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Developing the work with the plant image: the monitoring, processing and process management functions

After the initial diagnostic procedure (that may also include reparative interventions to address immediate difficulties), the plant image can become a site for ongoing therapeutic work. Other imagery functions will now come to the fore as required. In this section I discuss the use of the monitoring and processing functions and how they might operate in the unfolding process of therapeutic work. I will also be considering how productive use could be made of the process management function in working with the framing image of the plant. At the end of the section I give a more detailed vignette of a piece of therapeutic work with the plant image.

The monitoring function

The monitoring function is particularly relevant to ongoing work with this framing image. This is not hard to understand as the plant image symbolises dynamic processes of growth and development. Using the plant image to track and monitor these psychological developments seems to be particularly helpful for clients in gaining increasing self-awareness and insight. I have noted that the plant image is particularly useful when people are going through processes of inner change. This is because one of the first indications that a change is happening is often a sense of unease. It is very easy to automatically interpret such feelings through a negative lens. However, when these feelings are investigated through monitoring the person’s plant image, a more helpful perspective often emerges that suggests the feelings are natural symptoms of moving into a new stage of growth. Interestingly, I have noted on occasion that a client’s sense of generalised anxiety has been linked to a blossoming process - a stage that would usually be viewed as exceptionally positive.

The monitoring function is particularly useful in determining how a developmental and seasonal stage is progressing. In the following example, titled The Bulb with Many Shoots, I return to Nick’s work presented earlier in the vignette (titled The Underground Bulb). In this case, returning to monitor the image of the bulb revealed a rapid change process and a clarification of the original image. The changes in the imagery were then used to make sense of a new development in his life.

After a gap of a few days, Nick returned to focus once again on his image of inner growth. He said that he was experiencing withdrawal aches and pains but these he could manage, where he really needed to focus was on deeper psychological issues. He reported that a change seemed to be happening to the image of the bulb - it was growing but in an unusual way. Instead of one main shoot emerging from the tip of the bulb, there were little shoots forming on the root junctures and they were about to emerge above ground. At first, neither of us could make much sense of this new development as it did not represent the usual way a bulb would grow. However, as we discussed it further, the idea arose for Nick that this form of growth was much more sustainable than one big shoot and also much more difficult for other people to eradicate. Nick was pleased with this interpretation. He believed that this represented a very important new stage in his life and the priority was for him to protect and nurture his development. Rather than thinking he had to be a star performer, he recalibrated his expectations of himself along more realistic lines. He said that the little shoots suggested that he had a range of potential skills and talents, and that he needed time for these to grow and develop. In line with this more realistic self-appraisal, he made plans to move to a supportive environment when he left the crisis centre, rather than be tempted to try and go it alone as he had in the past.

Other examples of the monitoring function in action can be seen in the following vignettes: The Tiny Potato Plant; A Single Blade of Grass; A Tree Stuck in Winter; The ‘Scraggly’ Geranium; and The Rose with No Thorns.

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