Drawing Out The Self


Picture Projection

(21 pages, links to 6 paintings online)

The Picture Projection technique is used primarily in group therapy settings.  Hyperlinks are provided to 6 well-known paintings by masters such as Picasso and Rembrandt, which can be used in this exercise.

      The chapter begins with a discussion of the general problem of Projection in daily life and in therapy. We often mis-interpret ordinary social situations because we project our own values, perceptions and anxieties on to the behaviour or comments of other people.  In the Picture Projection technique, the therapist helps a group of clients to share their feelings about very different styles of paintings of women and family groups.        

The technique has been refined over 60 years of practice; the chapter explains how mis-steps and improvements to the technique were made  along the way.

       Verbatim quotes from group sessions are included, to show how different people may have very divergent feelings about the same painting, and how the therapist can guide group discussions to give everyone a chance to contribute. Extra advice is offered on how to deal with more negative comments by dominant members in a group setting.


Projecting into Pictures of Families

Next, I introduce paintings of families, using the following reproductions Pablo Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques (1905); Edgar Degas’ The Bellellii Family (1859); and Rembrandt van Rijn’s Family Group(c.1666-68), one, two, and three respectively.

Irene:  Now we have three paintings up here that we can treat as families.  Let’s move straight to the question which family would you like to be in, and let’s see how each of you responds.

When I use pictures of family groupings, discussions can get broader and more complex, as more relationships come into play, including participants with their siblings, parents with children, and mothers with fathers.  I ask the participants to choose which of the people in the pictures they would want to be.  I have had some wonderful discussions with these groups during which numerous issues are raised: the sense of position in the family; the negative aspects of being the good child or the rebel; competition and rivalry; and memories of good times with the family.

Anne:  I would like number one, because I want to be the girl in the tutu.  She looks like the favorite.  I was more like the girl in the brown dress in real life.  I always wanted to do ballet.

Beth:   I like number three.  It looks so organized — the children dressed so neatly and the father relaxed.  Everyone in this family knows their place and there’s no chaos.

Carl:  The first one doesn’t even look like a family to me.  I’m not sure what’s going on there.  If it was a family, then I’d say there’s something not right between the mother and the father.  But I like the theatrical quality of it.  I think I’d have liked to have been part of a circus or something like that.

Clearly, people respond differently to these pictures, and an enormous amount is said by the choices made, and the descriptions given.  Particularly interesting are the discussions that arise regarding sibling relationships.  I believe too little attention is paid to the power of these sibling connections that, in essence, last a lifetime.  Siblings share common lives and events, though possibly different constructions and evaluations of these memories.  Often they are not treated as seriously as those between parents and their children.