Nr 18. 2008 sid. 60–70
Linn is four years old when referred by her parents to the clinic because of intense anxieties and severe mood swings. In addition she became aggressive with peers easily and had persistent sleeping problems. At the point of consultation she is six years old, following two years of psychotherapy. Reportedly, her parents are also given supportive assistance in regards to their daughter.
My first thoughts concerning Linn are that at four years old she was developmentally in the “magic” years, a time when the boundary between the real and the imagined is not yet dependable. We know that interactions with significant adults are important in determining how anchored these magical thoughts will become in everyday reality. This is to say that from the get go I wonder at the security of attachment bonds that surround this lively imaginative child. I wonder how much she has had to compensate for the lack of a secure base helping her to orient and understand her place in the world. Lacking a secure sense of her own autonomy as well as trustworthy adults on whose care and concern she can depend, Linn would experience difficulties adapting to social interactions with peers. Similarly, tensions around bedtime might also reflect this uncertain understanding and trust of others. Going to sleep involves letting go of the external world and entering on one’s own into the internal world of wishful dreams and fears. Difficulties with affect regulation might be another manifestation of Linn’s disharmonious relationships that underlie mood swings in this intense, reactive child.
Linn would be an excellent candidate for psychotherapy given her active expression of her needs in symptoms and her desire to find relief through the use of symbolic play. By report, her intensity was observed in a “strong, inner drive” to play. Linn was actively involving herself and the therapist in a relationship that would facilitate her development of a secure sense of herself and an understanding of others.
Linn started individual psychotherapy and her parents were offered parallel support in their relation to Linn.
immediately adapted to the therapeutic setting and worked intensely with
her inner difficulties. She used the material in the therapy room in a
creative way and easily found symbolic expressions in play. All through
therapy she played with a strong inner drive.
I sit down beside her at the table. She is very anxious about getting my attention to all the details she is drawing and she urges me in an impatient tone of voice: “Look! Can you see what this one is doing? Look here now!” She conveys to me a feeling that no matter how much I’m paying attention to and taking interest in what she’s doing, it still won’t be enough. I’m thinking that she already perceives some anxiety regarding the ending of therapy, the day I will definitely let go of my attention to her.
For the first three drawings Linn uses thick crayons in different colours and draws a mish-mash of muddled lines over the entire paper. “Now look! What is this?” These scribble-formed motifs are rather unusual for the way she usually draws. She gets an impulse to put the three sheets together into a single one, and uses long strips of tape in this endeavour.
Linn seems a bit uncertain about her own motifs. She comments upon the first (multi-coloured) drawing saying: “Yellow ground, maybe?” For the second one she uses only black and white colours, commenting: “Stripes, maybe like a zebra?” Still she urges me in a proud tone of voice to guess what she is drawing. I am struck by her expressions of uncertainty and confusion. And the black and white patterned lines convey a feeling of something strongly incompatible. I get the notion that the taping procedure might be an attempt to get scattered and confusing parts together, trying to make them more coherent and representing something.
I say to her that I can see that there is something difficult she is showing me, and that it is not easy for me to guess what it is. I wonder if she could give me a clue, so I can understand more about it. She says secretively: “Wait, and you’ll see…” and rapidly continues with the next drawing.
The following drawing shows the head of a crocodile at the edge of the paper sheet. Out of its eyes big, round tears are flowing along the cheeks. Linn says: “But what has happened?” For each tear that drips into the water she vocally illustrates: “plop – plop – plop…” I point out: “There are tears flowing.” Linn puts the feeling into words: “He is a bit sad”. I confirm that I can see this and wonder if one can understand why he is sad. She says: “Wait and you’ll see…” She draws another crocodile, now at the centre of the paper. This one is swimming with an arrogant look in his face. His eyes are shut and his back is turned away from the crying one.
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