Paolo Assandri
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Discovering yourself: a journey to the Wizard of OZ

I have always loved the Wizard of Oz, especially in its film version. That yellow brick road has always hypnotically attracted my attention, as have its characters, so quirky and inevitably fascinating.

The Wizard of Oz is a simple and, at the same time, compelling story. It is the story of Dorothy, a girl from Kansas, who, due to a twister, finds herself in a magical world. Here, with the help of Glenda, a good fairy, she begins her journey on the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz, the only person who can get her back home. Thanks to her encounter with three unusual travelling companions (a tin man in search of her heart, a scarecrow of her brain and a lion of his courage), Dorothy will defeat the wicked witch of the West and reach the Wizard of Oz, thus finding a way to make her wish come true: to go home.

The Wizard of Oz is a story about discovery, adventure, loss and finding. And, precisely for these reasons, it reaches directly into our unconscious, resonating strongly with our resources and our fears. Who has never felt a bit cowardly like the lion? Or unintelligent like the scarecrow? Or a little feelingless like the tin man? Or homesick like Dorothy?

The Wizard of Oz contains, in fact, some important messages that can help us rediscover our humanity. Here are some:

"Everyone, sooner or later, can feel stuck"

Regardless of background, ethnicity, age, profession or level of education, we can all, sooner or later, feel trapped in a situation from which we cannot get out. So, too, in The Wizard of Oz, the protagonists find themselves stuck in their own personal story. Dorothy, for example, finds herself initially trapped in her fear and frustration, the scarecrow in his scepticism, the tin man in his helplessness and the lion in his fear and anxiety.

'We all need tools to get out of impasse”

Getting out of situations in which we feel trapped requires effective tools and strategies. For example, when Dorothy arrives in the world of Oz, the fairy Glenda shows her the yellow brick road to the Wizard and gives her red shoes (shoes that would protect her on the way). Had she not been given these two tools and had she not decided to use them, Dorothy would not have been able to set out and complete her journey, but would have remained stuck in Munchkinland.

"To make our wishes come true, we must set out on a journey".

Dorothy could have arrived at the Wizard of Oz on a magic carpet, Instead, to get to the wizard and realise her wish to return home, she must set out on an unknown and adventurous path. Dorothy's journey reminds us that in order to reach our destination, we must take one step at a time, taking into account that there will be setbacks, mishaps, surprises and unexpected gifts. It also reminds us that even in the midst of despair there can be twists and turns. What's more, Glenda, the good fairy, explains to Dorothy that in order to begin the journey she must "start from the beginning", as if to emphasise that it is not possible to anticipate or skip steps to make our journey towards the fulfilment of our desires.

"Watch out your thoughts! They may hinder your path".

Despite the fact that many of us want to make positive changes in our lives, our minds can work against the direction of our desires. Consider, in fact, that the mind, in order to solve problems, tends to use known strategies rather than explore new ways of thinking. For example, the Wicked Witch of the West will try to convince Dorothy that she will not be able to complete her journey. And she will do so in every way: by devaluing her, denigrating her and threatening her. The Witch of the West thus represents the limiting beliefs and thoughts that we have about ourselves and the world and which can often self-sabotage us. By freeing ourselves from these thoughts, we can experience a new way of approaching the world. For example, when the scarecrow inadvertently kills the Witch of the West, all the characters recognise the freedom that emerges when we free ourselves from our limiting thoughts and beliefs. 

"We all need guidance from time to time."

John Donne wrote: "No man is an island". And indeed, more than we think, we need external support. Whether it is a friend who listens to us and advises us, whether it is a trainer who teaches us something we need, whether it is a coach or a psychotherapist, it happens that, during our existential journey, there is a need for someone to support us and offer us that guidance we need. Both the Wizard of Oz and Glenda support the growth of the characters by offering them an alternative view of their story. In this way, both the wizard and the good fairy give the protagonists the opportunity to increase their self-esteem and become aware of their resources. 

"The resources we need are often already in our possession. But we need a 'journey' to realise this".

Like Dorothy who, once she reached the end of her journey, realised that she would have the chance to go home at any time thanks to her red shoes, in the same way it happens to all of us that we are not aware of the resources we have at our disposal that could take us exactly where we want to be. Sometimes, however, we are not ready to see what is already present in us and we need an existential journey to become aware of it. 

"There is no place like home"

Dorothy's desire is to return home. I like, however, to think of 'home' as a metaphor representing our most authentic self, that essential part of us that we are often unable to access easily. Thanks to her journey and after encountering loving-kindness, intelligence and courage (impersonated respectively by the tin man, the scarecrow and the lion), Dorothy realises that the essential is represented by something very simple that she had taken for granted. In this way, her journey takes her right back to where it began, but with a different awareness that gives her the opportunity to appreciate what she could not see clearly before.

If you too would like to know how the story of The Wizard of Oz can help your personal growth and help you discover your potential and resources, discover the workshop that Cristina Savi and I will be holding in Acqui Terme (AL) on 21 and 22 May 2022.  We will be waiting for you on the yellow brick road ...

"Follow the trail of your dreams and at a turning point, Tom Thumb, you will find your way back to where you started".

Lella Ravasi Bellocchio

Author: Paolo Assandri is a Counselling Psychologist (HCPC and British Psychological Association registered), a Psychotherapist (UKCP) and Psychologist-psychotherapist (Ordine degli Psicologi del Piemonte). He is based in London where he lives and works.

No responsibility disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional health or medical/psychological advice or treatment. The article is for general informational purposes only to improve wellbeing. Consult with a licensed health care practitioner (doctor, psychologist or psychotherapist) in case of need. Authors, producers and consultants linked to this article are not responsible for choices nor actions of readers following the read of this article.

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