Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
CE for Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, & MFT!!
The most striking feature of Carole's drawing is her treatment of the head, the body part most commonly associated with the ego (Machover, 1980; Ogdon, 1977). Generally speaking, we expect to see exaggerated head sizes in the drawings of 4-year-olds. By the time a youngster reaches Carole's age, she or he is more reality-based. As such, a head as large as the torso is considered unusual (Hammer, 1980). When we couple the enlarged head with the reinforced hairline, we see a picture of a child who is struggling to contain her impulses through ego defenses. The break between the head and body (the head is not attached to the body) may graphically represent Carole's deployment of the defense mechanism of isolation. Isolation is a means through which an individual copes by separating ideas from the feelings with which they were initially connected. Carole's use of this particular defense alerts us to the possible process of emotional numbing, which is one of the ways that many sex abuse victims cope with feelings and anxiety too overwhelming to otherwise handle. A major consequence of the habitual use of this defense may be the development of alexithymia.
The Person Drawing appears frightening. The arms and hands hover menacingly as if to ward off Intruders. Ralph seems to be identifying with the aggressive posture of his father. This is his way of coping and trying to develop the self-caring function of protecting his body from harm. However, it is easy to see that this is a thin veneer presented in order to defend against his intense feelings of helplessness, which are also represented In the drawing. The figure stands quite precariously balanced on feeble sticklike legs. The legs are drawn with a single thin line, with a break in each near the top, which further confirms the powerlessness he experienced (Hammer, 1954) when unable to protect himself against the extreme violation.
A second striking feature is the thin and elongated neck which is associated with feelings of body weakness and organ inferiority "with a compensatory drive or reaction formation towards physical power or aggression tendencies" (Ogdon, 1977, p. 79). This type of neck also connotes Ralph's attempt to separate his thoughts from his emotions, since these feelings contribute to his problems controlling his impulses. The tiny head in relation to the huge phallic body, however, tells us that his impulses are winning the battle for control and overrunning his ability to use his intellect.
Ralph presents a menacing figure whose impulses have gone wild and whose controls are strained to their limits. Roger, on the other hand, drew two figures (Plate 12 and Plate 13) whose robotlike quality shows successful restraint. Roger struggles to control, or box in, his feelings and Impulses. Although he is effective in keeping his Impulses at bay, the cost is his disconnection from his feelings- emotional numbness. He Is not only alienated from himself but, as important for a latency-age child, keeps himself distant from others. The single, second-floor window in Plate 14 projects his withdrawal from the world (Jolles, 1964). No one is tall enough to look within; he is therefore able to remain aloof.
We note that this same dynamic is present In the 'free Drawing (Plate 15). The crown and branch structure is associated with one's ability to interact and derive satisfaction from the environment (Buck, 1981). "Outer parts of the crown, the extremities, form the zone of contact with the environment, the zone of relationship and exchange between what Is within and what is without" (Koch, 1952, p. 5). Like the window In Plate 14, everything remains out of reach. The enclosed structure of the crown is encapsulating and does not allow the entrance of outside forces. It also prohibits the branch structure from reaching out into the vicinity and reaping any possible benefits.
Remarkable to Roger's drawings is the tenuous connection between the crown and the tree trunk. While it is normal for a 5-year-old to draw a line separating the crown from the trunk (Koch, 1952), the space created by Roger emphasizes a division. It graphically portrays the foliage's disconnection from the nourishing juices of the trunk. The trunk is an accepted representation of the ego (Buck, 1981). The gap between the two tree parts may, therefore, mirror Roger's inability to self-care, an important ego function. This may also explain the description Roger gives In the PD! that the circles or fruits on the crown are oranges. Like the oranges, he has developed a thick skin to protect his fragile interior. Similarly, the boxy torsos (Plates 12 and 13) shield the vulnerable self from the world. These squared-off bodies represent Roger's attempt to hold things In, in order to keep himself together, not fall apart, and not act on his impulses.
Another defense Roger utilizes is denial. Like many other abuse victims, he literally draws a happy picture. Both the Human Figure Drawings (Plates 12 and 13) and the Kinetic Family Drawing (Plate 16) present people wearing a smile.
Yet, the other parts of the figures belie these joyful expressions. Particularly, in the KFD, the family members look much like unrooted flowers waiting to be plucked. Roger's distress is further echoed In the HFDs, where we note the short, flimsily connected arms. Machover (1980) states that arms and hands refer to "ego development and social adaptation. It is with arms and hands that we feed, dress, perform skills, explore our body and contact persons about us. It is with arms that we love and caress, hurt and kill, disrupt and adapt" (p. 80). Roger's treatment of arms in his drawings depicts his difficulty in ego development and socialization. However, we also notice that, despite their weakness, the arms extend outward Into the environment representing his desire for contact. Sadly, however, his ability to achieve this is impaired. This helplessness is further confirmation of the message conveyed by the encapsulated branch structure In Plate 15.
A final noteworthy point is the reflection of Roger's anxiety.
A huge cloud runs the width of the drawing in Plate 14, looming above the house.
Beneath it floats a smaller but menacing one. Clouds represent the artist's anxiety
(Hammer, 1954). As such we see that despite Roger's efforts to deny and defend
against his feelings, anxiety breaks out and shadows his home environment.