Follow the Yellow Brick Road to
Maturity: Freudian and Piagetian Bricks pave the Path to
the Oz of Genital Functioning and
by Iam Oz, Regent Emeritus
Emerald City University
[This paper was originally written by Sharon R. Kahn, Ph.D in January 1990].
For decades, sages, scientists, and scholars have ignobly ignored that not so childish classic The Wizard of Oz (Baum,1900). This paper remedies this not so benign neglect employing both Freudian and Piagetian concepts to illustrate how to forsake the Kansas of Oedipal Anxiety and Concrete Operations to live in the Oz of Genital Adjustment and Formal Operations. To accomplish this feat will require utilization of illustrative examples from both the published folio of The Wizard of Oz (Baum, 1900), and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture extravaganza (LeRoy & Fleming,1939).
Initially, the 4 protagonists in this American saga: The Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy Gale suffer from the dual whammies oft present in malingering immaturity--cognitive concreteness and Oedipal irresolution. They arrive in Oz suffering from profound cognitive deficits, unable to understand the freedom abstraction offers, finding security in literalness. Everything they request from Oz is a tangible representation of a Formal Operational concept. Furthermore, this questing quartet employs transductive logic, in that they hop from specific to specific, failing to deduce the underlying principles of operation. Finally, each of these characters is fixated at the Phallic Stage of Development and has not resolved their Oedipal crisis. Women are split into good witch,good mommy/bad witch,bad mommy. Men are split into good Wizard,good daddy/evil flying monkeys,bad daddy. Immediately the protagonists encounter difficulty while skipping to milieu down the Yellow Brick Road. They know they are not in Kansas anymore, but they fail to abstract from this to formulate new behavioral
norms. Growing beyond concrete reasoning implies understanding (via assimilation and accommodation) that words do not always have tangible representations, but abstract connotations. Not everything can be touched to be incorporated.
This concrete, phallically fixated, questing quartet seek a powerful other to resolve their problems for them. They fantasized the Wizard of Oz to be the magnificant god-like parent reconstructed from hazy infantile memories, who always knew what ailed them and could heal them with milk and embraces. However, if the Wizard can do anything, it is this: he can help them grow psychologically away from the logical limitations of concrete operations to avail themselves of the insights and potentialities offered in formal operations. Maturation to the genital stage and achievement of formal operations can be accomplished through assimilation and accommodation of new constructs.
Each of the quartet making hadj to Oz fervently wants the Wizard to supply him/her with some tangible object that they believe they are lacking and desperately need to become a viable being: brains, heart, courage, home. They know these as words with a physical, quantifiable, measurable, actual, real existence. They can never hope to be normal unless the "Wizard is a whiz".(LeRoy & Fleming,1939) Alas for this charming (albeit misguided) romanticism for the Wizard has no extraordinary powers or potions. He is "a person with special training and ability, with human strengths and human frailties."(Marmor, 1986). It is their fantasied need for an omnipotent, supernatural being that is being projected onto Oz. What does he possess that they lack? Boundless grandiosity coinciding with a flurry of coincidences, superpositive transferences from the collective ego of the Emerald City, and good press have transformed his image into that approaching a mythic deity. Years of faithful and non-demanding (approaching slavish) worship have inflated his ego. Because he has never been put to the test, he has come to believe in the veridicallity
of the legends that have been woven around him. (A dangerous if not fatal game to play.) To be fair to the Wizard, he truly wants to be this magical, mythic being, of whom such songs and stories have been told. Who would not wish to be a god, if even for a day? But if he ever interacted with the citizenry, asked for feedback from the peons, all would come to this necessary if not disappointing conclusion: he is just a damned man, even as are we! (See the "Emperor's New Clothes," Andersen, 1961). Remaining deified entails becoming a recluse. (See Hughes, 1976). Perpetuating his myth means using fireworks to symbolize his power and mystifying the citizens. Pacifying the supplicates means hiring a factotum to interpret his Delphic deliberations. Thus, he lurks in the shadows, gnawing happily on the bones of his divinity. By the time the questing quartet arrive on his doormat, he has long since stopped looking to help old ladies across the street.
