Archives Table of Contents

Title Author
Comprehensive Context of Origin of Sandplay Images Meltzer &  Porat
Sandplay Serves Recovery and RECOVERY Porat & Meltzer
Sandplay Images of the 15th of January Compiled: Rina Porat
Brief Theoretical Introduction to Sandplay Therapy Meltzer & Porat
Comments on the Relationship Between Personal & Collective Images Meltzer & Porat


Comprehensive Context of Origin of Sandplay Images

Meltzer &  Porat, Sept. 1997

An image is a spontaneous product of an individual psyche.   The conception presented here is that an image both reflects and effects, simultaneously the interaction of the personal, objective, and transpersonal aspects of the psyche.

The plurality of the psyche: Jung defines the psyche as the “totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious” (CW 6, para. 797).  In addition to the linking of conscious and unconscious processes, Jung specially included within ‘psyche’ the overlap and tension between the personal and the collective elements in man.   Characteristics of the psyche are its plurality and fluidity, the existence of relatively autonomous components within it, and its tendency to function via imagery and associative leaps.    The psyche is a structure made for movement, growth, change and transformation.   Yet, the psyche, like most natural systems (such as the body), struggles to keep itself in balance.

Images are products of the psyche.   Spontaneous image productions (like we see in dreams, fantasies, artistic expressions or in Sandplay scenes) are indispensable sources of information and guidance supplied by the psyche.  The image is what presents itself to consciousness directly; we become aware of our experience through an encounter with an image of it.    According to Jung: “An image is a condensed expression of the psychic situation as a whole” (CW 6 par. 745). Jung says that the images can be viewed “as the expression of an involuntary, unconscious psychic process beyond the control of the conscious mind…it shows the inner truth and reality of the individual as it really is” [Jung, 1933, p. 6].  The images “speak” in the archaic-language of the objective psyche.  However, they express, in symbolic terms, the unknown side of the life situation as it is apprehended and mirrored by the unconscious.  Thus, the constellation of an image is a result of the spontaneous activity of the unconscious, on one hand, and of the momentary conscious situation, on the other.  The interpretation of images’ meanings, therefore, can start neither from the conscious alone nor from the unconscious alone, but from their reciprocal relationship.
Psychological life emphasizes above all the need for a subjective reaction to imagery, thereby establishing a relationship, a dialogue, an involvement which results eventually in a conjunctio in which both person and image are affected.  The appropriate relationship between the individual and an image is expressed by the Islamic scholar Corbin: “The image opens the way itself to what lies beyond it, toward what it symbolizes with” (Corbin, 1983) The emphasis is on the reciprocal relationship between the image and the person, and the image and its content.
What lies beyond the images that are manifested in consciousness? What are their sources or origins?

The comprehensive context (the psychic situation) contributes to the origins and contents of Images – and in reciprocity is affected by the image – is envisioned as concentric containing vessels (or layers).       The following outline attempts to delineate these various vessel-layers:

A. Conscious Aspects

  1. ego consciousness: of outside: current events, situations, problems, and values etc., and inside: of ones yearnings, longings, needs and desires.
  2. cultural consciousness (awareness of history and myths of ones community group and affiliations, along with community values and perspectives: an important part of the definition of the situation one is in).
  3. political consciousness (the conscious aspects of the political psyche: including national and international events,  attitudes and roles, expectations, some aspects of life scripts etc. that become a further and broader elaboration of the situation or context one is living in).

B.Unconscious Aspects
Freud and Jung used the term ‘unconscious’ both to describe mental contents which are inaccessible to the ego and to delimit a psyche place with its own character, laws and functions.   Freud regarded the unconscious as a repository of repressed, infantile, personal historical experience.   Jung added a perspective of the unconscious as a locus of psychological activity which differed from and was more objective than personal experience, since it is related to the phylogenetic, instinctual bases of the human race. The former, the personal unconscious, is seen as resting upon the latter, the collective unconscious. The contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness and reflect archetypal processes.   These archetypes are manifested in culture through images, symbols and fantasy, which are considered – the language of the unconscious.   The inner dialogue is between a personal perspective and the reality of a non-personal perspective of the collective unconscious (the “Objective Psyche”).
Our model examines the comprehensive context in which images are generated, and tries to understand the unconscious origins of psychic images.   The outline of the model that follows suggests three interconnected layers which interact and coexist within an individual psyche:

  1. Objective Psyche (Collective Unconscious)
  2. Subjective Psyche (Personal Unconscious)
    a.  personal history: including Freud’s early traumas, repressed instincts, unrealized aspects of ones development etc.
    b.  internalized parents: mother father complexes, internalized images of their relationship to each other and to oneself, object relations etc.
  3. Unconscious of the Collective: the shadow aspects of the collective are manifest through the expressions of the personal unconscious; however they are in themselves transpersonal.
    a. denied and disowned aspects of family and social roles, and attitudes, etc.
    b. the unspoken rules of reality: what not to see, not to hear etc. – including goals, meanings in life, purposes, and prejudices that are in the shadow of the collective.
    c. repressed feelings, attitudes, and emotions regarding aspects of current and historical social-political events and processes.   This category also refers to the unconscious aspects of the “Political Psyche”.

