The Chaos of Destruction and the Brilliance of Creation: Art Therapy and Evil Puppets
by Jennifer Peterson
This thesis examines the value of creating evil puppets in Art Therapy treatment with latency aged boys who have experienced domestic violence. This is accomplished with a retrospective review of case study material from an Art Therapy group for boys and analysis of the phenomena in terms of Kleinian object relations theory and D.W. Winnicott’s concept of transitional phenomena.
One of the strengths of object relations theory is its attention to projective processes and the role of phantasy in shaping interpersonal relations. Through this lens, behavior problems are understood in terms of primitive defenses and anxiety situations that aim to expel and attack projections. The puppets created in this case study trapped these projections and they were creatively transformed. I propose that the activity of destroying recycled materials functioned to defuse destructive impulses and creating puppets served to repair split off object relations that surfaced for mending.
The case study illustrates the value of creating evil puppets in Art Therapy in that they serve as transitional phenomenal. It is aligned with the fairy tale of Pinocchio to offer a hermeneutic reference for understanding the problematic behavior as a defensive structure. The story also illustrates the role that resolving ambivalence plays in developing the capacity to relate with others through identifications. From an Object relation perspective, Pinocchio’s adventures lead him from the paranoid schizoid to the depressive position. These chapters parallel the therapeutic movement of the therapy and demonstrate the usefulness of applying object relations theory to Art Therapy treatment and research.