So often we think of windows as enabling us to look OUTSIDE. However, I’d like to introduce a window that allows us to look INSIDE, specifically, into the inner workings of the psyche. As a former psychologist with a specialty in playtherapy, I used sandplay therapy with both children and adults to gain a better understanding of what my clients were struggling with. Sandplay was truly a window of privilege – no other technique revealed as much about what was really going on INSIDE.
Instead, I would like to show you images that convey windows into the psyche. First, let me introduce you to a sandplay setup. A sandplay therapist has one or more shallow trays that are filled with sand. The wooden or plastic trays are about the size of the old photo developing trays (for those of you who still knew a darkroom, before the digital age). The therapy room has shelves covered with various miniature objects and figurines that will be used to create a world inside the sandtray.
Here is an example of an initial sandtray world:
As clients developed trust in me as the therapist and embraced the sandplay process, their worlds began to be populated with monsters and threatening characters representing their inner struggles, fears, and inadequacies. This is a child’s representation of her parents’ messy divorce and custody fight:
A very shy little girl who was initially non-verbal in therapy was able to show me how she felt, utterly alone in the world:
This young man was intelligent and sensitive but was constantly in trouble and had great difficulty controlling his angry impulses:
A young woman with an eating disorder realized she had a great deal of grieving to do:
Very often, there were two sides opposing and battling each other, sometimes originating and reflective of the outer world (e.g. family situation) and then inevitably taking over the inner world:
The inner demons became visible:
Fierce battles ensued often resulting in total destruction of the old ways:
Powerful allies came along:
Hope and creativity started to return:
And eventually, clarity and wholeness:
These final worlds often feel like altars to the self, the healthy self: a feeling of peacefulness, wholeness and holiness enters in a palpable way. That’s when therapy is coming to an end, that’s when both client and therapist are in awe of the window they have been privileged to look through together so that all the disorganized and missing pieces could be retrieved and re-arranged into a healthier whole.