Considering each of the three layers more thoroughly:

  1. The “objective” Intrapsychic layer:  The term objective psyche refers to and enlarges Jung’s earlier concept of the collective unconscious.   Originally it was used by Jung to denote a dimension of the unconscious psyche that is of an a priori, general human character. This first layer (or vessel), the “objective” psyche, refers to the innate human core from which culture, the collective consciousness as well as the conscious ego and the personal psyche originate. Each individual exists between the collective consciousness and the collective unconscious.     Thus, images stemming from the objective intrapsychic layer, express archetypal factors or issues that operate and are active in the course of development and in the individuation process.    The images that originate from this level are often very powerful (“numinous”) and have a very peculiar, non-rational and illogical (or rather pre-logical) form. These images often correspond to mythological themes.    The objective psyche is envisioned as a container of, or vessel containing and a prerequisite to all personal content.
  2. The “subjective” personal layer: This level includes a repository of repressed, unlived, rejected or introjected contents and experiences of the individual.   In the course of life, especially in the early stages of development, certain material became inaccessible to the ego (as a center of consciousness) and makes up the contents of the personal unconscious.
    The “subjective” personal level of the unconscious puts a special emphasis on early relationships (especially parents, siblings, and other significant people in the individual’s close environment) and their impact of these internalizations on the formation of the individual’s object-relations, complexes, self-identity, self image, the development of masculinity/femininity, etc.
    This level is contained and subordinate to the previous level of the “objective” archetypal psyche.
  3. The Unconscious of the Collective: Each individual, living in a certain society in a certain time is influenced by the “collective consciousness” (that includes norms, role expectations, social values, manners, socio-political attitudes and life events.)    However, the collective also has disowned and denied attitudes and feelings, unlived modes of operation or experiencing, as well as certain prejudices and realities which have been repressed and rejected on a collective level.    All this make up the unconscious of the collective.  This level refers to the impact of this wider unconscious collective environment (increasingly wider expanding circles of, the culture, the society and the social-political structures and events) on ones personal images.
    These three levels can be also envisioned as three interdependent vessels connected by a vertical axis passing through their center, starting from the deepest (the archetypal) layer of the unconscious up to the consciousness, where the images are manifested.    See diagram.

Origin of images diagram


Sandplay Serves Recovery and RECOVERY

Meltzer & Porat, 1997

Recovery is about returning to “normal functioning” after a crisis, through repression and suppression.   And RECOVERY can also be about an “organismic transformation” – from a state of disintegration to a new wholeness.

Each tragic event in a collective stimulates personal and collective sorrow and pain; and raises the base level of mourning and depression.  The necessity of maintaining the operation of the collective leads to the occurrence of a mechanism of quick recovering.   This is needed in order to continue “normal functional life”.  The “re-covering”, in this sense is covering (repressing and suppressing) the wounds and the depression.
However, what is covered does not disappear.   It accumulates and is active inwardly and under the surface on both individual and collective levels.  In Sandplay, a different kind of recovery is desired and activated.    In Sandplay, the inner directed actions of creating, expressing, and enacting wounding, uncovers the repressed or suppressed material, brings them to the surface, and enables a “Re-covery” that is healing and restoration of wholeness.
Thus, we can see two kinds of “Recovery” processes.   The first deals with adaptation to the external reality and return to normal “functional” collective life.    The second is about “inner adaptation” in the sense of healing one’s personal wounding and enabling growth and individuation.


Sandplay Images of the 15th of January

Meltzer & Porat, 1995

This article was originally written during the weeks prior to the Gulf War, documenting the impact upon Sandplayers of the impending tragic-drama. The article is dedicated to the memory of Nora & Moshe Meshulam, and Milton Meltzer.

The first draft of this paper was written in the last weeks of December and the first weeks of January 1991, prior to the 15th of January, when both authors shared their observations about some unique kinds of images that were being created by Israeli Sandplayers during this dramatic period in Israel

The purpose of this article is bring four examples of sand worlds done by Israeli boys between the age of 8 and 11, during the several month period in which the Persian Gulf crisis moved toward its January 15th climax.  It is based on the assumption that the spontaneous creations of children doing Sandplay express both: their personal psychological – developmental situation; as well as being their existential reflection of inner attitudes toward the outer events which are impinging upon them. (At this time events in the Persian Gulf are very much in the center of everyday life here in Israel.)   These personal creations may also contain hints or echoes of the conscious and unconscious collective climate.

Important to the ego development of latency age boys (between the age of 8-12) is the kind of play reflecting heroic conquests.  Consistent with this: battles between armies, battles between cowboys and Indians, and between heroes and villains are means to externalize their developing sense of power, mastery, and independence.  Confronting armies represent the polarized character of conflicts between inner values and feelings, parental disagreements, and superego – libidinal tensions.  In the idiosyncratic aspects of each of the confronting camps one can get a hint or glimpse of what attitude or complex in the client’s psychic world each of these armies (etc.) might be a representing.

War scenes are common among the sandtray creations of children of this age group. In such scenes well defined opposing forces, of relatively equal strength, are “lined up” – and a battle ensues. The battle can be a series of individual conflicts, with one soldier victorious and the other dead or wounded. Or it can be successive: one soldier going on as long as he is conquering until he falls, and then his conqueror goes on until he falls etc. The battle strategies can be numerous, but the common denominator is that usually the battle does occur with some ultimate triumph the realized goal. The child is externalizing inner conflict through the war in the sandbox. The “typical” war story ends with the victory of one force (usually identified in some way or other as the “good guys”) over the other. In this activity played out in the sandbox, through the child’s identification with the virtuous forces, he strengthens his own ego by experiencing the triumph of “his” virtuous forces over the “evil” ones. In so doing he has enacted the “triumph within” of his own virtue and therefore experiences self-validation and self-affirmation.

