Why are we so unhappy?

Our heart glows, and secret unrest gnaws at the root of our being. Dealing with the unconscious has become a question of life for us
— Carl G Jung

Why are we under so much stress and find it so hard to seek solutions and healing for the mind? Why do we constantly make wrong choices, get anxious about things that aren't frightening, have an immediate dislike of certain people and find it so hard to change,  blaming all our woes on everything around us? According to Freud, the self is composed of three different parts: 1) the “Id” which represents instinctual drives or our “nature;” 2) the “Superego” which represents values or expectations imposed on us by society, our “nurture,” and 3) the “Ego,” which is the part of consciousness we are aware of and which can take control over the other parts. For example, the Id may give you an impulse to open another bottle of wine even though you know you have to get up early for work next day . The Superego could reinforce that impulse through peer pressure from others around you wanting to carry on drinking. However, you still have the ability to reject these demands and choose to do what is best for yourself, and this is your ego. 

Jung goes further than Freud when he describes something he calls ‘self’, which is a true integration between all aspects of ourselves, and is how we heal ourselves and become whole. Often the ability of the ego to make good choices and decisions is sabotaged by unseen and unknown impulses from the unconscious – repressed feelings of shame, not being good enough, not being lovable, for example. Jung believed that journeying to find integration was the key purpose of life and involves a relationship with our internal self and unconscious mind as well as the conscious, rational aspects of life. 

Recent studies on happiness have shown that our genes play a big part in how easily we are happy (50%). The next 40% is made up of the way we choose to live our lives, and only 10% of happiness is achieved from things we own, material objects. Part of our problems come from the fact that many of us spend most of our time living a life involved in activities that only contribute to this final 10%. There is much we can do to connect to and improve the 40% by living more insightful and whole lives.

How we can begin to heal the mind

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust

Jung believed that we need to integrate all the aspects of ourselves and bring them to consciousness in order to become whole. He called this process 'individuation'. Integrating all these disparate parts of ourselves, as Jung advised, can be achieved with the help of a therapist, and this is often necessary. A therapist, though, is not a miracle doctor, but a facilitator of someone’s own change. They act as a mediator between your inner voices, dreams and memories and your external ego, helping to find new paths and ways of seeing in order to make better decisions, be less frightened by the world and change yourself.
So the search and the journey still need to come from within. And there is much we can do without the expense, and sometimes the fear and threat, of entering therapy . We can do this by looking at dreams and using free association to conjure memories, but Jung believed strongly that we can also do this through creativity, and something he called ‘active imagination’. Art psychotherapy harnesses this idea by helping people use spontaneous drawing, painting and creativity to get in touch with symbols and archetypes of the  unconscious, thus revealing new aspects of one’s inner self, and beginning the healing process.
It is not easy, though, to know how to tap into these different aspects of your inner self, or to know how to look with different eyes at yourself. We construct many barriers to this for a reason, and these defences stop us exploring our true motivations. Often we replace this exploration with alcohol, drugs, exercise or work. Writing down and analysing dreams can be a good start, as can drawing symbols and ideas that pop into your head at surprising times. But we can also be helped by taking the mind to a different place, and this is where the idea of flow and creativity come in.
There is no magic or mystery to finding this place, and there are ways we can start this journey by ourselves if our problems are not too severe, chronic or needing medication. We do, however, need to find the right ‘headspace’ to do this.

Art and Creativity

Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them
— Carl G Jung

We know that art has been used by man since the beginning of the species, and has always had an important function in human development and problem solving. There is no doubt that upper paleolithic man was using art and symbols to make sense of the world, and we have been doing so even before and ever since. It is well documented and researched that art is a powerful tool for understanding the nature of the unconsciousness. Jung often incorporated art into his analytical psychology, encouraging his patients to draw and paint their dreams and use active imagination in order to unlock the symbolism and come to terms with trauma and emotional distress. Jung was an artist himself and spent much of his life attempting to unify his understanding of spiritual traditions and his own unconscious into paintings and illustrations. His work is regarded as very important in today’s practice of art therapy and this book draws on some of the symbols and archetypes he identified as important for self-discovery.


strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.
— Michaly Csiksgentmihalyi
Different states of being, the optimum being Flow

Different states of being, the optimum being Flow

The idea of ‘flow’ is something else that the Square The Circle process will allow you to explore. One of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness was Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, who was born in Hungary in 1934 and, like many of his contemporaries, was deeply affected by the Second World War. He was inspired to become a psychologist after hearing Jung speak. He discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness that he called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity that involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” He believed that happiness must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple, and that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives. The key aspect to flow is control: in the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces. If we combine this idea of flow as the creation of a state of being, with Jung’s ideas of asking yourself new questions, looking with new eyes, we begin to set up the conditions to integrate all aspects of ourselves. The images in Square The Circle are designed to help you enter this state of flow , so that your mind is open to the healing possibilities that creativity will bring. 