However, the questing quartet ignore these subtle indications that the Wizard has resolved to rest on his laurels, collect his salary, exploit his reputation, and punch out his competitor's lights (so that his may shine the brighter). In doing so, they show the charmless zeal and breathless persistence which marks the truly concrete child. They force the Wizard out of the shadows he has cast over the Emerald City, both physically and psychologically. As the Wizard is still clawing the fabric of which his legend is stitched upon, he wishes to disperse such noisome nerds as are these four. He presents them with an epic task which they must first fulfill in order to be deemed worthy of his assistance, and with any luck, their attempt to fulfill the task will result in their death, and he will be rid of them. The Wizard insists that they must bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. This, in, of, and by itself, is an interesting Freudian symbol which illustrates that the Wizard has not yet resolved completely his Oedipal dilemma. In asking for her broomstick, he projects his castration anxiety. He will never be really potent until the evil rejecting maternal figure
To the everlasting dismay and disbelief of the wizard, these 4 succeed in the task and bring him the longed for broomstick. Now he must fulfill his promise, or lose his reputation, both at home and abroad. The real task of the Wizard is to guide the questing quartet into autonomy: from the boundaries of Concrete Operations to the infinities of Formal Operation, via assimilation and accommodation, which will also lead them out of the Phallic Stage and into the Genital, thus skipping Latency (which probably never existed anyway.) The Wizard must share with them and disclose to them the only power he does possess: how to understand and manipulate bodiless symbols. However, due to their recent success experience, these four stand at the gateway to Formal Operations and can reciprocate and meet the Wizard halfway in his task of mental renovations. What the Wizard will do is build in the structure of formal operations in the service of mature genitality. For once in the annals of psychology, insight will be enough to provoke behavioral change and emotional growth.
The Scarecrow wants a brain because he's hopelessly inadequate at performing the only function he was constructed for: scaring crows. Having the population he was meant to frighten laugh at him has caused his belief he is cognitively inferior to the rest of the world. Furthermore, he is multiply handicapped. As he is floppy and flammable, he sees limited opportunities to find his niche. He wants to diversify his services into the white collar industry. Because the crows have so humiliated him, he has come to believe that he literally lacks meninges and grey matter. The Wizard enabled him to realize that this is a delusion. It is not that he is all rhinencephalon and no neocortex which differentiates him from all others, but his belief that he cannot think like the others that keeps him from even trying . "After all, many men have thought great thoughts with no more brains than you have. But they do have one thing that you lack: a diploma", says the Wizard. (LeRoy & Fleming,1939). The Wizard, using the powers vested in him by the Regents of the Emerald City, presents Scarecrow with a Th.D. This representation of an abstract process reassures the Scarecrow that he is like all others. Assimilation and accommodation occur instantaneously with the presentation and acceptance of the award. Scarecrow, previously too insecure to share his thoughts is emboldened by this tangible reassurance. He now accepts himself as a goodenough Scarecrow. (with apologies to Winnicott, 1965)
The Tinman wants a heart. And note his appellation: he is a man, within him once ran the juices and passions of our species. But emotions can terrify and threaten;disable by distracting. He has literally turned himself into a rusting automaton, terrified by emotional activity. When he cries, he physically immobilizes himself. Rather than admit to being a sensitive, vulnerable being, he projects his vulnerability outward and thus rejects this aspect of himself. He blames his metalization on the witch. (Baum, 1900). It must be added that this is not the usual way to avoid intimacy. The ordinary lot of humans become obese in the service of keeping others at a safe distance. (Nohdiet & Weightaton,1988) Once again, via assimilation and accommodation, the Wizard using his alacrity with words, enables Tinman to comprehend that having a heart is not a possession to be obtained like an oilcan. Its a quality he already possesses and attempted to bury alive. The Wizard, like all good therapists, makes this interpretation in a non-threatening way, and in a manner geared to the level of the Tinman's understanding by presenting him with a heart shaped watch, a tangible representation of the desired organ. He'll always remember that he possesses a good enough heart because he will hear it ticking. The ability to grasp an abstraction with this representation transforms the Tinman into a being able to love and give of himself. Intimacy is not intimidating. Witness how he wishes Dorothy to remain in Oz with him.
