How Do Abused Children Express themselves through Drawings?

Parents are made to leave their children with caregivers; however, on occasions, those outside the family attack and harm the child’s innocence with aggressive behaviors that can undermine their emotional stability. Aggression can also come from direct relatives and even from the parents themselves. In order to address this problem, from a neuro-writing perspective, I want to share with you the study of a real case that I had to address some time ago.
I am referring to a case of physical and psychological aggression to which a 5-year-old 3-month-old girl was subjected to. In one of our encounters, I asked her to do a free drawing, which I will decode and analyze from a neuro-writing perspective so the reader can grasp that through symbols, the human being is able to express real feelings.

The Neurowriting System, as a decoding mechanism for graphic symbols, focuses on the projective and psycho-morpho-kinetic aspects of graphic expression, aspects that can be evaluated according to Max Pulver’s Spatial Theory. It objectifies and systematizes the symbolic language in countries of western culture, through the study of 4 trunk coordinates in the graphic field or sheet in which the drawing or writing is established (up, down, left, right). Indeed, if what is expressed graphically is captured in a graphic field (sheet or any other media), “then it is subject to a series of coordinates that allow delimiting differentiated stages of analysis. The first coordinate contained in the symbolic and natural language of the human species is a concrete or imaginary horizontal line that represents the limit of what is above and below. It is concrete, if it is approached from the perspective of nature, such as the horizon line, which divides heaven and earth. Imaginary -but no less real- if what for all Western culture has been significant in the structuring of its philosophy is defined, the division between heaven and hell or the enlightening and primitive spiritual world that links them ”. (Aguilera, 2011, p. 105)

As stated, the drawing can be decoded, assuming the logic of this division. As regards this issue, the upper zone is related to everything that is above the subject, which plays a hierarchical role in the moral, ethical, and spiritual realm; therefore, although this area can have several meanings, all of these come together in a common idea, that is, that of hierarchical reference.
What is below this threshold is related to what is below the subject and although this something does not have any hierarchical rank over the individual, it has a decisive impact on him/her, since it reminds them of his biological and instinctive material condition. As in the upper zone, the meanings here are varied, but there is a common implicit idea, that is, the expression of the concrete, material, biological and instinctive.
It is necessary, as an analytical mechanism, to ask the following questions regarding the girl’s drawing:

  • What images are located in the upper area? (To understand what themes are unconsciously summoned).
  • What role and status do these images play in the overall context of the drawing? (To understand what role each member of the story plays).
  • Based on what layout morphology are the figures made? (To understand the emotional correlation that each section of the story implies for the girl).

Let’s look at the divided drawing to answer those questions.


The images that are predominantly located in the upper area are a house, a sun, a complete word “sun”, a part of another word “sun” and part of the girl’s head. Although five elements are observed, two of them are not completely and definitely located in the upper zone, that is why, due to their undefined location, they can be excluded from the analysis of this sector. Conclusion: There are three clear elements typical of the upper area, the sun as a figure, the word “sun” and the house as a figure.

The role that the sun plays is the protagonist of the story and it is possible to assert this, due to the dimensional regency it occupies, that is, its size is greater than any other graphic construction. This regency is also emphasized by the word “sun” that supports the idea of the dominance of the sun over the other data in the drawing. The house, by the same analytical logic above, occupies a meager space and the smallest in relation to the other elements of the drawing. Conclusion: The sun is the protagonist and the house, as an archetypal manifestation, does not outperform the sun, so it has less interference than the sun.

The path morphology that makes up the sun considers a predominance of firm straight lines, angles, curves to a lesser extent but evolved (free of short-wave sinuosity) and the use of high pressure. The house is made with wavering lines and sinuously curved shapes in places that should be straight.

Likewise, a lower pressure level is observed. Conclusion: The morphology of the sun’s tracing indicates that when the girl made it, she was dominated by irritability and tension. On the other hand, when the girl built the house, she was dominated by hesitation and a lack of strength and/or energy.

It is possible to develop a symbolic analysis of each of the significant components of the upper area of the drawing:

Sun: It gives heat, allows photosynthesis, is associated with the day, with light, but it can also damage, you cannot stare at it, it can burn, it can dehydrate us and even kill us. Now, if we delve into the appearance of that sun, what sensation does it generate? Is it a kind, warm, controlled, friendly sun or is it an aggressive, overwhelming, imposing sun? Well, personally, I think it is the latter. Therefore, I have arguments to think that what the girl wanted to project is that this sun is the protagonist that burns, overwhelms, dehydrates, attacks and can even annihilate.

The house: It is the place where you live, where you spend much of your time, where you become a family, where you find refuge. Now, what sensation does the house generate? Is it a solid, strong, safe house or is it a weak, insignificant house, lacking a stable structure? Well, again I think it is the latter. Consequently, there are elements to think that the house is projected with the status of unstable and unsafe.

Both the house and the sun occupy a hierarchical status over the girl (in fact, both are located in the upper area of the sheet and the girl that is located in the center of the sheet), therefore, they have rulership or certain power over her. The problem is that the house as a reference is weak and the sun is extremely strong and aggressive. In effect, the girl perceives her family as weak and incapable of containing and supporting her (the real case is a family made up of a mother and a younger sister.

