A fairy tale about why changing for the better in therapy can be so scary.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, a princess was born in a castle.
At that time, war raged in the land, and the sound of battle could be heard deep within the walls of the castle. The little princess, whose name was Angharad, was scared, but she was safe behind the battlements.
The battles ebbed and flowed for years, but they finally ceased when the princess was a young woman.
The princess would stroll along the battlements, looking out at the newly rebuilt town. After five years of peace life had returned to normal. The market square was bustling with people going about their business and children playing.
It all looked very inviting, but the princess was afraid to leave the safety of the castle.
As soon as she expressed an interest in going out into the world, her advisers and guards got nervous.
“It’s not safe, your majesty. Don’t leave the castle."
Part of her agreed, it had been very frightening during her childhood, and it was only staying in the castle that had kept her safe. But another part of her wanted to go outside and join in the life of the world beyond the castle walls.
Every time she thought about this, her protectors crowded around and persuaded her not to.
One day, as she walked the battlements, she looked out and saw a woman standing in front of the main gate holding a cake!
The woman looked kind and friendly, and the cake looked delicious.
Angharad thought she could even smell the cake from up there in the battlements.
She called down to the woman. “What is it you want?"
The woman said, “I am Tirion and I’ve brought this special cake for you."
“What makes it special?" asked Angharad.
Tirion said, “It contains the essence of all the good things in the world, everything you have missed while you have been in your castle."
Angharad was startled and delighted, her mouth was watering, and the cake was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen.
“Bring it into the castle where we can be safe and share it together."
Tirion said, with great kindness, “No, now that it is safe, you must come out of the castle, and we can share the cake in the sunshine."
Angharad was both tempted and scared; going outside was something she had dreamed of and had nightmares about, but the thought of being in the sunshine eating cake with Tirion was compelling.
She decided she would go out of the castle.
The moment she had this thought, her guards and advisers appeared at her side.
“Don’t go, your highness; it is not safe."
Angharad said, “Look, there is no danger."
Her guards and advisers, after years of war, thought everything was dangerous.
“Your highness," said one, “that woman looks kind, but she is trying to trick you."
Another said, “The cake could be poisoned."
“She’s trying to lull you into a false sense of security," said another.
Angharad looked at them all. They had guarded her and kept her safe her entire life, and she was grateful, but, for the first time, she noticed how scared they were.
She was torn between loyalty, safety, and her new desire to be outside in the sun.
“I will go to the main gate and speak with Tirion. I will not leave the castle."
They grumbled, complained, and gripped their swords, but Angharad had decided to find out more about life outside.
She walked to the castle gate, and standing behind the portcullis, she called out to Tirion, (who stood in the same position, holding the cake as before).
“Tirion, come closer, let us speak."
Tirion stepped forward, towards the gate. She stopped just an arm’s length away from Angharad.
“Tirion, why are you here?"
“I am here to help you out into the sunshine so that you can taste all the world has to offer."
“I cannot come out," said Angharad, “it is not safe."
“I know it seems that way, your highness," said Tirion, “You have lived in fear all your life. You have become a prisoner of your own safety”.
“Can you not come in to the castle where I know it is safe?" pleaded the princess.
“No, you must come out. It is safe enough out here, there is warmth in the sun and goodness in this cake I brought you."
Angharad smelled the cake and reached to open the gate, but the agitation of her protectors stopped her, she called to Tirion, “I dare not come out."
Tirion said, “Your advisors and guards are scared for your safety, they are trying to protect you from old dangers."
She called out to the guards, “I know you have protected the princess in this strong castle against great danger, but the war has been over for five years. It is safe out here in the sunshine, even though you don’t believe me."
Angharad plucked up her courage, “I shall go out for a short while and stay close to the gate."
She stepped outside, but stayed close by the gate in the shadow of the castle walls.
“It is good to see you”, says Tirion. “I know you are scared; being out here without your protectors feels strange, but we can stay close to your castle; the door is open, and you can always go back in if you need to."
Angharad looked nervous but stood her ground.
Tirion offered her a small piece of cake. “Would you like to try it?"
Shouts and cries of “Don’t do it!" came from inside the castle.
Tirion gave her a small piece of cake. Angharad brought it to her lips, smelled the fabulous, scary deliciousness of it, then took a bite.
It tasted strange and wonderful at the same time. Angharad was delighted.
“Come, let us step into the sunshine," said Tirion.
A great wailing echoed from the castle “Don’t go, it’s not safe!"
Angharad went back to the gate and called out, “I think it is safe. I am going to step into the sunlight."
“But, what about us? We have served you and saved you all these years. Remember all those terrible things we protected you from. What will happen when you leave?"
“Stay here, I will not go far, and I can come back to you if it is dangerous," said Angharad.
They nodded, looking dejected and defeated.
The princess returned to Tirion, who said, in a voice loud enough for the princess’s protectors to hear, “It is understandable, that your guards and advisors are scared for you and scared for themselves. I honour them and their service, keeping you safe all this time."
Angharad stepped into the sunshine to eat more cake.
She enjoyed it and nothing bad happened.
“What shall we do, your highness?" called her protectors, “We are afraid; if you leave us, we will have no purpose, we will die without you."
Angharad called back, “There are many things you can do that would help me out here in the world”.
“Come out into the sunshine, relax, and have some of this delicious cake. We can decide what to do next."
Also, stop calling me ‘your highness’, I am Angharad.”
Just in case you were wondering Angharad and Tirion are Welsh names. Angharad means ‘much loved one’ and Tirion means ‘kind or gentle’.
Image courtesy of Allan Harris alh1 | Flickr