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Sandplay Influences | Colorado Sandplay Therapy Association

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Sandplay Influences
Sandplay Influences
Founder of Sandplay Therapy
Dora M. Kalff (1904-1990)
Before becoming a therapist, Frau Kalff lived in the mountains of
Switzerland. One summer the daughter of psychiatrist C.G. Jung
vacationed nearby and noticed her own children appeared
unusually content when they returned from play at Kalffs.
Impressed with her gift of providing an environment soothing to
children, Jungs daughter suggested to Kalff that she study
psychology and introduced her to her father. Kalff took the
challenge and during the course of her training, with Jungs
encouragement, she spent a year in England working with the famed child psychiatrist
Margaret Lowenfeld. Kalff adapted Lowenfelds World Technique (see below) and integrated
it with Jungian principles for her work with children as well as adults.
Kalff had traveled on several occasions to the East and was interested in Asian philosophy.
During her training in Jungian psychology, and on the day of Jungs death, she had dreams
about bridging Eastern and Western psychology in her work. When Tibet fell to China,
Buddhist monks immigrated to Switzerland, and Frau Kalff was asked to house a monk in
exile for one week. He was actually a Lama and lived in the Kalff home for eight years, during
which time other Tibetan teachers visited. On several occasions Kalff met His Holiness the
Dalai Lama. She became a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and was instrumental in
establishing a Tibetan center in a home adjacent to hers.

Jungian Psychology
Our dream life creates a meandering pattern in which
strands or tendencies become visible, then vanish,
then return again. If one watches this meandering
design over a long period of time, one can observe a
sort of hidden regulating or directing tendency at
work, creating a slow, imperceptible process of psychic growththe process of
individuation.Gradually a wider and more mature personality emerges, and by degrees
becomes effective and even visible to others.
Since this psychic growth cannot be brought about by a conscious effort of will power, but
happens involuntarily and naturally, it is in dreams frequently symbolized by the tree, whose
slow, powerful, involuntary growth fulfills a definite pattern (Marie-Louise von Franz, 1964, p.
161).

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Sandplay Influences | Colorado Sandplay Therapy Association

http://sandplaytherapy.org/?page_id=64

Through the analysis of thousands of his patients dreams, Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung
observed that the human psyche works towards its own healing and development. Jung
realized that dreams and religious symbols leading to this healing and development have the
same sourcewhat he called the objective psyche. He witnessed in his research how the
symbolic meaning of dreams can help resolve personal conflicts and neuroses as well as deep,
religious quandaries. Because dreams appear of their own volition and often contain symbols
and other information that is not available to the conscious identity, or ego, Jung realized
that the psyche is objective and autonomous, that is, it acts of its own accord as a kind of
involuntary system.
Jungs research indicated that the psyche consists of a personal unconscious particular to the
individual and his or her family, culture and time, and that the individual psyche is also
connected to a deeper, cultural layer of the unconscious called the collective unconscious. An
individuals psyche is connected to the collective psychethat vast, creative energy in the
universe that continually promotes life and death and exists outside our waking experience of
the time continuum. The collective unconscious contains archetypal energies that can arise in
dream symbols, religious symbols, patterns of behavior, and human aspirations. Although
there are somewhat standard archetypal patterns throughout cultures (great mother and
father, the serpent, good and evil), each of us has a unique experience of the archetypal
energies as they engage our individual lives.
The hidden regulating tendency that von Franz refers to (above) Jung called the Greater Self.
The Self is like a greater personality that resides in the natural world, bidding the individual to
become more aware of her or his potential and depth, and challenging the ego to realize its
relatively small influence in the scope of the psyche. Through the process of dream
interpretation and other forms of communication with the psyche, Jung saw that individuals
could develop a conscious relationship with the Self. Through this relationship, the individual
can experience what Jung called the religious function, a drive for living with a deep sense of
individual meaning and purpose, and with a connection to ones own mythological dimension.
Developing a conscious relationship to the Self and to the psyche is called individuation.
Individuation leads to profound personal development and healing. It gradually frees one
from the unconscious influence of conventional collective values, yet at the same time links
one to humanity in all of its ordinary and mysterious aspects. Jung said that one can
individuate consciously by strengthening the ego to participate in the life of the psyche and
represent ones personal standpoint. Or, a person can individuate unconsciously, as a plant or
animal would individuate, through a natural but unconscious unfolding of individual psychic
tendencies. Conscious individuation includes relating to the personal and collective
unconscious through dreams, impulses, contemplation, active imagination, or expressive arts
such as sandplay.
For more information visit:
C.G. Jung Page
C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles
C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado

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Sandplay Influences | Colorado Sandplay Therapy Association

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Lowenfelds World Technique


In 1928 Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld (1890-1973) opened the Clinic for
Nervous and Difficult Children in London, using toys, art materials,
matchboxes and other materials, including a bowl of water with rubber
toys. Children played on the floor and were encouraged to create a world
using these materials that Lowenfeld kept in her wonder box.
Her technique was based in part on the Floor Games of H.G. Wells, which she enjoyed in her
own childhood. The materials gave children a non-verbal way to express their ideas and
emotions in a symbolic yet concrete fashion. Lowenfield sketched their worlds made visible in
play, abstracted their meaning, and used this information to understand the childs situation
and needs. Kalff heard Lowenfeld speak in Switzerland and decided to study in England with
Lowenfeld. When Kalff later designed the tray, added sand, and integrated Jungian principles
in her work with children, she requested Lowenfelds permission to call her modified World
Technique sandplay

Tibetan Buddhist Wisdom


Sandplay therapy founder Dora M. Kalff became a Tibetan
Buddhist practitioner in the 1950s, though she continued to
appreciate her European and Christian roots. She recognized
that a sandplay scene was a three-dimensional glimpse into
the sandplayer clients mind and heart. And in particular, she
saw what is called the sandplayers Self tray as a mandala.
Carl Jung too had noted the circular or square form of mandalas in the dreams and drawings
of his patients. His research showed that this form appeared in all cultures and he
acknowledged that the mandala was most highly developed in Tibetan Buddhism.
Kalff was introduced to Buddhism when she provided a home for a Tibetan Lama in exile
following the Chinese invasion of Tibet. These two outwardly different people, Dora, a
therapist in the West, and the Lama, a holy man from the East, connected around a universal
truth. They understood that ones wisdom or inherent health and basic goodness could be
witnessed in the form of a mandala. Through the use of sand, water, and small figures the
elemental energies of earth, water, fire, air and space are activated by the sandplay client and
brought into balance. And it is in this way that harmony is experienced and embodied. For as
Kalff said:
When we succeed with this work of bringing about an inner harmony which defines a
personality, we can talk of grace (Kalff, 1980).

Colorado Sandplay Therapy Association


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