Tara Case Vignette
Entered therapy to deal with relationship issues
History of childhood sexual abuse
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.
Tara Tray 1
Tara ~ Tray 1 Brief Description
Shaped sand, resembles a female figure from the waist up
Mountain, or hill in left center
Two concave depressions in breast area
Mound at belly area
Blue baby, unhappy-looking
Asian man, seated
Fish on a rainbow
White baby, peaceful-looking
Bugs Bunny the ‘artist’
Helicopter (on mountain)
Sea shell (brown and white)
Small dinosaur (gray and red), in concave area
Woman on lounge chair
Seated Japanese woman (all white, facing helicopter)
Hula dancer (in concave area)
Crescent moon (on belly area)
Mode of Illustration: Spatial relationship & symbolic content
Tara did this first Sandplay one month into her therapy. As she constructed the tray, she commented that she had shut off her creativity as a child. In the sand she moved freely and appeared to enjoy the process.
Sitting with this tray may bring up feelings of discomfort, uncertainty, or nervousness. It is not terribly disconcerting, but it feels somehow confused. This Sandplay evidences tentative ego stability. At the same time, it carries an underlying structure that is symbolically coherent. More closely examining the shaping of the sand and the figure choice, placement and relationships may facilitate our understanding of the psychic functioning in this case.
The edges of the sandy shapes are ragged and not clearly defined, however the fundamental underlying form is rather strongly defined. It was unconsciously shaped, but the figure of the sand mass is that of a female body.
By working with Tara in her Sandplay series, I came to learn that the hasty shaping of the sand was simply her style. She never bothered to be too precise or certain with her sculptural gestures. In many ways, the casual shaping of the sand was the expressive, creative freedom that Tara had lost in her early life. Her verbal acknowledgement of her forgotten creative nature carries a growing conscious recognition of this loss in her life. As the Sandplay emerges, her ego function strengthens before our eyes.
The conscious, intentional engagement in the less conscious, creative dimension of Sandplay brings about a conscious recognition of a missing piece of her own wholeness. When we describe the ego as strengthening, this means that the conscious position, ego, is coming into greater alignment with the Self. The ego incorporates parts of the Self that have been absent from consciousness, or misconstrued. As the ego strengthens we say that the ego-Self axis is strengthened. The connection grows between the center of the personality and the conscious awareness of the qualities in question.
The seemingly random placement of the figures also suggests a shaky quality of ego functioning. None of the figures appears to relate directly to the others. While some appear to be placed with some degree of intention, others seem to have landed here and there. Like the jagged shaping of the sand, the random figure placement is one facet of the psyches presentation in this tray. A closer look at the figure choices reveals a greater underlying coherence than is immediately visible.
Tara Tray 19
Tara Tray 19a
Tara Tray 19c
Tara ~ Tray 19 Brief Description
Hastily shaped a large volcano-like mountain, with depression in center, and opening on right side
Not entirely surrounded by water
Boa constrictor, Etruscan horse
Two butterflies (on either side of white porcelain mask)
Mickey Mouse (not visible, in corner)
Seal (in water)
Uroborous (brass), Porcelain mask
Red heart (covering opening to central valley)
Chinese guard (red robe)
Dwarf with red rose
Donald Duck and Daisy Duck kissing
Dove (on edge)
White porcelain love birds (near edge)
Frogs (corner, not visible)
Little Red Riding Hood
Stork with baby (top of adobe)
Skier (headed down hill to center valley)
Witch (edge of center valley)
Dwarf with watering can (far edge)
Small galloping pony/horse on piece of gold pyrite
Concept : Ego strengthening, ego-Self relationship
Mode of Illustration: Land formation & symbols
In contrast with the confusing effects of her childhood traumas evident in Tray 1, Tara’s Tray 19 shows great strengthening of her conscious position. Through her Sandplay work, Tara’s psyche has undergone a recognition of her wounding and its effects on her life, and she has grieved this loss. In this Tray, the last before her final Tray 20, Tara’s psyche finds love and new life in the depths of her center.
Sitting with this tray may bring up feelings of anticipation, excitement, happiness, or joy.
As with all of the land forms in Tara’s Sandplay work, this one has her characteristic ragged edges and casual shaping. Even with its unfussy shaping, the deep, central cavity feels significant and certain. Its prominent presence, and the gathering of figures around it make a strong symbolic statement that something of great importance is happening here.
A stork flies in carrying a new baby, and beautiful, new golden life appears in the earthly womb. A bright red heart serves as the portal to the birth canal. Tara carved an opening in the walls of the central cavity, placing the red heart there as a door. The new birth promises to bring new life and character to the plain, porcelain face that waits outside the door. Twin butterflies, symbols of transformation, stand guard, along with a Chinese warrior.
