Creating art has the ability to reach the very depths of the brain where early development occurs. Children who have endured trauma often have memories stored there which cannot easily be expressed. The following directive has two parts. The "squiggle game" which was based on a traditional game for children in England, for which Winnicott introduced into the therapeutic realm. Quoting from Malchoidi's textbook:
"Based on his concept of the maturation process, Winnicot(1965) explained that infants go through a developmental stage in which they perceive that they create the objects around them and believe that they are undifferentiated from these objects. Winnicott emphasized the necessity for the "adult" therapist to embrace and provide a holding environment for the "infant" or developmentally arrested child's idea about creation.This process, in due course, helps the client to undergo proper separartion from the objects in his or her world and gain objectivity about the outside world (Winnicott, 1989a,1989c)."
Tanaka developed the squiggle drawing technique by seeing the potential of narrative interaction. Based on the traditional kamishibai, the traditional Japanese art of picture card show or four- frame cartoons, he encouraged his clients to creat a story from the squiggles. He also developed the techniques of the "Egg Drawing" and the "Cave Drawing" which are rich in symbolic expression to encourage storytelling.
This art therapy directive was based on these innovators. The assignment was first to draw "squiggles" in ink washes. From the ink washes write a story and illustrate it in a five-frame visual narrative. When writing the narrative we were to utilize metaphor, and imagine we would be using it with a child who was experiencing depression or PTSD.
Here are the ink washes I started with:
Once a upon a time there was a bird named Andre. He was of an age where it was time to leave the nest and learn how to fly. Andre couldn’t bear the thought of trying again. You see, he wasn’t always afraid. He has always been good at everything, with little effort. So he thought flying would be a cinch. However the first time he tried he stumbled , crashing into the nearest branch. All of his friends were watching and started laughing and making fun of him. He was too dizzy from the crash to respond, except to slowly climb his way back up into the nest. He hasn’t left since.
Sometimes Andre felt lonely. Sometimes all he could think of was that fateful day. His stomach tied up in knots as he replayed his first flight attempt and the laughter of his peers echoed in his mind. Outside the nest seemed like a very scary place. Sometimes even inside the nest was overwhelming, because every time he thought of leaving he got very nervous. His mother began to tell him of other birds who were mighty and fierce and who had become heroes. It was then she told him the meaning of his name. Andre means brave. He began to consider that if his name meant being brave surely somewhere inside of him was bravery.
Andre’s mother told him stories of birds that rescued princesses, of the Firebird whose feathers were illuminated and dropped pearls from his beak to the poor people so they could buy food. His favorite story was about the Phoenix. This magical creature lived to be 500 years old where he would then renew his strength, by setting a magical renewing fire to his nest and himself. This magical fire would clear out all the bad things that happened in the last 500 years and so the Phoenix could begin again. Andre imagined what he would burn up in his own fire.
He drew a picture of the other birds that laughed at him. He drew a picture of himself crashing. He drew a picture of his mother crying and any other things he could think of that were not happy. He drew himself with tears. Then just like the Phoenix, he drew fire over everything so that he could make it disappear in his mind. He found that he made a lot of these drawings over many weeks. And then one day it seemed he had a new strength. He began to feel the bravery that was in his name. He began to think that he might be able to be a hero like other birds in the stories his mother told him. He knew he would probably have to get out of the nest to see if he could help others.
Suddenly he heard cry near a neighboring nest. It was little Sophia! She was in trouble! She was stuck in a branch and there was a cat nearby. Andre gathered up his feathers, took a deep breath, and was perched on the edge of the nest. Then he heard her again. “Help!” Sophia cried. Without hesitation, Andre flew toward the cries. As if he had been flying forever, he swooped in and scooped up Sophia and delivered her safely to her nest. Every one cheered. “Andre saved her! He is a Hero!!. Andre landed gracefully and proudly back in his nest. Standing at the edge, he smiled, knowing he had become his name.
I chose to do a narrative about PTSD because I have personal experience with it. I have known people who have gone to war and returned. I also know a child who may also be dealing with PTSD. Recurrent thoughts whether consciously or subconsciously encircle the mind of the character, Andre, like a snare. The nest imagery is represented both as a safe haven and a place of stagnation. The prickled edges of the nest with red around it in the first scene illustrates that. I made the shape of the bird in a slumped position and chose the zig-zagged, dripping pattern to make his body, as it reflected his inner turmoil. The blue color added the feeling of depression. When my daughter saw the first collage, she remarked “Eew that is depressing!” I knew I was one the right track.
In the next scene Andre is standing up straight in a peach tone and his mother is animated, speaking of the meaning of his name and other bird stories. I purposely chose a name that meant bravery. The third scene represents how Andre is imagining the other birds and the bird shape has fully spread wings in golds and oranges. Each scene progressively suggests recovery from the trauma by re-framing the events to be positive. By the fourth scene, I bring in the concept of fire, one of simultaneous destruction and renewal. By virtually fighting fire with fire, the story suggests that Andre has the power to change his situation.
In the final scene, Andre has imagined himself to be so much stronger and brave and manifests his projection by saving a young bird from the claws of a cat. Once again I used the metaphor of flight not in the traditional way as it represents fleeing from something, but in this case flying toward his destiny, which is his name. The child would be able to identify with this story on many levels. By ushering a child through a story of turning around helplessness to a place of power, using animals that are not traditional thought of as strong, (as compared to a lion) could encourage that child to think beyond the framework that held him down and be able to visualize a more promising future and outcome.