I walk to feel down in my marrow that still point in the spiraling motion”

spiral jetty


We humans are beings drawn to symbols– we tell our stories in symbolic language, we make symbols in our art, look for symbols in nature. We communicate through time, across cultures, and even between the differing depths of our own consciousness with symbols.

The spiral is an important symbol for me, and increasingly so as my life unfolds. It teaches so much about growth and change. It’s an ancient human symbol, found in cultures all over the world going back to caves and petroglyphs. But it’s also a deeply organic form. The exquisite shell of paper nautalus, the arrangement of the seeds on the face of a sunflower, the furl of fern’s frond as it grows– all spirals. Like so many fundamental forms, it’s found at all sorts of scales, from the unimagianbly huge to the vanishingly small. The shape of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral. The double helix of the DNA in our cells are arranged in a stretched out spiral.


What does any of this have to do with therapy? I believe the spiral can be a symbol of our journey in life. So often when we are in the depths of despair– depression, grief, a painful relationship — we feel like we are trudging along in a rut, getting nowhere, repeating the same painful thoughts and actions. But the spiral shows us that as long as there is the slightest incline in the plane of the path we are walking on, we are traveling in a spiral, not a rut. And sometimes– often– it is necessary that our path lead us around to revisit the same issues that we thought we’d already dealt with.

Some wounds are too deep to be healed with one cleansing. Some issues we need to face, then move on to other things, then, with our increased strength and insight, face again at a more profound level. If we continue to have the courage to work and face our pain, the spiral will open up, give us more room, as we learn and heal and grow. We don’t always know where this spiral path will lead, but it is amazing to see how a person’s life that once felt crimped and hopeless can unfurl into a more spacious and profound way of being, to see a person discover her inherent creativity and capacity for love and connection.