I recently interviewed Miranda at our favourite restaurant, you know the one; it’s at the ‘End of the Universe’. You probably want to know how Miranda got there, well as the saying goes ‘In your dreams!’ Miranda often finds her dreams an excellent method of transportation. So there we were, sipping our carrot juice and mango blends, I do like the colour orange, when I asked her ‘What other writers and thinkers, other than those previously mentioned “giants of psyche” have informed your work as an integrative counsellor?’
Miranda grew pensive and started making slurping sounds with her glass of juice. She was getting close to the end and was endeavouring to draw those residual fruit and veg fibres into her narrow straw. I must admit I almost felt like tapping my paw on the table to get her to stop behaving like a kid, kids can make the most appalling sounds when they drink in public places that no self-respecting rabbit would allow. But then, I remembered that Miranda was actually still a kid, if you compare how long I have been around, at least 1600 in Planet Earth years and that I needed to take this into account, so I waited. Finally, Miranda put her empty glass down.
‘My first book that my mother gave me to read when I was six was all about Greek Myths. I remember enjoying how Narcissus turned into a flower and was forced to remain bent over on a riverbed, forever looking at his own image. Also how Arachne, because of her pride, had refused to acknowledge that her skill of weaving came from the goddess of wisdom and crafts, Minerva, who then got so angry with this arrogant girl that she turned her into a spider.’
My rabbit nose twitched in surprise, ‘Surely these were quite heavy cautionary tales to give you at such a young age?’
Miranda ordered another juice; ‘That’s nothing!’ she sniggered. ‘My mother used to read to me before I could read myself, the cautionary tales of Struwwelpeter. He was a boy who never looked after his appearance properly, he allowed his hair and nails grow to extraordinary lengths and consequently was very unpopular, then there was the story of Pauline who got burnt playing with matches and Johnny-Head-in-Air who fell into the river because he wasn’t watching where he was going, but I think the worst one was ‘The Story of the Thumb-Sucker’ who gets his thumbs cut off. That one used to give me nightmares because at that stage I was really struggling with giving up thumb-sucking myself!’
‘It all sounds a bit Victorian to me!’ I sniffed with distaste.
All this talk about children being punished in this manner was making me feel uncomfortable. As you know, we rabbits have lots of children and we love them dearly. Where I come from, we never would have put our children to bed with such a tale! I think the juice was going to Miranda’s head, I had asked her about writers, thinkers and poets who had inspired her work and she had come out with these horror stories, surely this was not what inspired her?
‘We seem to have digressed again, what about people who have inspired your work?’ I asked.
‘Oh yes, well my first inspirational book was The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It was a present for my 14th birthday from a school friend. Then when I was 19 I bought An Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Yogananda. Both these books absolutely blew my mind at the time. I still have them on my shelves today. Then after I met Swami Venkatesananda I started reading some serious philosophical stuff. Initially it was mainly about Eastern philosophy but eventually I switched across and started reading the Greeks and other Western schools of thought and yes, I guess all that reading has informed my work today’.
‘What about Alice in Wonderland? I queried. ‘Your website is filled with illustrations from that book.’
‘Yes, you are correct. I did read Lewis Carroll as a child and in some ways got totally caught up in her adventures but I didn’t understand the symbolism of his characters until much later,’ Miranda replied.
‘Ah-hah, so symbolism is an important component in what you like to read?’ I sensed a delicious tit-bit buried in Miranda’s mind that I needed to burrow out into the open. ‘Yes, I notice on your Home Page under the heading ‘Who are we?’ that you and Jana mention you use symbolic techniques. What makes symbolism so attractive to you?’ I asked.
‘I guess it’s about the way I like to share what I’ve learnt,’ she replied.
‘Eh? You’ve lost me. I thought you use symbols because “they access parts of ourselves that our conscious minds cannot”. I mean that is what you say on your website. Now, you’ve hopped from symbolism as being an important component in what you like to read to sharing, where is the link? Take a step back and explain what you mean. Come on; let me help you, what if I ask you to explain what symbolism means for you?’ I asked.
‘Well, symbolism is about how we explore and perceive. It is about how we translate abstract thoughts or concepts that are coded with a variety of meanings. For instance, take the colours red and green, these colours are internationally used in traffic lights. These are simple coded signals: red means stop and green means go. Now take these same colours into the symbolic realm for example when trying to describe a feeling. You could say, “He saw red”, meaning the person was angry or “There goes the green-eyed monster” meaning the person was feeling envious or jealous. If you think about it, “Cautionary Tales” are stories that communicate how grown-ups expected children to behave within a particular social context during a specific historical period. In the Victorian Era children were expected to be “seen but not heard” and a way of getting them to be “good” was to feed them these stories. Fairytales are also full of abstract meanings. There is an author called Clarissa Pinkola Estés who wrote a book called Women Who Run with the Wolves in which she used these stories to translate Jungian concepts of how the psyche journeys towards “individuation”. So when I talk about sharing what I’ve learned, I’m saying that what I have gleaned from writers who have used symbolism is that, I can share some of these stories with our clients: they are symbolic techniques which have a way of accessing their unconscious minds. I love Clarissa’s work, in fact her interpretations inspired me to design and run my own “Inner Child” workshop.’
‘Yes, I remember that workshop. You got the participants to make a huge igloo using tables and blankets and then they had to crawl in and listen to her story of “The Stone Child”, I reminisced. ‘So, now I’ve got the link, you use symbolism inspired from what you’ve read and digested for yourself and then share these abstract ideas with others in the form of symbolic techniques. Am I correct?’
‘Yes,’ Miranda replied.
‘Sounds a bit like “Play Therapy” for adults,’ I remarked.
‘Well we do say on our site that we sometimes hop out of the box,’ Miranda smiled.
For more box-hopping, read about how we do paintings of your therapy sessions!