The uroborous, the snake eating its own tail, stands ready as a door to a new life. The uroborous mirrors the fullness of Tara’s transformation by carrying within itself all aspects of life and death. Tara’s passage in her sandplay has demanded the full strength of her psyche to plunge into the darkness of her wounding, in order to tap new resources in the Self.
The peacock in the near center underscores this theme. There is an old folk legend that the peacock can eat and digest poisons, thus transforming what was toxic.
Significantly, the dark elements (the witch, the snake, and poor deceived Red Riding Hood) are also present for the new developments in Tara’s psyche. In order for her psyche to fully heal from the traumas it suffered, the ego must acknowledge the wounds. The ego must re-order these dark elements to the Self, acknowledging that, in fact, it is the wounding that necessitated this psychic re-ordering. The effects of the childhood sexual violations interfered with the ego’s proper relationship to the central archetype of the Self, creating a terrific psychic tension. Tara could not grow up with a healthy, centered relationship to her true Self. The traumas she suffered resulted in confusion and grave misunderstandings in her inner and outer worlds.
The Sandplay process allowed Tara the free and protected space her psyche needed to explore the wounding, and to access the true, central aspects of her own being. Once the central aspects of her personality are tapped, as they are here, the ego ‘sees’ their right-ness. The conscious position of the ego transforms and, thus, re-aligns (regarding these issues) to Self. Having successfully undergone its transformation, the ego is now properly ordered to the Self and is free to give birth to the loving qualities of the transformed personality. The ego has radically transformed, thereby strengthening its relationship to the Self. Tara’s inner and outer lives are enriched by the transformation, and they no longer function from the misconstrued identifications resulting from the early trauma.
Tara Tray 20
Tara Tray 20a
Tara Tray 20b
Tara Tray 20 – Brief Description
Dog on roller skates
Silver and gold eagle
Roger Rabbit hitting himself over the head with a mallet (on bridge)
White horse, placed upside down. “I’m tired,” Tara joked. (last figure placed in the tray)
Spiral nautilus shell (first item placed in tray)
Mirror (adjusted to reflect the shell)
Tiny green dragon in front of mirror
Fish in waterway
Mickey Mouse ‘ship captain’ on granite rock
Comments Upon Completing Tray
“I’m not sure what I am mirroring. I like the many chambers of the Nautilus. Like Mickey at the wheel, I’m taking charge. Roger Rabbit is getting some sense knocked into him. This (ghost with ball and chain) has been dragging that old junk around for a long time. Water and the wind are important to me.”
Concept: Ego-Self Axis
Mode of Illustration: Symbolic content
Tara’s Tray 20 concludes her Sandplay process, which began with shaky uncertainty about her identity and her body.
Sitting with this tray may bring up feelings of delight, happiness, or calmness. The psychic issues addressed in her sandplay process have come to the center of the tray and sem to have eached a resolution.
The spiral shell indicates a passage, incremental growth, or development, as ezch chamber of the shell must be larger than its predecessor to accommodate the growth of the Nautilus. Tara made an effort to ensure that the progression of her personal journey was reflected in the large round mirror. Tara’s psyche had finished this piece of work regarding her history of abuse and its effects on her life. In this sandplay, this important development is recognized. The ego and the Self have realigned regarding significant aspects of Tara’s identity that had been seriously damaged by her early sexual violations.
In the symbolic content of this Sandplay, the conscious position reflects the path of her wounds and her healing. In addition, it acknowledges that it is centered in the Self. This is seen in the spiral shell, whose growth begins at a center point. The many-pointed crystal star in the center of the mound also alludesto the Self. The symbolic content of Tara’s comments on her Sandplay further reflects the transformations in the ego-Self relationship. She says,
“..like Mickey Mouse, I (Self) am taking charge (of my proper
direction.) Roger Rabbit is getting some sense knocked into
The ego is in alignment with truth of the Self now. Additionally, Tara makes a cnscious acknowledgement of the burdens of the wounding and the pain of the ego’s misalignment in the ghost,who is tethered by a ball and chain. Similarly, the inverted horse, reflects the hard work Tara has undergone in her sandplay process. Tara laughed, saying, “I’m tired,” as she placed the horse in the tray in its unusual position.
Tara’s final sandplay is filled with a playful,humorous quality, reflecting her new, healthy acceptance of who she is, and her recognition of her hurtful history. The rabbit comically hits himself on the head. The dog is unsteady on his roller skates, the horse rests on its back with all four legs pointing straight up and the sassy little green dragon, poised with its hands on its hips, appears quite satisfied with the situation.