Confounding Perception – use of collage for transpersonal psychotherapy

Any good definition of transpersonal psychotherapy includes something about how we can consolidate, ground, and embody moments of transpersonal knowing.  Over time, these moments can begin to come together in to a coherent pattern, a change of heart which opens new vistas of awareness and understanding for the person. Transpersonal approaches to psychotherapy seek to give value to these more expanded ways of knowing. One of the problems faced by therapists working with this material is how elusive it is, how hard to give words to.

Adopting creative approaches is of immense value to psychotherapists working in this way. Making a piece of art, whether it is a poem, drawing, sculpture, or collage, can be a way of communicating the ineffable. The glorious history of religious art is testament to this way of knowing. An art piece can hold things beyond the conscious awareness of the maker, which can then be thought about, felt through, known more fully, by the maker themselves and by others with whom they want to communicate.IMG_8979

A feature of collage is that is captures fragments. The fragments are then brought together in to a new image within wIMG_8980hich a new form, a cohesion, can be seen. Things are brought together in a new way. This is particularly helpful in psychotherapeutic work, of any kind, but in transpersonal psychotherapy the value is especially pronounced, as the person grapples with expanded ways of knowing.

Collages have to be viewed with an open and flowing awareness, otherwise they can just seem jumbled, irrational, confusing ragbags of only loosely connected imagery. This is similar to dream work. When we first begin to look at a dream, it can seem non-sensical. It is only through sitting with the imagery, feeling our way in to it, allowing intuition to operate to guide us through it, that gradually the dream yields to awareness.  We begin to make sense of it, and even see the guidance it is offering. Working with collage can have a similar effect.

To work with collage effectively it is important to allow intuitive process to guide the work. Have a theme which is being worked around – perhaps the description of a spiritually meaningful experience or arising knowing, or perhaps a problem or issue which seems to have a greater significance than the personal, egoic struggle. Pick a few magazines at random (2 or 3 is enough), and go through them quickly, tearing out the pages and images which speak to the problem. Spend more time in refining the cutting out process, and placing and sticking on the page, but don’t think too much. Then sit with the result. What is new? What is coming forward in the new synthesis here? I sometimes then take a further step of writing a poem or piece of prose about the collage.

Alchemical imagery is often presented in collage form. In creating collages in transpersonal work, the person is building up their own treasure trove of alchemical emblems, describing stages and aspects of the process of transformation.

Here is a poem written when contemplating the otter collage – a poem which remains part of a process, but takes the understanding one tiny stage further on, in this case in to a prayerful and surrendering place (from an initial starting point of discomfort with the ‘sea-change’ happening in life at that time).

Otter Song


My heavy bones will bring me to the sea bed

To prey. To pray.

My heavy bones will bring me down

To pray.

And from this place so close to earth, as I press my face to the mineral place in me, I can plant seeds. Enormous acorns.

Deep in my body, deep in my bones, the secret places under the sea.

If I pray with all of me

If I prey with all of me

Stalking surrender…

Sea and land and sky…

If I pray with all my heavy bones.

So I would commend the use of collage as in intervention in any form of psychotherapy, but in particular in transpersonal psychotherapy. It can offer new ways of bringing together hard-to-articulate material, it offers a conduit for intuition, and a container for non-ordinary ways of knowing. By using collage you are joining a long and illustrious line of alchemists (transformation experts par excellence!), and religious art makers (in all traditions) in honouring intuition and creativity.

The Alchemist’s Preparation. Understanding the difference between alchemical stages, and alchemical operations

Citrinitas? Coagulatio? Solutio? Albedo? What do all these things mean? This is a brief primer, a round up of some of the main terms in alchemy. Beginner alchemists, start here… Continue reading “The Alchemist’s Preparation. Understanding the difference between alchemical stages, and alchemical operations”

Vulnerability and Love

Version 3The word vulnerable means to be capable of being wounded. Being human is to live in that capability – we have vulnerable bodies, we are open to being hurt physically and in our hearts (as we reach out for love, attention, affection) all the time. Imagine being on a battlefield without armour, you would be very woundable, very vulnerable. So in life we build armour, we build defences. The psychological defences (keeping closed, staying away from people, being loud, pushy, arrogant, shy….what ever those defences are for you) are ways of trying to reduce that vulnerability. Then our defences make us sad and miserable. There comes a point when we start to risk standing there on the battle field of life without our armour. The exquisiteness of that moment, of that vulnerability, is what connects us to one another and I would suggest is what makes true love possible. That is my valentines weekend post – the  exquisiteness of the nakedness of vulnerability. Trembling like a rose in the moment of time between yourself and the one you love.

Seeds of Love

images-4Seed catalogues arrive at this time of year – for keen gardeners this is an exciting and welcome addition to the post Christmas post. A seed catalogue holds the promise of summer in the depth of January – the Eden to come, all in potential. In psychotherapy we work with seeds. The seed quality in the person – what is the quality that has not yet been able to manifest but which, if planted and given the right conditions, could grow in to something beautiful and useful.

 The seed in alchemy is the seed of gold….The Maires’ Emblem below shows the alchemist sowing in to the ‘white foliated earth’ which means earth which has been prepared with the ash produced by the burning struggle he has been through.

#transpersonal #alchemy #CCPE
Sow your Gold in White Foliated Earth

In the most wonderful book ‘Sacred Seed’ edited by Dr Vandana Shiva (from which the image at the top of the page is taken), Pir Zia Inayat-Khan points out that in Arabic ‘hubb’ means love and ‘habb’ means seed – seeds are symbols of love, coming from sweet fruit which has ripened, and also they contain the potential and promise of more sweetness to come – tiny things which are so humble and yet so powerful.

The gold of a life lived in love, with love, is the potential fruit of inner work – psychotherapeutic work, spiritual work, creative work. Looking for the seeds of this way of living in the midst of winter (actual winter, or the heart’s winter) is part of spiritual practice. I am going out now to plant some sweet peas, which should flower around May/June time. I have some dark purple varieties this year, I am going to put them near the pink cosmos (‘dazzler’), in front of the out-of-hand buddleja. I am going to do it as a prayer – remembering the hubb in the habb.


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