Excerpt from Chapter 4: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion

“But then I should not have had my wonderful brains!” cried the Scarecrow. “I might have passed my whole life in the farmer’s cornfield.”

“And I should not have had my lovely heart,” said the Tin Woodman. “I might have stood and rusted in the forest till the end of the world.”

“And I should have lived a coward forever,” declared the Lion, “and no beast in all the forest would have had a good word to say to me.”

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The third practice is the centerpiece and foundation of this book. Perhaps it is the centerpiece of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as well. No characters in the story are more endearing and gripping than Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. I believe no characters in the story are as compelling psychologically as well.

Nearly a half a century after L. Frank Baum enriched the lives of countless children with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Karen Horney, M.D., enhanced the psychological world with her book, Our Inner Conflicts, which became a classic in its field. The book introduces the three primary ways people relate to others: by either moving toward, moving against, or moving away from others. Across the ocean in England – and independent of Dr. Horney – Wilfred Bion, M.D., used three different terms to describe how we emotionally “link” or connect to each other. He said that people interpersonally connect either through love, hate or knowing.

Although the terms differ, in essence, these two psychoanalytic giants, independently of each other, identified the three fundamental ways in which we interpersonally move or connect to others.

Over the years, I have relied on these tripartite concepts to guide me as a therapist, a teacher and an organizational consultant. As I have worked with these concepts, I’ve gradually developed a model that I call the Interpersonal Triad. But what does all this have to do with the Wizard of Oz?

The ideas of Karen Horney followed L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by roughly half a century. My epiphany in connecting the two came in another half-century. It was a chance observation of children watching a video of The Wizard of Oz when it hit me: there they were – all three of them – and in, of all places, a children’s story.

Early in her journey Dorothy meets three companions – Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Each of these companions has some characteristic that is underdeveloped and in need of fulfillment. Each joins Dorothy to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz who will presumably give them those things that they lack. As it turns out, the Wizard has little to give them that they have not developed themselves along the Yellow Brick Road.

Let’s look at the analogy in terms of Bion’s links and Horney’s movements. Remember Tin Man who cares about having a heart? He represents “love,” or “moving toward.” Lion, who battles for courage, represents “hate,” or “moving-against.” Finally, Scarecrow, obsessed with having a brain, symbolizes knowing, or “moving away.”

These three comrades – Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion – represent three ways we move interpersonally. They symbolize three key ways we constructively connect or destructively disconnect with other people. How well you develop Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion in your life will determine how successful you will be in your relationships.

Just as we need to learn how to navigate the three dimensions of the physical world (height, width and depth) with balance and coordination, we need to learn how to navigate the three dimensions of the interpersonal world as well.

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