Her mother works most of the day, the father is absent and does not there is an established father figure in the girl’s life, since her grandfather had passed away before she was born). A propitiatory condition to remain vulnerable to this aggressive sun that would represent the abusive woman (the distant aunt of the mother who occupies the role of caregiver, who physically and psychologically mistreats the little girl.

Now it is significant to specify what happens in the lower area of the sheet and for such effects, it is necessary to understand what this area shows us: “The material, the physical, the erotic-sexual, the unconscious. In the context of the material, we find all that experience or concrete object that potentially or directly, can provide some benefit or service. The physical is related to the sensory realm, specifically to the role that the senses play in the sensory perception of the world. In reference to the erotic-sexual, we find our own sexuality and libidinal energy ”(Aguilera, 2011, p. 109).

Considering the above, it is now necessary to define the graphic expressions that play a leading role in this area:

  • The almost complete girl, drawn without arms.
  • The unfinished and irregular floor, missing towards the right area of the drawing.
  • The repetition of the words “Sun”.

Having narrowed down the symbolism, it is worth asking:

  • What is the girl’s self-image?
  • Under what sensory-perceptual terms is she visualized in the context of the story?
  • Does the girl perceive security in the context of the story?

Well, the girl is projected in the drawing, without arms. This area of the body refers to communication. In fact, it is one of the most involved areas in the body-gestural expression of the human being. Nevertheless, this girl, despite having motor qualities to make arms (which is concluded by the complexity of the drawing itself), does not consider that these elements are necessary or, at least, considers them surplus, that is, the obvious. This condition must be objectified in the context of the drawing, since it yields a very decisive fact, especially considering the fact that the sun would be the projection of a subject that occupies a hierarchical place on the minor and that exerts a certain oppression on her by its overwhelming, aggressive and dominating nature. Faced with this performance of the aggressor (because from the real situation, we know that she is a caregiver, a distant aunt from her mother), the child feels unable to express or communicate what is happening to her. Then, the doubts that arise are, why does she feel that she cannot express herself? Will she be threatened, intimidated or will there be other variables that prevent the externalization of this situation? These questions arise naturally and when corroborating it with the
real situation, specifically by the mother’s confession (after the event has been revealed), the girl not only felt intimidated by the caretaker aunt, but also felt inhibited by the repetitive comments from her mother regarding the existence and work of this woman, indicating that without her, her working life would be impossible, that her job would be in danger and that the whole family would be harmed, showing herself very grateful and “in favor of the aunt”. The girl, in her innocence and at the same time conditioned by a great sense of duty to her family, prefers to remain silent, because she assumes that if she speaks, she can cause great harm to her entire family or simply the mother will not believe her.

Based on all that has been explained, the answers to the previous questions are:

  • What is the girl’s self-image ?: Diminished by the lack of arms, a mandatory condition to be able to express yourself in the middle.
  • Under what sensory-perceptual terms is she visualized in the context of her story? Sensitively, it is assumed without her sense of touch, that is, without hers “manual eyes” or “tactile-perceptual” hers. Perceptually, she is overwhelmed by external oppression and unable to express what is
    happening to her.
  • Is there really a sense of security ?: No. Unfortunately, what could give her security and containment is the place where she perceives the most vulnerability and weakness, her family home. Likewise, the unstable and missing floor also denounces this feeling of insecurity of security.

Now, as the last step in this analysis, I will refer to what this girl unconsciously assumed about the symbolism of space in terms of the left and right zone. In this regard, Max Pulver indicated: “The place where the pen is when writing is the current point of the self that passes in time. The path traveled symbolizes my individual past; the feeling that the self was formed, in a way, from what I have lived; the self, in this sense, is made up of everything that has happened to me; the I launches itself hesitantly or violently, fearful or daring by the passing of time towards the future, leaving behind the present as the past ”(Pulver, 1953, p. 17). Therefore, the left zone has to do with the idea of how the ego of the writing or draftsman has been forged, thinking about the experiences that have happened to him and that have shaped his current status. Then, the right area reflects in this course, the place where the subject is going, what he expects from the future.

Let’s see what appears if we divide the drawing into a left and right area:

What is moving about this drawing is that the girl in the left area projects a weakened, insolid, unstable house. She has been forged on this platform, on the platform of family, emotional, relational instability, of lack of containment and what awaits in the future is even worse, her expectations are terrifying, because she assumes that this aggressive presence will continue to accompany her and precisely this idea is fortified in another symbol. The absence of the floor and the scriptural ratification of the word “sun” constantly. In effect, it is, in the future (right zone) where she feels that neither base nor material security she will have to face this situation of aggression… How sad is it?

Well dear friends, it has been a pleasure to share with you this note, which is a small expression of what neuro-writing techniques help when decoding children’s drawings.


CASCANTE, D. (s/f). Activación de la inteligencia. Editorial Edelvives.
GARDNER, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Nueva York, Basic Books. (Versión castellana (2001): Estructuras de la Mente. La Teoría de las Inteligencias Múltiples. México, FCE).