How Did Jung Use Mandalas?
Jung and many of his contemporaries who developed psychoanalysis and the modern psycho-therapeutic process as we know it relied on free expression as a way to tease apart underlying issues within the psyche. This was often done through art making, as creative forms of expression were seen as more effective in breaking down defense mechanism than just talk therapy.
Using symbolism is a key way for therapists to help clients connect with internal processes that they may be struggling to get perspective on, and is much easier to accomplish through creative means. For Jung, mandalas became objects to draw, model, act out, or even describe as a way to indicate unconscious mechanisms at play that may be affecting a central wholeness. Based on what colors or shapes a client used, there were corresponding archetypes that could then be interpreted to make sense of internal struggles.
Jung, Father of the Modern Mandala?
Following on Jung’s history, the mandala has been used extensively in modern creative art therapies. While Jung did encourage spontaneous expression to study the unconscious, he also early on recognized the importance of providing boundaries in a therapeutic space, particularly for those clients affected by psychotic ego organization. Therefore, the mandala in therapy can be used as a way to contain a client who may be in crisis, as it provides a grounded center with which to settle disorganization.
The symbolism of drawing inside a contained circle as a way to understand the self and to represent a unified concept of wholeness within is one of Jung’s lasting legacies in psycho-therapy and personal development.