Drawing Out The Self


The Objective Approach

Variations on drawing assignments

(20 pages, 14 drawings)

Chapter 8 provides further examples of the procedure outlined in the previous chapter..

As therapy continues, the client is asked to do drawings of other titles  such as“Me with my Childhood Family,” “Me and My Present Family,” or “Being Angry,” or “ My Earliest Childhood Memory,” or “Me and my wife.”

This chapter shows examples of a variety of drawing assignments, where a client reveals, for instance: how they feel about a disabled sibling;  or a past physical injury; or neglect by parents. Some drawings presented in this chapter show clear signs of extreme distress; in other drawings, the pain is more subtle.

 The chapter ends with suggestions to therapists on how to handle difficult situations, such as when a client becomes too distraught or angry to complete a drawing.           

 As in the previous chapter, a central theme continues to be how the therapist and client  can discuss the difference between what a client may have  intended to show in a drawing, and what has  actually been drawn.


The next couple of examples focus on male/female relationships.  In Figure 36, “Showing Anger to Keith” the client has drawn herself and her husband.  In this case she chose to show herself expressing anger to him, and as a consequence of the emotional impact this topic had for her, her drawing ability deteriorated considerably.  I had done other drawings with her that allowed me to see the dramatic difference.  A sense of unreality and vulnerability is expressed by the almost ghostly appearances of the figures, the absence of discrete facial features, and the distortion of the bodies.

Figure 36 - “Showing Anger to Keith ”
 Example of deterioration in drawing due to emotion

When asked for an objective description of the drawing, she said it looked like “the artist was five.”  The client did not draw a mouth on her husband, and his head looks like a “balloon that’s going to burst.”  By contrast, the words that she has written, though aggressive, are organized.  As is often the case, the words spoken do not adequately express the feelings felt.  Her angry words were recorded here in order for her to later acknowledge and take responsibility for her fury. Such passion commonly distorts and degenerates skill and control.

Figure 37 - “Pleasurable Moment”
 This drawing, by male client in his 40’s shows himself with his wife

Figure 37 depicts a man and his wife drawn by the husband.  It makes an interesting comparison to the previous husband & wife drawing, Figure 36.  Here the client depicts himself and his wife dancing together, with another couple behind them, to indicate that they are in a public space.  He is ”kissing her forehead” even though he could be “standing on her feet.”  Very quickly he noticed that he drew, to his discomfort, his wife “going to bite” him like “a vampire.”  She was holding on “too tight” and about to ”suck his blood.”  Not only that, he also observed objectively that he “looks like he is not wearing anything on top.”  The fear and overt expression of aggression that was recognized led him to a discussion of himself as a victim.  The list of complaints is large —she “turns him down for sex,” she ”demands” that he “pays the bills, disciplines the kids, face up to the dirty work.”  He was both afraid and angry, wanting closeness and fearing it.  Here, this client’s anger and feelings are ambivalent, while in Figure 36 (“Showing Anger To Keith”), by a different client, with different issues, the emotions are very evident, bursting out.