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Reviewed by:
  • Meseterápia: Mesék a gyógyításban és a mindennapokban by Ildikó Boldizsár, and: Mesepszichológia: Az érzelmi intelligencia fejlesztése gyermekkorban by Annamária Kádár
  • Anna Kérchy (bio)
Meseterápia: Mesék a gyógyításban és a mindennapokban. By Ildikó Boldizsár. Budapest: Magvető Könykiadó, 2010. 368 pp.
Mesepszichológia: Az érzelmi intelligencia fejlesztése gyermekkorban. By Annamária Kádár. Budapest: Kulcslyuk Kiadó, 2012. 376 pp.

Leading Hungarian folklore scholar Ildikó Boldizsár is nationally renowned as the editor of best-selling fairy-tale anthologies about men for women and about women for men (2007); about mothers and about fathers (2008); and about life, death, and rebirth (2009). In her 2010 publication, Meseterápia: Mesék a gyógyításban és a mindennapokban (Fairy-Tale Therapy: Tales to Help Cure and Everydays), she claims to have developed a bibliotherapeutic method, called metamorphosis fairy-tale therapy (metamorfózis meseterápiás módszer, abbreviated MMM), by relying on ancient folk wisdom encapsulated in the enduring form of the fairy tale, a genre that has not only served entertainment and informational purposes but also primarily provided a ritualistic means for intergenerationally passing down a complex body of mundane and metaphysical knowledge about the fundamental psychic needs and conflict resolution capacities of the “enworlded” human being. [End Page 199]

In Boldizsár’s view the major leitmotifs and plotlines of folktales and fairy tales fictionalize real-life existential dilemmas by tackling questions such as how to find one’s true bride, how to fight the seven-headed dragon, where to locate the Water of Life, and what is beyond the Glass Mountains. They help us to appease struggles, settle imbalances, and “mend the time-out-of-joint,” not so much by promising to correct the malfunctioning of the world but rather by revealing potential tactics to harmonically relate to and make the most of the limited possibilities granted by our internal and external realities. The táltos magical winged horse—the mythical helping figure in Hungarian folktales that, once adequately ridden, “flies as swift as thought” and that traditionally serves a shamanistic means of meditation—spectacularly emblematizes the tales’ invitation to self-reflectivity both on the cognitive and the spiritual level.

Although Boldizsár’s fairy-tale therapy is allegedly based on empirical evidence gained from healing storytelling sessions she gave at children’s hospitals, her interdisciplinary method—combining folklore, philosophy, psychology, history, aesthetics, literary theory, and religious studies—is applicable to all age groups for psychotherapeutic, regenerative, and preventive purposes alike. However, MMM is most widely used in Hungary today as training in self-awareness and crisis management, helping people in their 20s through their 50s resolve anxieties and deal with an impasse temporarily surfacing or chronically prevailing in their lives as a result of common depressing or traumatic experiences: loss, mourning, solitude, communicational difficulties, problems in intimate interpersonal relationships (separation anxiety, divorce, unrequited love, abandonment, emotional addiction, rivalry), or any other form of distress constitutive of our contemporary cultural malaise.

First, the patient chooses the tale that she believes to bear the most resemblance to her own current life stage and self-image. Second, through a detailed and collaborative analysis of the tale, the patient is encouraged to take part in active fantasy work and explore how the story symbolically stages her own troubles and thoughts. The ritualistic, affectively charged identification with the heroic protagonist enables the patient to revitalize fossilized, suppressed sense perceptions and emotional channels, to reestablish lost contacts with inner and outer realms. Eventually, in the third stage of the therapy, the patient retells the tale changing some of its motifs to model her own road to (self-) healing. The new version, with personalized solutions of her own, will regenerate her life and allow for satisfactory access to “the totality of being.” Fairy tales tailored to individual needs are endowed with the capacity to provide consolation and encouragement, to ease psychic and physical pains, and to enable us to understand and rebalance our lives by letting us come to terms with our own desires, constraints, possibilities, and the spiritual roots that provide the...


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pp. 199-203
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