Facebook Pixel

Psychology Behind The Cinderella Complex

By HERWriter
Rate This

The concept of women’s emotional, financial and other dependency on men from The Cinderella Complex can be interpreted in different ways in today’s society and culture.

For example, in the Urban Dictionary, the following entry suggests a more modern take and how a younger generation might take the whole concept: “When a woman (often submissive and needy) spends all her time searching for her prince charming to come rescue her; brainwashed by rosy romantic images and ideals.”

This definition slightly touches on the dependency factor, but focuses more on another problem of unrealistic expectations and resulting disappointment. The dependency issue could come in because the woman is depending on an ideal man to come into her life and make her happy.

The Cinderella Complex, in Colette Dowling’s case, was mainly conflict with herself. “To have no confidence in my ability to make it in this world on my own, the new way and to be equally doubtful of my ability to succeed in woman’s old way, which is to seduce a man into being her patron and protector.”

Dowling also talked about her frustration over her dependence. "Women who yearned for independence but were frightened by what it might mean.” There is also “a psychological need to avoid independence, the wish to be saved." This relates back to the prince charming aspect.

Although this may not be officially recognized as a psychological condition, it is an interesting concept to keep in mind and could be an explanation for how some women feel.

On Colette Dowling’s Web site, she even said that she thinks the response to The Cinderella Complex caused her to pursue a career in psychotherapy. So, there might be more to this complex than meets the eye. She can even be found on Psychology Today’s directory of therapists.

Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, said in an e-mail that society gives mixed messages about gender, but that dependency on men seems to be more traditional than being independent from men. “In an ideal marriage, husband and wife are mutually and equally dependent on one another,” Eagly said.

Mary Fraser, Ph.D., a part-time psychology instructor at De Anza College, said she thinks women are taught that men make decisions and have more power than women. “And then we’ve got the whole Disney thing, where Prince Charming will come and save the day,” Fraser said.

She said there is also a division between the smart and the pretty girl. “We can’t do both, evidently,” Fraser said. “And if you are both, then you’re universally hated by both men and women; women because they’re jealous of you, and men because they don’t know what to do with you.” She said that a woman “who is living up to her potential is often cast aside or becomes a social outcast.”

In an evolutionary aspect, women don’t want to have to become a social outcast.
Fraser said, “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women,” by Naomi Wolf, is more of a modern, updated take and continuation of The Cinderella Complex.


Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I never noticed it consciously until i wrote my first research paper on the depression in homemakers with fulltime employment, that this is exactly what i was describing. I also never noticed until this paper that i was given this complex!! I am 32 years old and when i go on a road trip or wish to hit up a movie by myself i hear my parents almost complain.."you mean, by yourself??". They never could grasp the concept of my independence. Glad i subconsciously changed that within myself.

April 28, 2010 - 6:43pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

You are onto something with the depression of homemakers with full-time employment. What about abuse by your stepparent, tending never-ending chores, being made to wait on your step siblings and never allowed out with friends, How about never allowed out without curfew. the woman romanticizing about a man rescuing her is not cinderella syndrome. thats Snow White who wants prince charming. Cinderella implies dysfunctional and abusive relationship between a stepparent, step siblings and step child. Cinderella was abused by her mother and stepsisters and didn't care about the prince she just wanted to enjoy life, living and to be social, dont we all dream of what cinderella dreamed and hoped for…... mean while the miserable step mother and siblings ruined her ability to be free. The Prince found her because she left her slipper behind and he had the means to find her. Not because she dreamed of being rescued. Cinderella dreamed of being normal not rescued.

May 8, 2014 - 11:52pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.