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Marriott, K. (1981). Hicklin, A. (Ed.). Psychosomatische Medizin.: Zürich, Heft 1/2—Band 9, 1980.. J. Anal. Psychol., 26(3):284-285.

(1981). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 26(3):284-285

Hicklin, A. (Ed.). Psychosomatische Medizin.: Zürich, Heft 1/2—Band 9, 1980.

Review by:
Kathleen Marriott

A little girl, dying of leukemia, draws a cow-shed where ‘all the cows are shut away, with nothing to eat, and the farmer has gone away and forgotten about them’. Her doctor recognised her expression of psychic loneliness, and provided helpful psychotherapy. Later, the child drew a fat little man, smiling, with seven birds in the sky: ‘He has eaten a lot, and feels well; the birds are all going to heaven, and the smallest is there first’ (she was the youngest of the family). She died soon after, feeling well looked after, in peace.

This is only one small sample from this deeply moving collection of articles on the significance of spontaneous imagery at critical moments of life, brought together by a symposium held at the Children's Hospital in Zürich. The pioneer in this field, Susan Bach, has spent many years studying the drawings of seriously ill people, mainly children, in an attempt to get nearer the total experience of the patient, and has gathered rich evidence of the diagnostic and prognostic powers of such imagery. She believes it can be used to help the child patient to live or die well, as it enables the medical staff to be in touch with the deepest movements of his psyche-soma, and work with and not against them.

K. Kiepenheuer, working on these principles with a nine-year-old leukemic boy, gives us a series of drawings which show with amazing and poignant accuracy the course of his patient's illness. First we see the child's great courage in fighting the disease (determined warriors), then the acute terror of facing death (skeleton), later the far-away vision of peace (treasure in a cave), then renewed efforts to live (more vigorous fighting), and finally the tranquil acceptance of death (God, smiling down from heaven upon him in his hospital bed, connected to him by powerful beams of light).

Another contributor to the symposium, S. Hyman, reports on work done with dying adult patients, encouraging them to take responsibility for the ‘healer within’, and she relates a series of dreams which activated a psychically healing process in a woman dying of cancer: H. Desmond describes a spontaneous drawing she (reluctantly) made, which proved to be a pictorial representation of a morbid condition as yet undiagnosed. Many other related topics are included.

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