Once upon a time..... most folks will have grown up hearing those lines at least a few times in childhood. It's the beginning of almost every tale of magic and morals. And embedded within, a lesson so powerful it can change the way we view our relationship to anxiety, stress, depression and worry.
Let me introduce you to my own personal demon. His name is Mr Piggy. We all have a Mr Piggy. There's no escaping him, he is as much part of out human condition as the water we drink.
My Piggy is the name I have for my anxiety and depression. Or rather the thoughts, impulses and drives he can produce if left unchecked.
In common with most porky souls, Mr Piggy is forever hungry. Always looking for the next meal, a snack or twenty, a sated repast. But he can never be fully sated. It's not in his nature. His role, or rather his healthy role, is to stop me putting my hand in the lions mouth. Mr Piggy stopped our ancestors walking up to bears saying.. 'Oooh fluffy!'. Well... at least the ones who actually lived to become our ancestors.
But occasionally, events happen. It needn't be a massive trauma or life changing circumstance.
Hard times at work, relationship breakdowns, bullying. Cast your net far and wide. Any stress at all.
And Mr Piggy gets fat! He has kept you safe, he has done his job. He has seen the stress and acted. Maybe imobilied you. Overpowered the present problem by creating in your mind a million what ifs? Rendering you immobile with panic attacks. Looking for the chinks in your soul that let him see what buttons to press to keep you 'safe'.
No pig wants to be hungry. Having learned what he needs to do, he continues. The repertoire expands, your choices become more limited. And all the time he grows fatter and fatter.
So this brings us to Rumpelstiltskin. Folklorists have claimed the origin of the tale goes back 4000 years. So important and strong is the message contained within.
In the original tale, a beautiful young woman is the victim of her Fathers boasting. He claims she can spin straw into gold. The ruler locks her away, threatening to kill her if she fails. In steps our imp. He will save her, complete the task but only if she gives him her first born son.
Without repeating the whole tale, after a time, a child is born. Seeking help, she finds the only way to defeat the imp is the recitation of his name. A task she accomplishes him. Placing him under her control.
How does this relate to Mr Piggy?
The child in the tale represents the young womans future and health. To retain it, she must NAME her persecutor.
Names have power. Naming your fears, your anxieties, matters. Creating a persona, something you can tell a tale of and see takes away it's power. It still exists, but it is no longer driving.
I have had clinical depression from the age of 13. For years, Mr Piggy and his wiles drove much of my behaviour, both good and bad. The need to be seen, feel alive, feel loved... all driven by the porky one.
Emotions raging, dancing up and down. Decisions made, so poor they almost destroyed my life. Again driven to feed the porker and his version of who I am. And who I must be to keep him alive.
Finally, I stopped. I stood still and asked, who is this? This isn't who I see in my head. It isn't who others see?
It took time to find Mr Piggy. It took time to name him. I will write about the techniques I used in later posts. But naming him, seeing his games and his power worked. Have I banished all my symptoms? Of course not! I still have dark, dark days. Sometimes I wish for death and feel the pressure of his hunger.
But I know his name. Now I can break the spell. I can laugh at him, train him to work with me and not control me.
That is the Rumpelstiltskin principle. Name and take it's power. Name and make it your own. Name and grow.