The word symbol comes from the Greek word symballein, to throw together. It has to do, then, with a heap of material thrown together, which you then take as a whole, something viewed as a totality.
“A symbol does not disguise, it reveals in time.”
Carl Gustav Jung, “The Language of Dreams”
We could translate the word symbol as “something viewed as a totality,” or as “the vision of things brought into a whole.”
From symbols or through them intuitions and insights develop in a great variety. For example, the “tree of life” is an age-old symbol. From it have come ideas and diverse outlooks on life and growth processes: ideas of individuation, the continuum, measurement of time, enlightenment, the manifestation of a divine natural law, the maternal womb of life and death, and many more.
When a symbol appears to you, it acts as a pointer to what is going on in your life and where it will continue. It will concentrate a lot of psychic energy towards a still distant goal. It will connect that inner spark of life, making you feel connected and centered around a purpose. This is the specific life promoting significance of the symbol.
Symbols can be also dead and stiffened by dogma, but INNERwork deals with the living symbols that rise up from the creative unconscious in the living person.
The capacity to symbolize represents the development of a differentiated subjectivity, where you are able to separate yourself from the symbol, and can distinguish the symbol from what is being symbolized. When this happens, you experience to be aware of having particular thoughts and feelings. Events and things can stand for each other without concretely being each other.
Where there is inadequate self development, this level of differentiated subjectivity cannot exist.