Working with latency age boys in Israel, in recent weeks, another kind of “war” scene has occurred with a far greater frequency than either of the authors has observed before. What

follows are the sandtray images of four of these boys: Adam: an 11 year old boy living in a rural village in the Jerusalem corridor. His sandplay of the 24th of October depicts an enormous military force moving from right to left across the sandbox (see fig.1). On the far right is a field hospital, along the lower length of the sandbox are tanks and soldiers taking cover behind the tanks, and above in the middle and upper right side are the air forces planes and helicopters. In the middle is a armed bunker with a heavy gun pointing to the left. On the left side, the front of this force are foot soldiers and in the lead tank and heavy artillery. It is a formidable force facing an invisible and unknown enemy. The enemy’s strength and intentions are implied but unknown. There is an inherent tension and anxiety connected to this sandplay in which the creator has filled up the available space with a force to protect and yet the size and the scope of the power of the enemy remain unknown. The field hospital- both a source of for help and recovery, also foretells of inevitable injury and suffering. He also does not attempt to define or engage this invisible enemy but leaves his creation in this existential state of tension and despite all the “power” he could muster, himself in a state of “uncertainty”.

Y. is an eight year old boy living in a village in the outskirts of Jerusalem. His sandplay of the 28th of November is as follows: (see fig.3) Toward the top are two large warrior figures with a camera and a lock behind them facing down two small unarmed figures in the middle of the sandbox.   Toward the bottom of the sandbox are three small wooden soldiers, and an even smaller caveman like figure.  In the lower left corner is a small island with two giraffes and two chicks.   The camera perhaps is  suggestive of being “in the eyes of the world”, or of some objectification of the evil these two figures represent, or of some kind of objective, impersonal and outside measurement or vantage point of the opponents.   The lock and key suggest that these huge evil forces hold the key to something, “something unspecified with be unlocked”.    In their threat and attack on the two small figures, both unarmed and pink – suggestive of nakedness which may be meant to imply their helplessness and innocence (as Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden).  In the lower part of the sandbox are three small wooden soldiers along with an even smaller caveman figure armed with a staff or spear.   They have “come to defend the world against these (evil) forces”.   He does not wish to carry out the “action” but he foretells that the defenders and the innocents alike will be no match for these forces of evil and in the spirit of a new apocalypse: all will be destroyed with the exception of a small corner in the lower left, where two giraffes and two chicks will survive. (like the animals of Noah’s arch) to be the seeds of the potential future – in their little corner island – after the destruction of this world.

L. is eight years old. In this sandtray, created on the 28th of December 1990 (see fig. 2.) two forces oppose each other. One – on the right side of the sandbox – are monsters lead by a huge two headed monster followed by reptile and dinosaur like creatures most with open mouths and extruding teeth. On the left side there is a mixture of Indians, modern soldiers, Roman guards, English palace guards, three frogs, and some contemporary military vehicles. These are identified as the “humans”. They have gathered together to “stand against the monsters to try and save the human race”. The forces are in tension but no resolution is offered or attempted. There is implied fear for the fate of the human race, but in the existential moment only the anxiety of the situation without the confidence to resolve it in the present, and without the security and sense of well being to predict a successful outcome for humans in the future.

R. is an 11 year old boy from Jerusalem. On the 2nd of January ’91, (see fig.4) he created the following sandtray: In the lower right corner several houses are overturned. Along the top, cars and trucks are crushed and smashed. In the lower right oriented toward the center -and in front of the overturned houses a large muscular giant stands holding a “dead soldier that he is eating”, while surrounded by fallen soldiers that he identifies as having been killed by this “giant who came from another planet looking for food… and his food is people…”. From the middle to the lower left are a collection of figures including many figures in “gas mask” like apparatus, a knight, a tank, a few conventional looking soldiers, and a wooden soldier holding “a loud speaker trying to talk to the giant creature”. Like the other sandtrays above (except Adams’ in which the enemy is left unknown) the threatening “evil” force is physically and substantially larger and more foreboding than the force of “good” gathered to defend themselves against it. R. also chooses to leave the outcome, as it is in reality at this time (Jan.2), tensely hanging in a state of uncertainty. At one point, when questioned, he suggests that at the moment they can placate the giant by letting him eat the soldiers he has already killed. However, he is quick to surmise that this is at best a most temporary solution.

All of the sandtrays described above depict the mustering of forces to defend the “humans”, the “planet” etc. from some invading threat.   In one instance (Adam) the threatening force is unknown and unconscious.   In the other three examples the threatening force is some kind of huge and inhuman monster: a “horde of monsters led by a huge two headed monster” (L.), “two large and fierce warriors” (Y.), and a “man eating creature from another world” (R.).    In each of these cases the forces gathered to protect and defend the world is physically smaller and more vulnerable than the force they are opposing.   The presented state in all four of the sandtrays is one of tension and fear before the moment of confrontation, and the outcome is uncertain.

