Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Mandala of Me

The following is for my educational portfolio, which will have to demonstrate my proficiency in the liberal arts core competencies embodied by Antioch University:

A Mandala of Me

Mandalas are a form of art that is shared by many cultures including Tibetan monks and the indigenous people of North America. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung employed mandalas as a way to see a snapshot of the Self at the time it was created. I keep a sketchbook of personal mandalas as a way to hone my creative energy while practicing art therapy at the same time. Traditionally, a mandala (the Sanskrit word for circle) is divided into quarters and with this analogy I will describe my liberal arts competencies.

Critical and Creative Inquiry

One of the reasons I decided to finish my BA in Psychology was to ultimately get paid to do what I love in helping people find solutions. I realize that I already do that on a daily basis taking calls for a pest control company. I’m more than just an answering service in that I actually have to know how to assess a pest problem and explain to a potential client how we go about treating it and why they should choose my company. This capacity to help people is not enough for me and I want to do it on a more in-depth level, thus enter psychology. When I have downtime at work I surf the internet like anyone else would. But instead of frequenting celebrity gossip sites or hunting for recipes, I research psychological modalities, case studies and theories.

I keep three different journals: one for recording dreams, one for personal reflection and the mandala sketchbook. I also compose original songs that I sing and perform on the piano in my living room—sometimes for an audience, sometimes not. Through undergoing a personal Jungian analysis I have explored where these things come from and what they mean. Before being in therapy I would have said that the songs come from somewhere else, as though I was channeling them. But I now know that they come from me and owning that takes hubris and confidence—two things that I didn’t have for most of my life.

Self in Community

I have a history of agoraphobia and anxiety that has made it difficult to go out and be around people, therefore I’ve never volunteered at a charitable organization. However, several years ago, I did make 125 beaded bracelets for the My Stuff Bag Foundation, which provides personal duffel bags filled with toiletries, toys and blankets for children who were removed from their homes. But I certainly don’t see that as being nearly enough.

One of my goals in studying psychology is to devise and conduct studies that examine the link between obesity and child abuse. But just like I found there is meaning in music and art beyond the actual creation of it, I believe there is meaning in fat. Not just my fat but everyone’s fat. While I attempt to find that meaning I also have to come to terms with the fact that I’m an overweight woman who has to function in society. This is not always an easy task but I’ve made it my personal mission to be an advocate for myself so that I can be an advocate for others. One of the ways I have done this is by bringing the latest scientific research on obesity in the workplace to my general manager when I felt there was a bias against myself and other overweight women in my office. He and I had a private meeting to discuss my concerns, which ended with us both feeling like we had mutual understanding with no hard feelings.

Understanding the World

My ultimate goal in studying psychology is to open a private practice as a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist. Jungian psychology is different from other psychologies in that it acknowledges the Collective Unconscious. Archetypal symbols show up in dreams and creative endeavors and by understanding these images as they reveal themselves on a personal level then I will be better able to understand them on a global level. For instance, I have very little power in my work environment being the person with the least seniority among people who have been with the company for over a decade. Power is an archetypal energy that exists in my personal unconscious that I then project onto the management. Once I realized that power is projected from myself, then I could withdraw it and reclaim it for myself, like when I brought the issue of possible weight discrimination to my superiors. In turn, this view can and should be manifested in a global arena, especially when dealing with populations that are underserved.

The Journey

The final quadrant of the Mandala of Me is the journey. I am nowhere near the destination I envision through the completion of my goals. Even when I graduate Antioch I will still need to finish graduate school and pass a state exam in order to obtain licensure to practice. The time from start to finish is daunting and that’s when I focus on honoring this academic and soulful sojourn. As the platitude goes, it’s one day at a time. But it’s also one class or one professor or one reading at a time that can create the next level of awareness that transforms from the inside out.


  1. Very engaging post on the mandala, Jen. It's certainly one of the central symbols of the Self that Jung discusses. The amazing thing about the mandala is the range of forms in appears in -- sun wheel, Tibetan mandalas, the Zen enso symbol -- so many!

    Thanks for your post. Wishing you all the best on your journey to the Self.
    Brian Collinson