“A symbol is the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown psychic content”, so says Jung

The dictionary says:

  1. a mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process, e.g. the letter or letters standing for a chemical element or a character in musical notation.
  2. a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract


I have a cousin who lives in Australia. Once a year I travel from the UK to see her. It’s symbolic. Symbolic of what?

My cousin recently bought me a beanie headband in the same design but in a different colour to the one she bought at the same time for herself. It’s symbolic. Symbolic of what?

Symbols have their own meaning for each of us as individuals. I know that my feelings / interpretations about these two symbolic gestures and my cousin’s interpretations will be different.

Any symbol (for example in a tarot reading) where there may be a generic answer is not likely to apply, feel aligned or be right for you.




Symbols are a means of complex communication that can often have multiple levels of meaning. This differentiates signs from symbols, as signs only have one meaning. Human beings use symbols to express themselves and the social structure / culture to which they belong. Symbols facilitate an understanding of the world we inhabit and who we inhabit it with and are one of the bases on which we make judgements. We use symbols to make sense of the world and to identify ourselves living within it.


Now to the writing.

The use of symbols and symbolism is a literary device. I am learning to develop my own work by utilising forms of writing like metaphors and similes. This gives me freedom to add levels of meanings; literal ones that are self-evident and symbolic meanings which are far more profound. Using symbolism I hope to evoke an interest in readers far beyond the literal.

Using symbolism, I am mindful of the need to be subtle in my employment of the technique. The joy for me is in the intention of using symbolism. I may not get it right, the reader may not pick up on the symbolism, but for me this doesn’t matter. If they do, it is a bonus.


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The Unsaid


In psychotherapy, it is in discovering the unsaid and within the moments of silence where a client can begin to heal. It is a therapists role to enquire, to be curious for the benefit of the client, so they learn to enquire, to be curious about themselves and to consider the unsaid.

This opens up feelings and emotions and slowly in the sharing, learning takes place leading to acceptance, forgiveness and an ability to move forward and to find happiness and personal fulfilment. Examining the unsaid leads to self awareness, a discovery of the truth and the opportunity to move on to live an authentic, rewarding and gratifying life.

I was brought up in a family where I was not allowed to express my feelings or question what was happening around me and to me.  I suppressed my feelings and honoured my mother and my family; I adhered to the silent messages to keep quiet, to keep the secrets.

When my mother died, I finally began to examine the unsaid and discovered for the first time the joy of speaking the truth.

Now I search for the unsaid in myself and others — by voicing the unsaid, I have discovered joy and freedom and have found richer, more rewarding relationships.



In creative writing, it is often the unsaid that is most important, the most interesting, where for the reader, learning happens, where empathy begins and where truth emerges.

It is often in the unsaid, that which lies outside the text, that a reader discovers meaning.

Why should this be?

In real life, there is subtlety and hidden meaning in people’s words and actions; there is what is said, and there is the subtext, the unsaid and it is this which we are most intrigued and curious about — the unsaid tells us everything, satisfies our curiosity and brings a sense of fulfilment and joy.

So it is for fiction; the joy of reading is in the discovery of the hidden meanings, the unsaid.  We learn and in learning we grow — in the understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

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