Developing the work with the building: monitoring and processing functions

After the initial diagnostic stage has been completed, the building image is available as a potential site for ongoing therapeutic work. This section examines ways in which this work can be developed and looks at how interactive imagery processes can facilitate and support the therapy. The work builds on the initial diagnostic stage, i.e. the procedure of bringing the exterior of the building into view, and then moves inside the building to explore and work with the more interior dimensions of the self. Finally it discusses how two functions, in particular, may come to the fore in ongoing work, i.e. the processing and monitoring functions. It is important to note that it needs to be read in conjunction with Chapter 12 that deals in more depth with the process of integrating inclusive imagery work into ongoing work.

Although the processing function of imagery, i.e. the way that imagery can operate as a conduit for the release of repressed material, can function at any time, it is more likely to operate after the initial diagnostic stage. As discussed in Chapter 5, one of the characteristic features of the processing function is the way in which mental images can trigger an almost instantaneous reliving of the experiences that they symbolise. However, in the case of the building image, the processing function usually operates in a more controlled way. This is understandable as this image represents the self structure, which by its very nature is inherently stable. Even though different features, aspects and, in particular, compensating structural distortions symbolise repressed experiences these have now become integrated into the person’s psychological structure. Therefore, the act of viewing a particular aspect of the building image does not automatically trigger the processing function (although there are always exceptions to this rule - see the vignette, titled The Light in the Hallway, presented later in this chapter).

However, if the client consciously and deliberately engages with an aspect of the building image then the processing function can be activated. This activation can take place over a period of time and will usually involve the client reliving the original experience. If the client is able to withstand the release of this repressed material and integrate it more consciously, associated changes will happen to the building image (I discuss these processes in more detail in the later chapter on integrating imagery work into ongoing therapy).

The building image as with the other framing images considered in this book can offer a very valuable commentary on the client’s therapeutic processes. As a general rule, the building image will reflect any significant permanent changes in the client’s way of being whether these are behavioural, emotional or cognitive. I am aware that I draw on the monitoring function very regularly in ongoing work with this image. Clients become used to me requesting a quick visit to the building for a check-up particularly when they report having experienced a change in an old pattern. In the following illustrative case vignette, titled The Repositioned Door, I return to the story of what happened when Jenny worked on changing her attitude towards authority symbolised by the side door to her tower block.

The crisis came for Jenny when she was told that she had an official interview for a place in a second stage residential unit. She became very anxious at this prospect, as all of her issues with authority returned with a vengeance. She experienced a fear that she would be rejected and at the same time felt rebellious towards a system that she believed was making her jump through hoops. We undertook a preparatory session to help her find a more balanced way of approaching the interview. She used all the support that the rehabilitation centre could provide, and the following week to her delight she was accepted for the place at the second stage residential unit.

In our final session together, we looked again at her inner structure and it was clear that her building was much brighter and cleaner, confirming for her all the hard psychological work she had done in the previous three months. There was, however, one unexpected alteration to the tower block - the main entrance door was now at the front of the building rather than round to the side. Jenny linked this change to her experience of attending the interview two weeks previously. She explained to me that it had been the first time she had ever been able to express herself directly and calmly to someone in a position of authority and, since that point, she had noticed that all of her communication was becoming more direct (this had been also remarked upon by members of staff). I was very pleased that all of her hard work had paid off for her. The change in the building image appeared to confirm that an old distortion had been released and she was in a better position to communicate in a more direct way and thereby reclaim her own authority.

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