When researching Jung’s Theory of Personality, questions arose regarding current symbols of archetypes and how the anima or animus might be seen in sandplay work with clients. Along with questions about understanding symbols in limiting terms.
I wondered about the many latency aged boys I used to see in my practice and their choice of both anima and hero miniatures. I understand the concept of a collective unconscious which might be revealed through the use of ancient archetypal figures from my sandplay collection. Yet, I am also curious about the current heroes and anima figures chosen by young boys to express their unconscious relationship to and identification with their anima. What about the action figures from films such as Star Wars and animated Disney heroes and heroines? Are the more independent females represented by Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the female warrior Mulan new anima figures for boys? I have seen these figures used in sandplay scenes of school-aged boys, along with male action figures.
Young girls and adolescent female clients have used archetypal male miniatures, along with independent and assertive female figures. I might see Cinderella, Snow White, or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, along with a cowgirl, Princess Lea of Star Wars, and other female sci-fi action figures. Do these more action oriented miniatures represent a developing animus in young females?
Another source of pertinent questions comes from an article by Barbara Weller in the Winter 1994 issue of The Journal of Sandplay Therapy. Preparing for a conference “On the Masculine”, Barbara poses additional thought provoking questions. Why is it important to ascribe a gender to elemental symbols such as the earth as feminine and the sun as masculine? Why label and value in terms of hierarchy?
Questions of my own, resulting from seeing several sandplay miniature collections, are based on whether the collection was put together by a female or male therapist. What are the differences in the makeup of the collection based on the gender of the collector/therapist? How can we bring balance to our collections so clients will have a greater variety of choices? Could we discern the gender of the therapist by the items in the miniature collection?
As I ponder these and other related questions, I find comfort in Barbara Weller’s final comment. “I used to think that questions had to have answers. I now find it more interesting to live with the questions.” One fascinating and constantly engaging aspect of sandplay, for me, is the unknown. I do not have definitive answers regarding sandplay scenes and often find myself in an awesome state of quiet respect for the process and all that is revealed…of which I may have little understanding. In viewing trays in my practice, as part of a sandplay consultation group, in presentations, or in articles in The Journal of Sandplay Therapy, I am intrigued by yet more questions.