Although these four sandtrays are the work of four different boys, if we look at them in chronological sequence from the earliest to the most current, some observations and inferences are possible. First, the shape of the “enemy”: it develops from something vague (unseen and unknown), to something concrete and familiar (the two humanoid creatures), to something more primitive and archaic (the two headed dinosaur like monster), to something totally alien (the man eating creature from another planet). The sequence indicates a growing anxiety reflected in the form of the enemy.

Second, the temporal distance from the January 15th date, is reflected in the relative proximity and engagement with the enemy. In the sandtray created furthest from the Jan. date, October 24th, the enemy is “out of the sandbox”. In the next sandbox, temporally speaking, November 28th, the enemy is seen but is located a considerable distance – in spacial terms – from the potential victims, and even further from the defending soldiers. In the third sandbox, the 28th of December, the opposing forces are face to face but not yet engaging each other. In the most recent, January 2nd, the monster is already in the process of devouring defending soldiers.

If we consider the “defending” soldiers to be a reflection of the child’s ego, then the first effort is to expand and enhance the ego. But as the threat becomes greater, and the anxiety grows proportionately, the size of the territory of the ego shrivels, and the boundaries between the ego and the threat diminish until the last sandtray in which the intruder is devouring the defenders i.e., eating away at the ego strengths. In the process of psychological development, the hero is the symbol of the developing ego, and therefore what is “good” is what adds, strengthens, and stabilizes the growing ego and furthers its autonomy. While “evil” is all the forces that impedes its growth, and which menaces and threatens to weaken or devour it. These children are already at an age in which they have accomplished some degree of ego strength, and are continually exercising their resources. Thus they have some ground to enjoy the optimism that the forces of good will be physically superior to the forces of evil. The inherent moral superiority of “good” usually gets reflected in its depiction as physically superior to “evil” in quality if not in number. Thus, good will always triumph over evil. With confidence in a successful outcome, children channel their aggression in their identification with the forces of good and reenact the heroic adventure of this eternal struggle and triumph of good over evil.

However, the sandplayers present a condition in which a weakened ego is threatened and in danger of being consumed and devoured. A sense of regression: though the ego (reflected by the defending soldiers) still stands in honor, the forces of evil are enlarging. With gaping mouths, and sharpened teeth, “evil” threatens, and then, as we approach the 15th of January, begins to consume the well intending defenders. The representation of the heroic forces being devoured by a man eating monster in the last sandplay reflects the regressive effect of growing anxiety. The image of being “consumed” expresses the vulnerability of the young ego fighting for autonomy, in danger of being swallowed up (back) to a state of dependency or annihilation.

Here in the middle-east, with the 15th of January looming on the horizon, the outcome of the confrontation between Iraq and the American and European forces still hanging in the balance, the state of anxiety is pervasive. Every adult and child tries to go about “business as usual” while a rising swelling of anxiety bordering on terror stirs underneath. As reflected in the sandboxes of these four boys, we are witnessing a kind of loss of innocence. “Evil” has become larger and more formidable. No longer a distant biblical concept but a living vital threatening force. An anxiety and tension pervades as the outcome of this eternal confrontation is no longer certain. Confidence and “well being” will no longer come easy.


Sandplay Therapy – Bibliography

Compiled: Rina Porat, 1997

This is a general bibliography of Sandplay Therapy materials.  It is not intended to be a complete or comprehensive list of ALL Sandplay literature.


AITE P., 1978, “EGO AND IMAGE: Some Observations on the theme of Sandplay”, Journal of Analytical psychology, 23: 332-38.




BUHLER C., 1951a, “THE WORLD TEST: A PROJECTIVE TECHNUQUE”, Journal. of Child Psychiatry 2: 4-23.

BUHLER C., 1951b, “THE WORLD TEST MANUAL OF DIRECTIONS”, Journal of Child Psychiatry 2: 69-81.

BUHLER C., 1952, “NATIONAL DIFFERENCES IN WORLD TEST PROJECTIVE PATTERNS”, Journal of Projective Techniques 16(1): 42-55.

DUNDAS E., 1978, “SYMBOLS COME ALIVE IN THE SAND”, Aptos Press, California.

ERIKSON E. H., 1951, “SEX DIFFERENCES IN THE PLAY CONFIGURATIONS OF PRE-ADOLESCENTS”, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 21: 667-92.



JUNG C. G., 1961, “MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS”, N.Y.: Random House, Inc. [*also translated in Hebrew].



LOWENFELD M., 1969, “THE WORLD TECHNIQUE”, London, George Allen & Unwin.


NEUMANN E., 1963, “THE GREAT MOTHER”, Bollingen Series.

NEUMANN E., 1970, “THE ORIGINS & HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS” Princeton: Bollingen Series.

NEUMANN E., 1973, “THE CHILD”, N.Y. Harper and Row.



RYCE-MENUHIN J., 1988, “THE SELF IN EARLY CHILDHOOD”, Press Association Books, London.

RYCE-MENUHIN J., 1992, “JUNGIAN SANDPLAY – THE WONDERFUL THERAPY”, Routledge, London & N.Y. [*also translated to Hebrew].

STEWART L. H., 1984, “SANDPLAY AND JUNGIAN ANALYSIS”, in: Stein M. (Ed.) “Jungian Analysis”, New Science Library, Shambahala.


WELLS H. G., 1911, “FLOOR GAMES”, N.Y. Arno Press, 1976.


