301 Aaron

Aaron Case Vignette
Brief Biography
  • Boy, age 9
  • Second of three children, older sister, younger brother
  • Chronic parental conflict, parents divorced
  • Father drug and alcohol addicted, violent
  • Father Catholic, Mother Jewish
  • Brought to treatment by Mother, who is concerned about Aaron’s volatile temper and angry outbursts

    Study these trays using your Guidelines and answer all of the questions regarding each tray. After this is complete, move to the Facilitator’s comments.

  • Aaron Tray 1

    Aaron Tray 1

     Aaron  ~ Tray  1   Brief Description

    Near Right

    • Raft
    • Penguin (in raft)
    • Batman
    • Three ninja warriors

    Far Right

    • Joker (lays down)
    • Robin
    • Two skiers 

    Near Left

    • Asian man with monkey
    • Crystal ball
    • Asian man

    Far Left

    • Small tree
    • Lion tamer
    • Tiger
    • Oak tree


    •  Police car
    • Bridge
    • Car (on bridge)
    • Large knight (on hill)

 Facilitator’s Comments ~ Aaron Tray 1

Concepts: Stable ego structure
Mode of Illustration: Figure relationship, spatial configuration, symbolism of figures 

I have slelected Aaron’s Tray 1 to illustrate how a stable ego structure may appear in Sandplay. When I say the ego, (or any other element of Jungian theory) “appears,” I do not mean that we can actually see something we can point to, saying, “That’s the ego.” Remember, the ego, the persona, the shadow, and so on, are not things, or actual objective phenomena. These are terms by which we are able to identify and describe how the psyche functions. The terms of Jung’s theory describe qualitative processes and functions that are beyond the grasp of rational language. As we examine these case vignettes, we are using Jung’s theory to help us develop a relationship with the psyche’s movements in the image language of Sandplay.

Aaron’s first Sandplay shows a healthy, age-approriate ego structure. When we initially sit with this tray, it feels active, yet organized. On closer reflection, we notice groupings of activities present in the tray. These are the elements of Aaron’s psyche that present themselves in the sand tray to re-order to the Self. Each group or cluster holds, or carries the psychic resources or needs that Aaron’s Sandplay work will undertake.

In the far left corner, there is a wild animal trainer, raising his hand to a roaring tiger. These elements are in appropriate relationship to one another. By contrast for example, the wild cat trainer is not raising his hand to a pigeon or a domestic cat, which would strike us as odd.

On the right side of the tray, we see a cluster of cartoon heroes and villians, carrying on their pranks and remedies. In the near left corner, two Asian men contemplate a crystal ball.

In the near center, there is a group of ninja warriors, battling among themselves. Notice that they fight other ninjas, and not cartoon villians, or tigers. This gives us the sense that they appear in a form of organized relationship. In its language of images, the psyche clusters like-things together.

The psychic elements in this Sandplay appear in a coherent manner, because they are in a meaningful relationship to one another. Two skiiers glide downhill in the far left corner, a police car chases a race car over the bridge. Trees are where trees should be, bridges connect land masses over water ways, and so on.

On the central island, we see a tall knight all by himself. He is not in relationship to other knights, but is alone. He is guarded and isolated. However his singularity, being so tall, so central and elevated on a mound, suggests that everything going on in the clusters around him is somehow related to him. He is at the center of it.

Altogether, this Sandplay shows us a stable ego. I say this because the fluidity of the organization indicates that Aaron’s ego has a center, an anchor point. In the language of images, things make sense.

Furthermore, the anchor-point of the Self pulls the ego to address its areas of inappropriate relationship to the Self. This is suggested in the warring ninjas, the police in pursuit of the law-breaking race car, and the animal trainer attempting to tame the wild cat.  Looking at this first Sandplay through the lens of ego structure, we discern that this child has an appropriately developed conscious awareness, with a healthy connection to the central archetype of the Self. Aaron’s psyche begins his Sandplay process with a coherency between what is in order, what is not, and what is available to re-order the imbalance.

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