Art Therapy: Jung, Mandalas and Scribbler

Art has played a tremendous role in my life. On one end of the spectrum, I have always doodled. Still do on the corner of most papers. On the other end, I like to capture images that calm me…usually in pencil but sometimes in watercolor. Scenes of naked winter trees, cats. Geometric shapes and three-dimensional objects in 2D.

Art requires no words. It allows the parts of me who don’t speak a voice.

A dear friend of mine shared some thoughts on Carl Jung and the topic of archetypes and mandalas. Archetypes – those ancient images that are supposedly passed down from generation to generation as a part of our collective conscious. Aspects, or as he described them, “deposits” in the psyche. Common to all of us.

While this dear friend knew I had DID, we had no idea our conversation would, as the mandala rotates, come around full circle.

Mandalas

Mandalas are one of the most fundamental archetypes – often circular charts or patterns that represent some symbolic or metaphysical interpretation of our existence in the universe. They appear in many religions and cultures. Sand mandalas created by Tibetan monks. Medicine wheels and dream catchers. The labyrinth walk.

Jung felt the mandala was an indicator of internal processes and emotional state. He referred to it as a cryptogram concerning the state of the self. [1] The mandala, he believed, represented the wholeness of personality.

Let me repeat that: Wholeness of personality.

Very like what we’ve lost in DID-land, eh?

Then as I continued my search on Jung and mandalas, I was shocked to trip across an article entitled, Mandala artwork by clients with DID: Clinical observations based on two theoretical models, by Carol Thayer Cox and Barry M. Cohen. [2]

Holy cow! Here I am talking to my friend about Jung and mandalas, while clinicians and researchers out there using mandalas in the diagnosis and treatment of folks with DID! Talk about full circle! (Sorry, unnecessary pun!)

Mandalas and DID

I wrote to Carol T Cox asking for a reprint of the article, and she was kind enough to mail me a copy. I am not going to review the entire article because I am not an expert on either Jung or mandalas, but I would like to comment.

They compare two models that were developed to analyze mandala drawings. One is the Great Round of Mandala theory developed by Kellogg in the 1970’s. She provides 13 mandala archetypes that represent 13 stages of psychological development from the unconscious through birth, adolescence, adulthood, and back full circle to the unconscious and rebirth. After studying mandalas from DID patients, she found that 6 types of these mandalas were drawn most frequently. The second model is the Ten Category Model developed Cohen and Cox in 1995. After studying hundreds of mandalas drawn by those with DID, they identified 10 categories that represent common themes and processes.

Let me admit now that I don’t understand Kellogg’s model in relationship to my life. I’m an engineer. That is too vague for me, or perhaps it requires a background in psychological research I just don’t have.

However, I identify completely with the Ten Category Model. Without going into detail, let me list the categories and you’ll see what I mean. SYSTEM, CHAOS, FRAGMENTATION, BARRIER, THREAT, INDUCTION, TRANCE, SWITCHING, ABREACTION, and ALERT.

Well, just wrap up my life and sprinkle the pieces over this set of categories and I hit nearly every one of them.

Let’s take one in particular – a VERY COMMON one with anyone who is aware of their diagnosis and is interested in learning and understanding it. The SYSTEM picture is very often a circle that represents the whole person, with many smaller circles representing the individual selves, or personalities. Overlap of circles represents degrees of awareness or co-consciousness. Colors may represent traits, and size; degree of presence. I was drawing these even before I was diagnosed. I still update the original system mandala based on what I learn about myselves. A new name. The start of awareness. Correcting an assumption about a self who isn’t often center.

Why do individuals with DID create these categorical mandalas spontaneously? This is what interests me most about the article. I’d like to capture that here. (These are direct quotes from the article.)

1. Artmaking provides a safe way for DID clients to communicate, as they have often been threatened into silence by their abusers during early childhood.

2. Coding in drawings allows the clients to maintain secrecy (both from their therapists and from themselves), while they paradoxically attempt to communicate and achieve mastery over traumatic material.