Brief Theoretical Introduction to Sandplay Therapy

Meltzer &  Porat, 1995

Key concepts in Sandplay Therapy include: play, projection, imagination, archetypes, complexes, psyche, and images.   The following pages offer some introduction to these and other concepts related to Sandplay.


Fairy tales always present a problematic state or situation which calls for and starts a process of change and transformation. The heroes or heroines in the fairy tales have different virtues and characteristics such as special physical strength, outstanding courage, beauty, goodness, loyalty or wisdom (sometimes coming from different unexpected helpers).  One special “virtue” or skill, which helps the heroin in his adventurous journey and his process of transformation, is knowing other languages, especially various animal languages.
One of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales tells about an old count that had an only son, whose intellect was so inferior that he seemed unable to learn anything. One day his father said to him: ‘My son, I have done everything I can for you, but your head can retain nothing. I must send you away to an excellent master, who shall try what he can do with you.
So the youth departed to a distant city, where he remained with the master a whole year. At the end of that time he returned home, and his father asked: ‘Well, my son, what have you learned?’   ‘Father, I have learned to understand what the dog says when he barks’, answered the son.  ‘Is that all the knowledge you have gained?!’ cried the disappointed father and sent him to another master.  When the son returned from the second master, the father asked him the same question. ‘Father’, said the son, ‘I can now understand the language of birds’.

Then his father in a rage said: ‘Oh, you are lost creature, has all this precious time been wasted in learning nothing, and are you not ashamed to appear in my presence? However, I will try you once more with a third master; and if you make no more progress this time, I will give you up, you shall be no longer my son’.
So the son went to a third master, and on his return when his father asked him what he had learned, he replied: ‘Dear father, I have this time learned to understand the croaking of the frogs’.   The raging father called his household and ordered them to chase the son from the house and kill him.

As might be expected, the servants pitied the son, they did not kill him and he was sent free. His personal journey starts at this point (you could read the full tale called “The Three Languages” in Grimm’s Fairy Tales). Needless to say, that what was the main gift of this young man, who became at the end “the hero”, was his knowledge of these languages.     The human psyche is considered as a self regulatory system that consists of consciousness and the unconscious and the compensatory interaction between them. (Jung, “On the Nature of the Psyche”, CW 8, PP. 159234).

Jung used the terms “directed thinking” and “fantasy thinking”, (corresponding to Freud’s primary and secondary processes, or what we call today the functioning of the left and right cerebral hemispheres), to delineate different forms of mental activity and the different ways in which the psyche expresses itself (CW 5, paras. 4  46).   Directed thinking involves the conscious use of language and concepts, it is reality oriented, verbal, communicative, and thinking outwards (to others, for others), it is the language of the intellect, science and common sense. Fantasy thinking, on the other hand, employs images, emotions and intuitions. The rules of logic, physics or moral judgments do not apply. Such language is symbolic, metaphorical, and imaginative. Fantasy thinking may be conscious but is usually preconscious or unconscious in its operations and is closer to the archetypal layers of the psyche.

The modern society has tended to use and to value directed thinking more than fantasy thinking, to emphasize or overestimate consciousness and to deny or underestimate the unconscious, just as we have seen in the fairy tale. The old count, the father, in this fairy tale may represent the collective consciousness that values only one kind of “language”, “knowledge” or “wisdom”. His young son had learned the languages of different animals and through them he could understand and communicate with primitive emotions that have been negated (the barking dogs), with his free spirit, imagination and creativity (the language of the birds) and with other transformative channels to his unconscious (the language of the frogs). However, his old father was deeply disappointed, rageful and rejecting.  By ordering to kill his son, he created a split between the conscious and unconscious “languages” and attitudes. The one sided, constricted, rational attitude denies the existence of multiple “languages” that dwell in our unconscious and hence they cannot be appreciated, heard nor understood by the conscious mind. This lack of communication or dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the psyche, due to an attitude of superiority held by the conscious mind, creates a growing estrangement between these two parts of the psyche, and often a blockage in the capacity of the human psyche for inner growth and healing.   As therapists we know that the main issue in our work is, not merely dealing with making sick people well, but of growth, development, or using Jung’s term “individuation”. Thus, it seems that our main focus is finding in us the son who was expelled from the kingdom.   By helping him to establish his own rightful kingdom we thus give value to “Fantasy thinking” that helps reestablish a connection and continuing dialogue and relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

The Nature And Origins Of Sandplay Therapy
In his introduction to Dora Kalff’s book on Sandplay, Dr. Harold Stone writes: “Western Man has long since destroyed his Gods and substituted in their places the God of Reason and Rationality. Imagination has been lost. Emotions have been negated. Dreams have become a forgotten language…We have destroyed in ourselves the ability to play” (1980, pp. 1216).

Sandplay therapy provides a bridge between the consciousness and the unconscious and hence an inner healing and dialogue can take place. In Sandplay the deepest emotions and expressions of fantasy and imagination can manifest themselves through play. Its language is symbolic and it reaches the deepest levels of the human psyche. Sandplay therapy has evolved following the works of H. G. Wells (“Floor Games”, 1911) and Margaret Lowenfeld (“The World Technique”, 1920, reprinted in 1979), and was then developed by Dora Kalff, who gave it this name.
Sandplay is an activity in which a shallow tray of sand (dry or wet) and a collection of figures are used by patients, both adults and children. It is a natural addition to Jung’s various techniques of active imagination. Sandplay clearly satisfies the fundamental criterion of permitting a person to elaborate, develop various themes “by giving free rein to his fantasy” (Jung, 1946, CW 8, p. 202). However, Sandplay is set apart from other expressive therapies, by virtue of its roots in the symbolic play of childhood.

