THE TRANSFORMATION OF VIOLENCE: THE CASE OF JACOB
Steven Herrmann, Oakland, California
Journal of Sandplay Therapy, Volume 20 Number 1, 2011
KEY WORDS: Violence, trauma-defense, toxic complex, rage, dragon fight, anti-toxin, vocalism, feeling function, child, male, clinical example, Sandplay therapy, myth, violence, Jungian psychotherpy, analysis, poisonous affects, shadow, metaphor,parental complexes, trauma-linked defenses, grief, anger, body, psyche, evil, boy.
ABSTRACT: This case study takes an in-depth look at the problem of how to work directly with violence in Jungian child psychotherapy with an emotionally disturbed boy during the transitional stage of latency. This paper demonstrates how the patient, Jacob, used an age-old myth of the dragon fight (the fight with the whale) to work through his predisposition towards violence. Jacob turned to an American myth, Moby-Dick, to enact his dragon fight during the first stage of his psychotherapy; later, he turned towards a more interactive form of vocalization of the primal-raging affects that were troubling him during the second stage of therapy. Jacob’s sandplay representations provide portraits of what the author terms “crystalline anti-toxins.” Jacob uses such “anti-toxins” to symbolically detoxify himself from poisonous affects, stemming from his internal abandoning parents and their trauma-imprints in infancy. Jungian child psychotherapy helps Jacob accept his projected shadow material and integrate it into consciousness; he no longer projects his evil outward, through acts of physical violence, but he begins to re-collect it within, as an integral part of himself. The sandplay study illustrates how a psychotherapist can work metaphorically with the child’s parental complexes, to liquidate even the most primal trauma-linked defenses, which precipitate violence. Jacob’s sandplays form pictures of toxic complexes charged with very early emotions, such as rage, grief, and anger. The presence of corresponding “anti-toxins” also suggests that early prevention through dream-work and sandplay may help liquidate complexes that are filled with coagulated poisons. In the sandplay narratives, Jacob describes what it actually is like for him at a somatic level when his brain is filled with such raging toxins. In the final trays, Jacob reveals how his body and psyche are lit up by anti-toxins that he uses to liquidate his projected evil and metabolize his predisposition towards violence through vocalism and the function of feeling.