Seven year old Dalit was referred to therapy when her parents felt she suffers from inner turmoil. She had difficulties choosing and deciding for herself, and nearly every time she was asked what she likes (to have, to eat, etc.), her answer would be, “I don’t know.” She was described as a complex, perfectionist child, who considered it very important to have precision in anything she does or creates. On the other hand, she was portrayed as shy, introvert and lacking self-confidence. She also suffered from a hearing impairment.
Dalit was a middle child between two brothers – one three years older, the other just a infant. she entered first grade that year, there were none of the kids she knew from kindergarten there with her and her social adjustment was harrowing. Academically, despite her slow paced work, she excelled.
Dalit chosen the color blue (Chapter 1, Water in Our Lives) as she commenced her interaction with the water world. She created a triangular island, with a one tree ‘forest’ where a single tiger resided. The water world was empty, save for a lone turtle; the countertops at the edges of the sink were utterly bare.
Her creation reflected a great deal of loneliness. Dalit said: “There is a volcano inside the water world. When it erupts, the water turns red.”
Note: The volcano by the tree does not look ominous but, as indicated by Dalit’s utterances, it appears that things may be brewing beneath the surface. Dalit hinted, that what might appear quite and solitary from the outside is fraught with rage and forceful control on the inside.
The aquarium she made preserved the feeling of loneliness and looks just the same as her expression during play in the water world.
The lonesome tiger.
In a later encounter with the water world, Dalit used the color red and new characters appeared in there. The island was visible and several water creatures were placed around it: a whale, dolphins, a sea-going cat, a lobster; now, however, no tiger was in evidence! The projective character of the tiger, who served as a guardian – there to be presented to the outside world – was gone. By then, she has given it up. Instead, she now focused on other aspects, present in her inner world.
Toward the end of the therapeutic process, Dalit formed a light, nearly transparent, yellow water world and said: “This way you can see the animals inside. You can watch them and see if they feel pleasantly in there.” Dalit created an aquarium insisting on adding to the water some gold color, explaining, “This is so that it’ll shine in there!”
She devotes much attention to arranging the aquarium, adding details that she had never placed there before: rocks, water plants, coral and fish.
Note: Dalit allows herself and those around her to see her inner world, as it appears in the aquarium: harmonious, quiet, even, to a degree, sparkling. Her ability to detail the inner components of the aquarium, is indicative of the progress she has made in getting to know herself and be in touch with her feelings.
When individual therapy ended, Dalit moved on to group art therapy where she continued to grow, and develop her social skills. She took upon herself leadership roles in the children’s group, was comfortable, her self-confidence increased and she began to express her ideas and feelings out in the open.