On Play, Imagination And Fantasy
“Play is a universal element of childhood. Play is a concept on its own, not reducible to any one socio-psychological view of the universe or to any one stage of civilization. The play element has existed in all cultures and in all known historical periods. It may be described as a suprabiological form through which society expresses its interpretation of life and the world (Luria, A. R. 1966, “L. S. Vygotsky and the problem of functional localization, Soviet Psychology 5: 5360).
Play is an archetypal activity. From time immemorial, children have found in their native soil and in miniature objects in the world around them, the basic tools for the structuring of their imagination. Children proceed simply and naturally to play out their fantasies as they occur to them. For them it is an activity of fun.   However, play is tremendously valuable activity which has many important functions in human growth and development.    Many psychological theories and research agree that play is the leading source of development during infancy and preschool
years (Piaget, 1951; Luria, 1966; Millar, 1968).

Play is very useful to early ego strengthening. The child both pretends and tries to master adult situations through accommodation to external conditions and assimilation of experience into meaning. Play is an activity occurring before a behavior is fully organized. The child’s egocentric position during symbolic play enables him to make a transition, over time, to a more and more accurate representation of reality. As the child is more adapted, play becomes more constructive and social. Play is civilizing: It introduces into civilization certain rules and the concept of fair play. This enables civilization to presuppose limitation and some mastery of the self.

Winnicott (1971), in describing an infant’s first use of a favorite object such as a teddy bear as a “transitional object”, points out that the baby’s first ‘not me’ possession initiates the first deeply felt experience of play. Before this transition, babies use toys as if they were merged with mother and not perceived as separate objects, not even from their bodies. When an infant first perceives his mother as separate, then the transitional toy symbolizes the possibility of union between mother and child in their new state of separateness. Now the child begins to feel alive through the imaginative use of his separate experience and to place that into the psychological area of play. As a child builds up this play experience as a part of ‘living’ he or she is building up an area between ‘me’ extensions and ‘not me’ extensions of experience. The infant is now functioning consciously building up ego experience in relation to inner and outer contiguity with mother-father, family, and the general dynamic of playmates or others who may observe playing. Now the child begins to live creatively and feels his being connect with and into play objects.
From the depth of this experience, the root of Sandplay therapy could be said to have been born. Patients come into therapy who need to rebuild confidence based on experience. This process is just what their childhood play did for them. They need to reexamine (or discover) how separation and independence could further help them. This needed separation from whatever psychological phenomena that could be said to be persecutory, or partly so, reminds one of that early time when in playing, a child first breaks away from what caretakers injected into the play area. Then a child finds an independent and free play activity.
Where trust has been broken between a patient (of any age) and his (or her) sense of reality (both towards personal reality and the actual objective world) , playing in the sand can bring into being a new transition towards individual creative living. The sandbox becomes the potential space between the personal and the general environment which originally was both joined to mother’s love and eventually separated out from it.   Above all its functions and contributions, play is the expression of fantasy.  Once we are in play we are connected to fantasy and imagination.  It is essential that play and fantasy operate in our lives for they are the central avenues by which the ego contacts, and stays in contact, with the deep reservoir of imagery we call the Self.

Jung said: “Fantasy is the mother of all possibilities where, like all psychological opposites, the inner and outer worlds are joined together in a living union. Fantasy it was and ever is which fashions the bridge between the irreconcilable claims of subject and object, introversion and extroversion. In fantasy alone both mechanisms unite” (Jung, CW 6, 1971, p. 52).

In her book “Images of the Self” (1983), E. Weinrib differentiates between psychological healing and the expansion of consciousness in the following ways in sandplay therapy: Healing implies that there has been a wounding and possible impairment of natural organic functioning which has been remedied and restored. Expanded consciousness implies awareness of what one feels, thinks and does with a capacity to make choices in one’s actions and communications that are relatively free of control by complexes.   Healing in the context of Sandplay therapy is a non-rational phenomenon taking place in what Kalff refers to as the ‘preverbal level’. Two processes are occurring in the Sandplay which can deepen and accelerate the therapeutic endeavor. While the verbal psychotherapy progresses (working with complexes, dreams and developmental problems), the added use of Sandplay encourages a creative regression that enables healing; it delays interpretation and rational thinking. The two processes complement one another creating a positive growth.

Sandplay gives a nonverbal image which may represent meanings within the therapeutic situation which are not known or not yet fully grasped by either the client or the therapist. Such images bring with them new psychological changes, substitutions, improvements, repressions, and possible latent meanings in the patient material. The therapist’s alertness and sensitivity to the power of image can enable the patient to interact with the Sandplay and its structure, in order to see the symbolic in the projected unconscious content of the picture. Jung believed that only what is oneself has the power to heal (1960,, CW 18, pp. 67 91).

Archetypes, Complexes, Symbols
ARCHETYPES: in Latin, ‘arche’ is the beginning or primary cause and ‘type’ is imprint. According to Jung, the archetypes are seated in the collective unconscious, or as he also termed it the “objective psyche”.