An inkblot created in a Square The Circle workshop. What do you see?

An inkblot created in a Square The Circle workshop. What do you see?

Another tool used by psychologists, and drawn on in the Square The Circle process, is the Rorschach test, also known as the Rorschach inkblot test. This is a well known psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analysed using psychological interpretations, complex algorithms or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorders, especially in cases where patients are unable to recognise or discuss their thought processes and impulses. The test is named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach. Looking at inkblots and finding symbols in them is another way of seeing things differently and using visual symbols to get in touch with unconscious impulses. Some of the images in the Square The Circle process use this approach to spark your own thoughts and impulses as a further tool for self-discovery . 

How does Square The Circle work?

The colouring pages used in the Square the Circle workshops and book are divided into sections that align with key principles developed by Jung and others based on research and theory around symbolism. The sections are an exploration of well- known and well documented symbols around certain life themes, and based on mandala designs, which Jung believed, as did many before him, provide harmony and balance. Each section allows you to both enjoy colouring and creating, entering a state of flow , but also to look at different aspects of the psyche and how they relate to your inner mind. In each section, there are a number of stages to work through. The first page is a colouring-in image, rich with symbolism and personal triggers to discover. The second page has less detail so that you can add your own shapes, symbols and memories. A third page gives you a chance to draw or write on a basic mandala shape, anything that arises, and outline what you feel about them, with minimal input from the author. In the book version of Square the Circle, there is also additional drawings that allow for pure creativity and play, but focused on developing symbolic thought. You can engage with the process at any level you want to, at home and alone by purchasing the materials, or more intensely and sharing with others in a workshop setting. But it is vital to remember creativity is not about being good at art, or creating works of art to hang on the wall. It is a process of discovery. A number of points are key to get the most out of the process:

•It is good to pay attention to memories and dreams.

•It can be helpful to play music that moves you or reminds you of times and relationships in your life.

•Use blank sheets to add your own ideas and symbols.

•Remember it matters not a jot if it is a ‘good’ drawing

•What do the symbols mean to you? Do they remind you of anything – jog any memories? You can do more research into these symbols. There are useful guidelines in the Symbolism section.

This process may bring up difficult thoughts and feelings. Keep safe - be aware of any distress and include it in the images, but seek friendship and support when you need it. Some may discover that they need to be in a therapeutic relationship to process things. for support in accessing therapy, see the Useful Resources section.

You can  purchase Square the Circle either as a complete hardback book, or by buying the sections separately.  You can also explore the process with others in a structured workshop setting 

How the Square The Circle process can help

The Square The Circle process involves using templates, based on key symbolic themes, to begin exploring creativity. Stage 1 is an image to colour in, stage 2 has some of the image removed to allow you to add your own symbols and stage 3 is a basic mandala, in which you can create freely, building on the previous stages. Colouring in helps to switch off the active, rational parts of the brain – the ‘doing’ parts - and can take us to a flow state. Aligned with mindfulness thinking, we need to go to the ‘being’ part of ourselves – but we can go further than just being mindful by working more actively , asking new questions, discovering new connections, re- awakening memories and dreams, and beginning to live a fuller life than that involving just the external world and our ego’s response to it. We are opening the attuned, imaginative, non-rational elements of the mind. The concept of flow combined with active imagination is not a passive one, not just ‘letting go’, but an active engagement with a search for new ways of connecting with your inner self and finding new perspectives and new territories. In this way we can begin to heal our minds through Jung’s process of individuation. This book is different from colouring books you may have tried because it actually helps you to begin a journey of discovery by encouraging you to open new perspectives and new ways of seeing, and by tapping into the creative and symbolic while involved in a soothing and repetitive activity. In ancient civilisations such as Greece, India and China, art was seen as a process of discovery, rather than just the creation of beautiful end products. So colouring in is not just about producing something pretty , it is about taking the resources and impulses present in your own life and using them to reach your full potential. Creativity is about facilitating a dialogue with the most deep, symbolic and open version of your mind possible, and finding keys to new doors in a journey of self-discovery. Colouring in can then become a door to widening the creative experience, and you can begin to explore further with increased confidence. To view the templates, and see examples already created in workshops, click on the symbolic themes below.