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  • Reverend James Squire

The Girl Without Hands

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Photo by Veeterzy

I received an e mail from The Reverend Dr. Alexander (Sandy) McCurdy after I posted “Play the Hand That You are Dealt”. He is a close friend, who is an Episcopal priest and analyst. I was the advisor of his son, Gregory, during his time at EA. He is the only student I have ever encountered who read most of the New York Times BEFORE he arrived at school. Sandy indicated that he always asks his fourth-year psychiatric residents at Jefferson University Medical Center Hospital, where he is a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry, to read the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, The Girl Without hands. He did this at the beginning of his time with them. Sandy is a brilliant and caring priest/therapist so I always look forward to his feedback.

I talked with Sandy after I received his email to discuss with him his reason for doing this. He responded that he did have them read this fairy tale “to loosen them up” to appreciate the rich nature of their inner selves. So much of a psychiatrist’s training focuses on the objective with keen interest in the facts, but there is much more to us as human beings particularly if you are interested in treating the whole person. He shared with me as well that a friend of his, who is Head of the Emergency Department at Jefferson, did a similar thing with his students. He would take his students out of the ER once a month for half a day to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. No matter what you do in life, everyone needs to develop imagination and empathy in relating to others. Procedures and hard facts are not enough in caring for others. A knowledge of our rich interior life is essential.

I have attached a summary of the story of The Girl Without Hands. You will see the rich symbolism in the story and an analysis of the themes. Piety, faith, and devotion are mentioned as the values that should be held by us.

It is interesting to me that in my own training as a therapist that The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettleheim was a recommended read for me. Bettleheim makes a strong case that fairy tales provide a unique way for children to come to terms with the dilemmas in their inner lives.

What many of us consider to be children’s literature turns out to be a window into the soul/psyche of children, a tool to assist in helping them move through the challenges and hopes and fears that they find in their daily lives.

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