3. Drawing and painting seem to be among the few vehicles that can effectively externalize the idiosyncratic and highly symbolic inner world of DID, so that others might begin to understand it.

Creating Your Own Mandalas

Sometimes pulling out the colored pencils or the watercolors is too much trouble. Or sometimes I am at work. Then I stumbled upon the online program, SCRIBBLER by zefrank, and I was hooked. You do not need to have a shred of artistic ability. I “scribbled” for hours. Long before I read about mandalas and DID.

This first mandala I created represented some of my selves, with relative position and overlap reflecting core personalities and more peripheral ones. There are obvious cuts. I imagine Cohen and Cox would classify this both as a SYSTEM and a BARRIER mandala.

This second mandala shows a small part of a larger drawing I did many years ago. The center is a three dimensional chunk of clear material that separated me from other selves, and also from the sun. A small crack in the center allowed some rays to pass through – they flow from the center outwards. Clearly a BARRIER mandala.

This program is not just for mandalas. Draw anything you want and then let it go. Play with the colors and settings in real time as it renders. It makes some incredible pictures!

Closing Thoughts

One constant in the ever-changing world of DID is the frequent surprise at how seemingly disjointed things are related. A chance discussion about Jung led to deeper discussions, to mandalas, to mandalas in DID, and I find out that I have been smack in the middle of it for years and years.

References

[1] Jung CG. (1965). Memories, dreams, reflections. (A Jaffe, Ed). New York: Vintage Books.

[2] Cox CT and Cohen BM. (2000). Mandala Artwork by Clients with DID: Clinical Observations Based on Two Theoretical Models, Art Therapy, 17(3) pp 195-201.

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10 Comments»

  cafeofdreams wrote @

Here’s a great website for snowflakes.

http://snowflakes.lookandfeel.com/

And a watch only program.

http://solaas.com.ar/dreamlines/

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Cafeofdreams

I checked out both of these sites – good stuff! Thanks for sending!

Snowflakes is fun – just the way we did it as kids – you get the scissors and cut away

Dreamlines is more for the adults I think – amazing how you give it keywords and it creates the mutating dream images. I was mesmerized!

Camigwen/Elsa

[…] Flake: Make your own snowflake! Cafeofdreams sent Emily this link when she talked about Mandalas – it is a neat way to make a snowflake just like we did as kids. Sitting around the kitchen table […]

  Jackie wrote @

well don’t I just feel stupid. I actually sent my T a mandala of my inner “family” without ever considering it as such – well just color me surprise!

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Hi Jackie

I did exactly the same thing. I think all of us do to some degree, trying to show overlap and history. I didn’t really even know what a Mandala WAS until I started this research.

See, there is some historic basis for us after all!

Thanks for writing
Em

  mo wrote @

oh my god, i had no idea what mandalas were etc, but I swear to god I have been drawing them like forever. Though sometimes i coloured them in. When I am talking on the phone or bored or when I was in a lecture in university thats what |I did, friends teased me about always having to doddle, my kids even have commented on my doddles, this is kinda weird isnt it..I will have to do some research on mandalas now.

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Totally, cool, eh Mo? It seems like ALL OF US have experienced the same thing! I’ll have to thank my best friend, for exposing me to the concept of Mandalas in the first place. He has no idea what he triggered in my head, and now, many of yours. Let us know what you find out!

Emily’s Camigwen

  Creative Healing Postings « Kate1975’s Blog wrote @

Trackback from Kate1975’s blog Kate1975

[…] Emily First Girl’s Blog Entry: Jung, Mandalas, and Scribbler […]

  Mia Feral wrote @

Amazing stuff! Thank you for writing about this. I havebecome quite interested in Jung as my therapist is a jungian analyst. I m gonna try googeling the article… hopefully I will find it.
Thanks again for this. It was really interesting.

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Mia

I am glad you find this interesting. This post is one of the most popular on my blog, perhaps because it ties together several aspects of psychology, Jung, etc., that it represents and application rather than a theory. I am glad that someone has found the Jungian application insightful.


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