The Cowardly Lion believes that he lacks courage. The certainty and dread that something is missing, that he is incomplete, has not done wonders for either his self-esteem or his bodily stance. An outsider cannot help but notice that while he may or may not lack courage, he certainly lacks a penis. While the Scarecrow and the Tinman believe they lack necessary internal organs symbolic of a desired external trait, the Cowardly Lion believes he lacks a desired external trait without connecting it to his real lack of a necessary male external organ. Thus he suffers from a misnomer: he is not the Cowardly LIon but the Castrated Lion. One can only wonder who so humiliated him. Could he have grown up in such a primitive family? It is Freud who lends the helping hand here, in a manner of speaking The Lions's incestuous fantasies were actually punished by the evil sexual father and the wicked witch of a mother before the resolution of the Oedipal complex could occur. This memory is repressed. He will do anything other than face the facts about what really renders him incomplete. Note how he is always fussing with some limb or bodily part to keep his gaze averted from that which is missing. He feels unfit to rule, paranoid that his subjects are really laughing at him. So he defensively lashes outward, acting out his anger and unsuccessfully attempting to assuage his anxiety by fighting with animals physically smaller than him, because they are safe. He can easily overwhelm them. Face to face with an equal, he givers and cowers like cup custard on the floor. The Wizard must enable him to realize he cannot purchase courage like condoms at the pharmacy. (which the lion will never need anyway) Courage is knowing who you are and who your are not, and not running away to avoid exposure for the latter. Courage is understanding who you are and letting that be sufficient to present to others, instead of seeking possessions that you believe will compensate you for not being divine, and then hiding behind the possessions. Courage is knowing who you are and taking a stand publically in accordance with your self-concepts, even if this means you might stand alone. If you know who you are and do not fear the exposure of your frailties, then that is more courage than most can claim. Then there is only one thing separating the Lion from the heros of sagas: medals, the outward representation of valor and bravery. The Wizard utilizing the repertoire that he has, presents the Lion with such representations of Courage. Instantly, with these medals, the Lion understands what courage really is and in a point of pride and in a gesture of acceptance, he straightens up into an erect posture that Jack LaLanne could only envy.
Which now leaves us with only Dorothy: The Wizard's therapeutic failure, caused by his inability to recognize the countertransference issues. Unconsciously, he wants Dorothy to stay with him, and not mature into autonomy.
Dorothy wants to go home. At least, that what she warbles throughout the length of this story. For someone who wants to return home so much, we can only speculate at the length she goes to away from the direction of Kansas in order to return there. She does not realize that since her psyche always travels with her, she never can geographically relocate from her psychological home. Unlike the American Express Card, the psychological home can never be lost, stolen, or misplaced. It is always within Dorothy's power to go home, modify home, or make do with home. The Wizard's inability to recognize the countertransference issues causes the premature disruption of her therapy. He wants to remain her plenipotent paternal figure: he will never leave his little girl. He will take her home himself. And thus, Daddy fails, and is lost to her forever, blown away by the force of his own uncontrolled hot air. Mommy the Good Witch must unleash the forces of mature heterosexuality by using the tangible representation of the Ruby Slippers to illustrate the power within Dorothy.
Unfortunately, the movie concludes with denial. The whole sequence defensively shrugged off as just a dream. Denial enable the viewer to repress the terror of the abstract. The dream motif has served for almost half a century as a smokescreen to prevent the viewer from grasping the underlying moral: how to accept the unstructured and infinite growth potential in formal operations. Concrete operations seem comfortable, but the boundaries ultimately imprison in a restraining cognitive straitjacket. One must look inward and within the soul for satisfaction, not run screaming down the Yellow Brick Road in search of structure. What is not within cannot be obscured without through the manifestation of fine furs or gigantic gadgets. The quest of life is not how many toys purchased before death, but how much soul can be shared with others before death. To be able to do the latter entails acceptance of the self as good enough.
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