Herrmann, Steven

Journal of Sandplay Therapy, Volume 18, Number 2, 2009

KEY WORDS: Trauma, abandonment, self figure, divinity, Murray Stein, metamorphosis, transformative image, girl, child, agitated depression, rage episodes, anger, regression, traumatic memories, separation, abandonment, parental separation, structure, identity, Self, duplex, transformative image, supraordinate personality, physical violence, school, clinical example.

ABSTRACT: The paper describes the treatment of a six-year-old biracial Spanish and English-speaking girl named “Clare.” When Clare is referred for treatment she is seen for symptoms of an agitated depression and rage episodes at school. Her anger sometimes spills over into physical violence. The integration of her turbulent emotions is accompanied by her return to an early developmental period, when she was more at peace. Her regression leads her to uncover some painful-traumatic memories surrounding her parents’ separation and fears of abandonment. During her treatment, she recalls a dream of metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly that flies to Jupiter. This dream gives coherence to many of her trays. The article shows through sandplay and art how Clare underwent a momentary death to her childhood self—a “shadowy girl who died”—with all of her painful complexes, followed by a metamorphosis into a new structure of identity. The author asserts that Clare’s symbolizations support Jung’s hypothesis of two apparently distinct developmental stages (one instinctual, the other spiritual), and adds that that the self in this little girl is duplex: the supraordinate personality is a composite of maiden and mother. The self-figure is a portrayed in her last drawing. The paper illuminates what Murray Stein calls a “transformative image” in a little girl; the emerging self-image mirrors a hidden radiance of the divinity.