the vicarious parenting exhibited by "Soccer moms" and "Helicopter parents" who become over-identified and over-involved in their offsprings' activities, thus hindering authentic development. Had the Evil Queen instead invested some of the kingdom's wealth into showing Snow White the magnificence of the kingdom she was to inherit, had taken her around the kingdom and introduced her to her subjects, had she encouraged involvement in cross-age activities and cross-cultural interactions, surely Snow's development and deep sense of engagement with others and the world would have flourished.
With little or no access to environments that encourage authenticity, Snow felt safe in the hamlet of her newly beloved friends, the 7 dwarfs. She was indeed lucky that she came upon them, and that they took her in. It is rare to find venues where one feels safe, where one might revel one's truest self, heartfelt desires, and deepest fears, where deep engagement with others is accepted and encouraged, and where passions can be expressed.
Feeling safe and cared for, Snow expressed her gratitude by helping the dwarfs, by cooking and cleaning and caring for them in a way that they never expected. When her work was done, she expressed her own longings to integrate her sensations and cognitions with the many animals who flocked to be near her natural loveliness.
The Evil Queen's preoccupation had little room for flexibility or regard for unique individuation, including her own, which was entirely predicated upon one factor of her obsession with Snow replacing her own allure. By ignoring both her and Snow's unicity, she necessitated a struggle that robbed Snow of her unfolding vitality. She also eradicated within herself of the very vitality she sought to preserve.
Rather than seek out the most advantageous circumstances for her step-daughter, the Evil Queen altered Snow's inner world, an initial world of beauty and many unique factors that necessitated balance and harmony, in particular were she to someday pass along those attributes to the inhabitants of the kingdom she inherited.
Asynchronous growth is uneven across many aspects, intensifying feelings of discomfort and alienation. Snow was forced to operate in a broader sphere of influence; more actively engaged in terms of both input and impact. These experiences intensified feelings of responsibility (exhibited in her cooking, cleaning, and caring for the 7 dwarfs) and removed the focus from her own healthy development of ego.
Snow possessed an ability to learn quickly, a heightened facility for memory (remembering 7 new names), and more rapid capacity to process, integrate, and connect ideas and information (she had never before been exposed to domestic chores). These capacities indicate she had a great facility for discernment, differentiation, intuitive knowing, and penetration into meanings of events and experiences. These differences enabled her to interact with nature and animals, and to create conditions in the hamlet that engaged and deeply touched the hearts of her new friends.
To reiterate, all of these environmental differences affected Snow's inner world, and influenced profoundly her development. In the absence of loving, emotionally intelligence, inspiring parents, her environment went from terrible to barely "good enough" as the dwarfs' new caretaker. Interfering with a healthy and naturally unfolding maturation invariably results in teenage angst, and when unmonitored, the innocent partaking of forbidden fruit.
When we think of Cinderella, we think of the persecuted heroine. This theme dates back to the 7th century BCE, in the story of Rhodopis, the Greek slave girl who ends up marrying the king of Egypt.
"Cenerentola" comes from the word "cenere" - tchenere (ash - cinder). The name comes from the fact that servants were usually soiled with ash at the time, because of their cleaning and because of their sitting near fires to keep warm given they lived in cold basements. Cenerentola by Basile (1634) features a wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters, magical transformations, a missing slipper, and a hunt by a monarch for the owner of the slipper.
Charles Perrault in 1697 popularized the tale with his pumpkin, fairy godmother, and glass slipper additions, whereas the tale by the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century is a more sinister version of the story, and indeed grim.
In all the stories there are identifying elements that inspire inner awakening, an outward journey, and intensity at a time of identity crisis and conflict - both internal processes during adolescence, when an individual acquires personal identity and seeks a place in the larger world outside the family or, in this case, outside the boundaries of poverty imposed by the evil stepmother and stepsisters.
Cinderella, like Snow, is an adolescent. She is at a stage in the human lifecycle commonly associated with turmoil and change. A time typically associated with adolescence, though it can occurs during other times in life when strong emotions such as passion, ecstasy, confusion, creative inspiration, improvising, or even entering into a state of flow occur. Adolescence is a disintegrative state, which is not necessarily dysfunctional.
The adolescent stage is when great gains in cognitive capacity occur. Substantive shifts in social and emotional functioning and growth in moral realization characterize this time. It is a time when an autonomous being emerges.
Cinderella could have fussed and complained about how she was being treated by her stepmother, but instead she directed her attention to caring for her little animal friends. She allowed herself to be enchanted by their natural gifts and moved by their plights. She diligently tended to their needs and in return they brought her joy and whatever material offerings they could offer.
