Tree as self symbol

Assessment procedures that use the tree as a symbol are the HTP: House, Tree, Person Test (Buck, 1948); TDT Tree Drawing Test (Koch, 1952);  DDS: Diagnostic Drawing Series (Cohen 1985); PPAT Person Picking an Apple from a Tree (Gantt 1990); TTM Tree Theme Method (Alexi & Gunnarsson 1995).

Artist Martin Stankewitz

Artist Martin Stankewitz

A tree is often seen as a symbol of self, the form evocative of the human body, feet on the ground, trunk with arms reaching out. A tree experiences changes through the seasons, it ages and withers, growns and flourishes and thus makes it an ideal projective tool. Carl Jung understood the tree as a symbol of individuation: the roots reflecting the unconscious, the trunk conscious realisation and the crown : goals of life.  Trees in dreams are understood as a haven or refuge, or a place of knowledge. Hark (1995) a Jungian analyst saw three dimensions represented in trees; crown: conscious personality or opportunities for expression, trunk: self-esteem, desire for self-expansion and roots reflected how someone was ‘rooted’ in life.  The trunk can be the person’s experience of the body and the branches how one reaches out and gather’s ‘light’ which can symbolise how one relates and perhaps reaches out to other people.

(Isaksson, Nolen, Englund, Lindqvist (in press 2009). Changes in self-image as seen in tree paintings. The Arts in Psychotherapy.)

In Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols, there are many pages dedicated to tree symbolism which appear in many religions.

In drawing analysis studies of knot holes were used to approximate the time at which trauma occured. Gregg M. Furth (1988) in the Secret World of Drawings: Healing Through Art, uses the tree in this way, adding broken branches to the markers. The height of the tree is measured and divided by the age of the person. The client is then asked to elaborate about these particular periods in his life.

There are many possibilities I have not exhausted here. The many meanings and layers of meaning also illustrate the importance of getting feedback from other sources before making specific inferences.

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Catégorisé dans Thérapie.

Publié le 09 oct 2009

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