Root Images

This page catalogs the various “root images” which enable or enhance one’s Adaptive Transformation.       

A root image is  the visualization of a dynamic.  Some dynamics are expansive and lead us outward.  Others are constrictive and lead us inward.  No image (or dynamic) is “bad” per se.  They only show us a possible way to look at what is happening during a clarification dilemma.  Like really good poems, a root image must be unpacked and made relevant to the work at hand.   That’s the fun part.  That’s when we discover something.       

While many argue that this type of “image” discussion has little to do with Executive or Leadership coaching, I would beg to differ.  We are always caught in a dynamic of  some kind.  Corporate and family systems are virtual manufacturers of dynamics that impact our thinking and decision-making.  So all I’m trying to do here is offer some imagery to help reveal some part of a dynamic at work.   That said, I do not reference “root images” in my work with others.  These ideas are totally secondary to the work at hand.  My focus is always on being with the client where ever he or she happens to be.       

The images found here are both “to:” images (meaning that they will move you towards spaciousness, flexibility and greater awareness) as well as “from:” images (meaning that these images present places of smallness, resistance, or limited awareness).  Each image has an expansive and a constrictive  side.  And they are all part of our human experience.  In keeping with Joseph Campbell’s work, we are all “the hero with a thousand faces.”  These are but a few entryways into the myriad complexity of those faces.        

Bon Appetite~!       

Associated blog post: …Open or Resistant…       

Bookmark1:  Uroborus       

Here is an image or the Uroborus.  This image can be found at the Wikipedia website which explains the history and associations about the Uroborus.       


The most common associations are health and fear.  This split association make the image a contradictory one.  The dynamic represented is a growthful one when health is the final goal or purpose.  On the other hand, dynamic can be a fearful on if the final goal or purpose is loss of health.  The fear implied here is an important limitation; however, when properly attended to – with awareness – that fear can support rather than hinder growth.        

Associated blog post: …Accuracy or Interpretation…       

Bookmark2: Self Stone       

Here is the root image of a self-stone.  This image goes by other names as well soul-stone, alchemical stone, philosopher’s stone.  The image has a long and varied history.Self-stone, alchemical stone, soul stone Similar to the Uroborus (the serpent devouring its tail) the circular shape is important.  Completeness, wholeness, health, well-being are all implied.  Unbreakable, completely natural and  inorganic are also essential qualities.  C.G. Jung associates the “self-stone” with the individuation process, the process by which we develop and refine our unique individuality.  According to his book, Man and His Symbols, individuation holds a direct connection to the natural world.  Both inner and outer worlds combine.  He writes, “This relation of the self to all surrounding nature and even the cosmos probably comes from the fact that the “nuclear atom” of our psyche is somehow woven into the whole world, both inner and outer.” That essential core, the psychic atom or stone, is the connecting point where inner and outer meet. 

On the contradictory side, the stone was also humanity’s first weapon.  Going into battle, a person must be decisive and committed.  The stone becomes an extension of the person into the real world wherein he can act take and have impact. 

While there are other images associated with the self, this one is the most common you will see.  Popularized through crystals, amulets and “new age” types of jewelry, the various analogues for this image are nearly ubiquitous.  While very much overdone, the essential image should not be discarded.  It represents a unique point of stasis – one that is centered, grounded, and immoveable.  It has a long history in oriental cultures where there is an emphasis on meditation and creating a deep inner calm.  Quite a contradiction, calmness and warrior action.  

For more information, see the following: Zen Gardens, Philosopher’s Stone, Stone Meditation, Sacred Stones   


Associated blog post: …memory or imagination…a question of faithfulness…       

Bookmark3: Well       

Here is the root image of the Containing Well.  This image goes by other names, Well of Life, The Spring Well, The Fountain of Youth, or the Wishing Well.  The imagery for the containing well starts first with water as the source of life.  It then contains this water in a personal space.  The containing well’s two most important characteristics are: first that the well be very deep, and second that water springs up naturally from the ground.  The well’s associations with personal destiny give us the wishing well, wherein we appeal to the source of life to enact some change which we desire.  It is common to associate the well with faithfulness.  The depth and strength of one’s faithfulness is derived from the endless beginnings that spring naturally from the water underground.    


The imagery of falling backwards into a well is the equivalent of falling into your original being for you are falling into the source of original faithfulness.  

On the contradictory side, the well is associated with amnesia, confusion, and even death.  There is sense that, by falling into the well ‘your-current-definition-of-you,’ that person who you believe you are, will be dissolved and then change inevitably results.   But before people are ready to fall backwards, they often lapse into amnesia, forgetfulness, and pangs of doubt about what ever is really important.

Associated blog post: …desire or cultivated restraint…       

Bookmark4: Mirror       

Here is the root image of the Mirror.  While this picture shows a relatively modern mirror, the idea of “a looking-glass” has been around for millenia.  The original mirror, of course, was a very still surface of water — one that was capable of reflecting an undistorted image.  This original association emphasized the transience and the fragility of the image.  You could put your hand through the water’s surface to interrupt and disturb the reflected image.  When metal mirrors were introduced, the reflective quality was poor but the association of constancy became stronger. What makes the mirror such an enchanting device was how it faithfully duplicates of everything it reflects.  Again, the idea of faithfulness comes out of mirror’s association with water and the endless beginnings that come from water.  Since water could hold anything and could contain anything, it could also be said to enfold time.  Time does but pass over the surface of the mirror showing all.  It was for this reason that the mirror is associated with memory and the timeless constancy of memory. There is also the sense that a mirror’s frame establishes the mirrored image as something fixed, and potentially timeless in its constancy.


On the contradictory side, the mirror represents distortion and illusion, the fragile sense of  impermanence, an illusion that can be pierced just as easily as a hand touching the water’s surface.  




7 responses to “Root Images

  1. Pingback: …open or resistant… | Adaptive Transformations

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  4. Pingback: …series conclusion…clarification dilemmas… | Adaptive Transformations

  5. Pingback: …the question of faithfulness…memory or imagination… | Adaptive Transformations

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