Onlookers would notice the bare and untidy space where Cinderella spent her personal time, but Cinderella noticed every blossom, and was grateful for it ~ for it was she who was overflowing with beauty.
Obviously there is a moral here. Instead of focusing on what she did not have, Cinderella delighted in the little bit of sunshine that entered her world. She was grateful for water, and the combination that allowed a small flourishing to unfold. Those who create beauty in imperfect environments are healthy perfectionists.
Theirs is a potent force that can immobilize or energize, depending on where one focuses attention. Feeling incapable of meeting expectations can cause paralysis and underachievement, whereas a passionate drive can lead to extraordinary creative achievement - an ecstatic struggle to transcend beyond life's boundaries and limits.
Abstract thinking is Cinderella's sine qua non, her facility with abstraction is the quality that differentiates her from her stepmother and stepsisters, who manifest the concept of perfectionism as challenging. They are unable to cope with failure, and find themselves avoiding actions that might lead to it.
Surrounding Cinderella are her two evil stepsisters and her evil stepmother. They are concerned only with themselves. They live in service of egocentrism, they are tyrannical perfectionists. They do not see their own imperfections; instead, they focus on the flaws of others. They use Cinderella for their own self-aggrandizement.
The stepmother expects her daughters to achieve social status, to behave well in public, and to get married to a prince or duke - all to reflect well on her. The needs of her daughters or of anyone else do not concern her and are never taken into account.
All three fall trap to setting up unrealistic standards for themselves and others, they focus on flaws, resulting in blame, lack of trust, and feelings of hostility toward others. When Cinderella's stepsisters fail to meet their mother's high expectations, they too are at the mercy of their mother's emotional disapproval and guilt. They lose privileges and are sometimes punished.
The stepsisters try to live up to their mother's expectations, internalizing her values and imposing them on themselves. But they cannot achieve this level of perfection; thus, they focus on their own imperfections, which results in magnifying their flaws and overlooking their strengths, distorting their own existence. Self-deprecation is a debilitating form of perfectionism.
Cinderella exhibits a healthier form of perfectionism. Instead of feeling inferior to her stepmother and stepsisters or feeling inadequate to meet their demanding expectations, she becomes aware of her own potential and as a result only feels inferior to the higher version of herself.
Gaining a glimpse of the possibilities in oneself for integrity, empathy, wisdom, and harmony is a powerful incentive for growth. The longing to become one's best self propels Cinderella to search out the blind spots, see the truth about herself, and transform her own unhappiness.
Before Cinderella ran down the palace steps, she had already taken the road to becoming her highest self, which is a far more arduous journey.
Imagine, if you will, two layers of reality. Within the layer that most see, there is Cinderella, persecuted by her stepmother and stepsisters, victim of their evilness. Then there are Cinderella's animal friends, her fairy godmother and the Royal Prince, rescuers of Cinderella.
In the story of Cinderella there are obvious winners and losers. Life is high drama in fairy tales and mythological stories. At a more evolved layer within these stories there are no polarities; there is only oneness.
Within the human psyche, there are pulls from both of these realities. For the stepmother and stepsisters, the pull is toward the lower reality is very strong; there is little, if any, awareness that a higher reality exists or is possible.
For Cinderella the pull toward the higher reality is very powerful and actively directs her personality. She may be physically bound by her struggle, and for some time incapable of reaching outside it, but this disjunct does not have to cause a great vertical tension.
Instead she can sing and dream of what will be and what might become, knowing that even if she does not reach this state, at least she can dream of it.
Even though Cinderella's life is uncomfortable, it is the inner forces present in her inner world that enable her to express this difficulty through hope and inspiration, through kindness and generosity, through lighthearted humor and her ability to abstractly envision a beautiful other reality.
Her ability to transform her inner world is ultimately what attracted the forces from which her fairy godmother arrived. It was Cinderella's upward perspective that attracted a higher magical flourishing.
The presence of her fairy godmother and the Prince can be easily misunderstood as Cinderella being the victim and they the saviors, but in reality, it is Cinderella who was her own savior, who created beautiful potential all around her, and who ultimately attracted magic toward her.
It is her higher perspectives that enable her to have a clearer vision of the meaning of life's experiences. Cinderella's inner perfectionism is whole and pure. She sees and appreciates the inherent perfection in all of life.
In an outer world dictated by her evil stepmother and evil stepsisters, Cinderella is directed by by the highest guiding principles. She is a shinning example of human potential, and her story a wise, exemplar tale of how one can achieve autonomy from the lower layers of reality fraught with confusion and great difficulty by living in service to all humanity, not in service to the ego.
Cinderella finds "true love" because she embodies it. This is the transcendent potential for humanity - the greatest gift we can give ourselves.