Certain fundamental experiences occur and are repeated over millions of years. Such experiences, together with their accompanying emotions and affects, form a structural psychic residue readiness to experience life along broad lines already laid down in the psyche. The relationship between archetype and experience is a feedback system; repeated experiences leave residual psychic structures which become archetypal structures. But these structures exert an influence on experience, tending to organize it according to the preexisting pattern.

The collective unconscious differs fundamentally from more personal material which has been repressed into the ‘personal unconscious’. The archetypes, according to Jung, are universal patterns of perception. The “archetypal images” are the symbolic manifestations and the pictorial expression of the archetypes. The archetype per se is an unknowable factor in the collective unconscious which underlines archetypal images and contents and arranges them into typical images and groupings. Such a structuring element would be comparable to a ‘pattern of behavior’ in biology which also underlines recurrently typical, universal life experiences or situations such as birth, marriage, change, illness, motherhood, love, separation, or death. The archetypes also adhere to the structure of the human psyche itself and are observable in relation to inner or psychic life, revealing themselves by way of such inner figures as shadow, anima, animus, persona, the wise old man, the earth mother, the puer aeternus, etc. The archetypal patterns wait to be realized in the personality; they are capable of infinite variation and are dependent upon individual expression. They carry a strong, potentially overpowering charge of energy. Archetypes arouse affect, feeling of mystery or awe. The person will be unable to remain unaffected. This power derives from the fact that archetypal images are not invented but “imposed” on the mind from within. Jaccobi (1959) writes: “Only when the archetypes come into contact with the conscious mind, that is, when the light of consciousness falls on them…and [they] fill with individual content…only then can consciousness apprehend, understand, elaborate, and assimilate them (p. 66).

The phenomena of the collective unconscious are, unlike repressed material, transpersonal; Unlike repressed contents which have once been conscious, they have never been conscious before but emerge as new to consciousness from the collective unconscious and are represented in images.  The psyche is seen as a self reflecting system, the unconscious having compensatory capabilities to correct deficiencies in consciousness adaptation.

The technique of analytical psychology has been to find means to raise contents of the collective unconscious to consciousness and to interpret their meaning. The better known techniques are free associations and dream analysis. Active imagination is another technique widely used by the Jungian school. If imagination runs free, a man may create a drama in which he plays a part, or a dance, or a vision, or other expressions such as plastic arts, Sandplay, etc. Interpreting this material, which contains symbolic projections, necessitates its amplification by analogical method: Jung used the knowledge and viewpoint of antiquity to throw light upon the unconscious products of modern man.

It is clear that Jung’s theory of the unconscious and its interpretation is totally different from that of Freud’s, who conceived the unconscious mainly as an infantile phenomenon, namely, that belongs to a person’s infant consciousness and is developmentally limited to this psychological material. In an interesting analogy Fordham (1944) points out that in physiology nobody would assume that because both man and child have a heart, it is an infantile organ. It is here, with fantasy, that Freud and Jung started to separate. Jung asserts that the whole of fantasy life is not infantile. The unconscious bases of dreams and fantasies are only apparently infantile reminiscences. In reality we are concerned with primitive or archaic thought forms. These archaic thought forms may contain personal factors (complexes), but impersonal motives may have great significance as well. Jung said that there are ageless motives in myths, fairy tales and folklore, including ever repeating themes which point to the existence of symbols common to all humanity. This led him to assume that there were impersonal nuclear processes in the unconscious psyche – the archetypes.

COMPLEXES: A complex is an autonomous entity within the psyche that can behave like “independent being” (Jung, CW 8, par. 253). A complex is a collection of images and ideas, clustered around a core derived from one or more archetypes, and is characterized by a common emotional tone. When complexes become conscious or active, they are marked by an affect, whether the person is conscious of them or not.   The concept ‘complex’ enabled Jung to link the personal and archetypal components of an individual’s various experiences. Without such a concept psychological life would be a series of unconnected incidents. According to Jung, complexes also affect memory. The ‘father complex’ not only holds within it an archetypal image of father but also an
aggregate of all interactions with father over time. Hence the father complex colours recall of early experiences of the actual father.
Complexes are quite natural phenomena which develop along positive as well as negative lines. They are necessary ingredients of psychic life. When the ego establishes a viable relationship with a complex, a richer personality emerges.

IMAGES AND SYMBOLS: The image contains or amplifies the symbol.  It is the context within which it is embedded, whether personal or collective.   Jung says about ‘image’: “It undoubtedly does express unconscious contents, but not the whole of them, only those that are momentarily constellated.   This constellation is the result of the spontaneous activity of the unconscious on one hand and of momentary conscious situation on the other.   The INTERPRETATION of its meaning, therefore, can start neither from the conscious alone nor from the unconscious alone, but only from their reciprocal relationship”. This highlights the place of emotion and affect in regard to imagery, that is supposed to be objective but is highly subjective as well.
The image is a container of opposites, while the symbol is a mediator of opposites. As an example, the image of the anima is both an inner and an outer experience at the same time.

The image opens the way itself to what lies beyond it, toward what it symbolizes. Jung said: “When the conscious mind participates actively and experiences each stage of the process, or at least understands it intuitively, then the next image (an enlargement of the original image) always starts off on the higher level that has been won and purposiveness develops” (CW 7, par. 386).

