The French writer Albert Camus wrote, "A man's life is nothing but a slow trek to rediscover through the detours…those one or two images in whose presence his heart first opened.” The poet Stanley Kunitz believed that writers have key images that captivated them as children, and they keep working these images over and over again in their writings. The mythologist Michael Meade says that at the core of each of our lives is an image that first “moved us” into the world. And Walt Whitman poetically wrote, “There was a child went forth, and the first thing he looked upon, that object he became.”

Is it possible, as the writers above suggest, that as children looking at the world with fresh eyes, certain key visual impressions make an impact on our hearts? Perhaps giving us a “ground” to stand on, and a lens or point of view through which we see the world? Psychologists report that the first five years of a child’s life are the most important for shaping our psychological health and functioning. While psychology tends to focus on dysfunctional impressions on children, it is not hard to believe that our hearts would remember images of beauty or things that captivate us as well. Perhaps each of us has a particular key image that we each in our own way, keep working throughout our lives. Perhaps those images that we loved as children stay with us, giving us ways of looking, ways of seeing the world. Here are some examples.

A friend of mine grew up near the sea in England. She’s a scientist of sorts, and woven through all her writings is the notion of oceanic waves. A somatic therapist friend of mine has a body of work that she’s developed called “clearing clouds.” The cosmologist Brian Swimme has devoted his life to telling the “creation” story. And one of my clients from Mexico holds a primary image of a bustling marketplace. Her early childhood years were spent accompanying her parents to the festive Mexican market where they sold their wares. My own key image is watching my father--an Iowa farmer--plant and grow things. Planting, growing, and digging my hands into rich soil are images that lie deep within my personal psychology, despite having spent most of my adult life living in the city.

What is the key image that lies in your own heart? How has it shaped how you see the world? How does it replenish you when times are difficult? What guidance does it offer for your future? How does your key image offer support and nourishment for other people, and for the larger world?

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Comment by Kim Hermanson, Ph.D. on September 20, 2013 at 11:55am

Wow John! Thanks for sharing your experiences. What came to me as I was reading, was how important it is for people to start sharing their experiences with the "other" world or Self, or whatever one calls it. This kind of conversation needs to be in everyday life, because otherwise (in my opinion), it's too easily dismissed and ignored.

So sorry I didn't see your comment until now, which you posted 9 months ago... !

Comment by John Knight on December 23, 2012 at 11:01pm

In terms of imagery, I recently had a profound psychonautic experience after starving for a week due to a severe stomach infection, and it re-shaped my conscious self and got me back into life again, after having spent the year prior with a death wish. I was re-shown powerful childhood hero imagery by the deeper parts of the psyche that basically mimicked the archetypal 'knight in shining armour' scenario through a hollywood action perspective.

When I was around eight, I had a particularly vivid fantasy about jumping through an action scene hand-in-hand with a girl as we jumped off a platform in a burning building together into the water with bits of floating debris around the place!

What I didn't know was that this image/idea/symbol/pattern had been unconsciously guiding much of my behaviour from childhood to adulthood. After seven days of starvation, what happened next was I guess what we'd refer to as a 'confrontation with the Self', where it showed me a series of memories, firstly this image, then a series of events and actions throughout my life that I'd forgotten about that were key to who I was, how it related to one person in particular, and how I needed to re-discover these elements and re-connect with this person.

That night I knew I had to write to her, and I basically just let the 'child-hero below' speak, and it said things that this tiny conscious ego could never really say, let alone after seven days of starvation, and not so elegantly! In the end, it told her exactly what she needed to hear and has helped her to turn her life back around from self-destruction.

For myself, I'd had a series of visions prior to this and one particularly terrifying anima vision that I only retrospectively realised after reading Jung's paper on the child archetype was leading up to a profound shift in consciousness. It may sound wacky and spooky to the uninitiated, but that night I was released from all pain (pain I experience from a chronic medical condition) and felt the flow of life-force, as strange as that may sound. It's all highly personal and I don't wish to share *too* much more than that, but it released me from my depression and kicked me back in to life again! ;)

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