Jung’s theoretical break with Freud was partly over the issue of what is to be meant by ‘symbol’; the concept, its intent or purpose and content. (Jung said that what Freud called symbols are actually signs or symptoms.) According to Jung, the pregnant language of symbols cries out to us that they mean more than they say.  Symbols express themselves in analogies.  The symbolic process is an experience in images and of imagery.    The symbol is an unconscious invention in answer to a conscious problem.   Hence, analytical psychologists often speak of ‘unifying symbols’ or those which draw together disparate psychic elements, ‘living symbols’ or those which are interwoven with one’s conscious situation, and ‘symbols of totality’ which pertain and adhere to realization of the self (mandala).   Symbols are not allegorical for they would then be about something already familiar but they are expressive of something intensely alive, one might say ‘stirring’, in the SOUL.

Initial Sand Worlds

Joel Ryce-Menhuin (1992) says: “Sandplay reveals the hidden tempo, the pace of psyche’s development, whether in healing pathology or in following natural organic development. It is the mirror of the psyche par excellence.
The initial sand world, like an initial dream portrays the main problem of the Sandplay player’, as seen by the psyche.    In this respect, the initial sand world can be considered as an inner picture of the psychological state and developmental stage of the creator. The initial sand world might often give not only the present “diagnostic” picture but also a future or “prognostic” information.
The initial Sandworld expresses:

  • archetypes
  • complexes
  • coping strategies
  • shadow problems
  • ego identifications
  • object relations and object relation problems
  • inner resources
  • strengths
  • “what one is working on” visions of reality


Comments on the Relationship Between Personal & Collective Images

Meltzer & Porat, 1996

A few observations and inferences about the reciprocal relationship between the personal and transpersonal origin of images.


The Unconscious of the Collective:
Each individual, living in a certain society in a certain time is influenced by the “collective”. Collective consciousness includes the norms, role expectations, social values, manners, socio-political attitudes and the “real-life” events of the community.    However, the collective also has disowned and denied attitudes and feelings, unlived modes of operation or experiencing, as well as certain prejudices and realities which have been repressed and rejected on a collective level.    All this make up the “unconscious of the collective”.

The traditional analytical explanation of negative attitudes and activities (as for example, conflicts and war in the social and collective realm – is understood as stemming from the shadow problem.    “…Here lie the roots of social, racial and national bias and discrimination.  Every minority and every dissenting group carries the shadow projection of the majority, be it Negro, white, Gentile, Jew, Italian, Irish, Chinese or French.   Moreover, since the shadow is the archetype of the enemy, its projection is likely to involve us in the bloodiest of wars precisely in times of the greatest complacency about peace and our own righteousness.   The enemy and the conflict with the enemy are archetypal factors, projections of our inner split, and cannot be isolated or wished away. They can be dealt with – if at all – only in terms of shadow confrontation and in the healing of our individual split. The most dangerous times, both collectively and individually, are those in which we assume that we have eliminated it” (Whitmont, 1969).

An alternative perspective to collective issues is found in the concept of a “political psyche”.   Samuels says: “Even the Unconscious itself may be understood as having some origins outside the individual person, not only of an archaic, phylogenetic kind, but also resulting from the internalization of social institutions and political processes… The individual develops on the terrain of social and political relations and hence there is a political level of the unconscious …”(Samuels, )   Samuel also considers extending the existing formulation of the “Transcendent Function”.   He suggests a “further transcendent function” – in which the image is serving a crucial function of bridging between the intrapsychic individual presence and the social-political presence. He says: “imagery can be understood as … bridging the gap between the apparently individual, private …  and the apparently collective, social, political.  There is a constant relationship and articulation between the personal/subjective and the public/political dimensions of life”. (p.63-64)  This reworking of the transcendent function onto a sociopolitical level provides a conception to consider the role of images as mediators between individual and collective realms and a means of studying conflicts and harmonies between culture and individual.   This kind of formulation gives some autonomy to the “unconscious of the collective” as more than a projection of the personal and other than the objective psyche.   If the personal and the collective are apparently autonomous, how can the relationship between them be understood.

The relationship between the personal and the collective can be summed up by the concept of recapitulation. Ontogeny and Phylogeny are parallel and synchronistic processes.   Every collective event impacts on the individual psyche and visa versa.   Individual growth and change impacts on the collective.   Therefore, collective events are personal as well collective, and personal events reverberate throughout the collective – albeit often subtly.

Nevertheless, there is a reciprocal relationship between personal and collective wounding and healing.     Every collective trauma, even when it is not “one’s own blood spilt”, (even if one was not “actually” on the front line), effects the individual (and thus, paradoxically, psychologically speaking, everyone is on the front line).    Personal wounding adds to the collective wounding.   Similarly, individual healing might add, enable, and contribute to collective healing.

The magnificent Redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) may stand 100’s of feet high, but it does not stand alone. Each Redwood tree below the ground, shares a root system with five or six others. Thus, each cluster of six or seven trees is actually a single organism with interdependent parts. A traumatic event to one trunck reverberates through the entire grove as unavoidably and as obviously, as an environmental impact on the grove affects each individual extension.

Personal images related to collective events and process might function to help develop coping patterns with reality events. The doing of these images can be both a reflection of the feelings and attitudes that one is dealing with, struggling with, assimilating, and it can be an attempt of the individual psyche to resolve the collective problem which the external events imposes on the individuals of the community.