The Amplification Effect

This is an invitation to a group exercise.

By way of explanation, I was struck by a recent post by Sadje on the value of comments. It got me thinking (which can be dangerous), so bear with me.

I’ve enjoyed learning about all the different writing prompt exercises shared on this platform and pondered how I might contribute something that would support, but not simply duplicate, the activity I see thriving.

A Fondness for Group Exercises

I was fortunate to take a class in graduate school called Teaching Across Cultures. Professor Jon Barlow challenged us each week to create group exercises to perform with the entire class. Each week we’d head home with a framework and the following class would be spent performing all the different exercises students created.

Dr. Barlow’s rules for any exercise were simple:

  • Directions needed to be written on one page.
  • Participant safety needed to be assured.
  • The exercise needed to be performed within ten minutes.


In Jungian psychology, amplification is a process whereby a symbol gets explored through association within the therapeutic session, often relating to symbolic material present in a dream. It differs from free association where one thing leads to another, and to another, over and over, etc. With amplification, the goal is to circle the symbol or theme with various associations, continually returning to the symbol. The resulting pattern of inquiry, like the petals of a flower, brings the fullness of the symbol to light.

Amplification is also the method Jung used in his writings to expound on symbolic material, drawing upon mythic, historical, cultural, and universal analogies to unconscious material of a collective nature.

What if?

So, what follows is my attempt to create a useful exercise that is not specifically a prompt. The goal is to generate the amplification of a symbol that can be useful to artists and creatives in all mediums. I will provide a focus with symbolic content that emerged from unconscious material, either my own or an acquaintance’s (used with permission!).

The symbolic content explored will adhere to Jungs definition of a symbol:

“For Jung, symbols are language or images that convey, by means of concrete reality, something hidden or unknown. They have a numinous quality only dimly perceived by the conscious mind.”

After 24 hours I will post a mind map image, what has been called an association network, of the results. The psychoanalyst Edward Edinger’s example, shared here, will be a guiding model.

If and when work is created, I will link to it if you let me know where it is posted. There is no deadline for that to happen.

In some ways, the result of the exercise will probably be somewhat like a whiteboard after a group brainstorming activity. My hope is to release The Amplification Effect every Sunday morning. While I anticipate needing to make a few tweaks and adjustments through trial and error, I think it’s focused enough to launch and be useful.

The Amplification Effect, a group exercise performed in the comments.

A symbol is provided, and participants are asked to share at least twice with an amplification of that symbol.

1. Participants self-select.

2. Responses are placed in the comments to this post.

3. Each participant replies with an amplification of the symbol.

4. Each participant replies with an association to another participant’s amplification.

5. Participants are encouraged to repeat steps 3 and 4 as often as they wish.

6. Participants are encouraged to reflect on the group results of the exercise to provide an impetus for future creative work.

Postscript: Consider linking back to this post with any work this exercise generates. Links from this post to any work generated will be shared below.

Week #1 Amplification Effect Symbol:

A ring that is not a ring.

Join us in the comments below!

Group Response Mind Map:

A ring that is not a ring

Links to Works Generated:

Cosmic Wake by Richard Reeve

30 thoughts on “The Amplification Effect

  1. To get things started, my initial amplification focused on the ring that children make playing a common game.

    “Ring Around the Rosie”, the traditional nursery rhyme, folk song and playground singing game is from the mid-19th century.

    A circle game played when children holding hands rotate as a group and drop to the ground on the final word of the verse.

    One common interpretation suggests the words recall the plague, even though many dispute this idea.

    1. I don’t quite understand the concept. If my amplification is mobius strip and my association to yours is Playground, does that fit? Or does the association have to be a song or poem?

      1. As stated in Wikipedia: “In mathematics, a Möbius strip, Möbius band, or Möbius loop[a] is a surface that can be formed by attaching the ends of a strip of paper together with a half-twist. As a mathematical object, it was discovered by Johann Benedict Listing and August Ferdinand Möbius in 1858, but it had already appeared in Roman mosaics from the third century CE. The Möbius strip is a non-orientable surface, meaning that within it one cannot consistently distinguish clockwise from counterclockwise turns. Every non-orientable surface contains a Möbius strip.”

  2. To open up the exercise a bit:

    The rings of Saturn, in a new theory, are explained to be the remnants of a lost moon, Chrysalis.

    “If Chrysalis formed early on in Saturn’s history, it could have driven all of these processes over billions of years, leading to not only the orbital tilt of Saturn, but the relative positions, eccentricities, and obliquities of major moons Titan, Hyperion, and Iapetus. If Chrysalis were then torn apart approximately 160 million years ago, it could have given rise to the inner ring system as well as numerous moons.”

  3. Think I’m getting the idea of the challenge now!

    A Celtic knot is a complete loop with no start or finish and represents eternity, possibly of love and/or faith.

  4. I’ve been reflecting on the circular ripples that occur when you throw a stone into water, and that led me to the song “Ripple.”

    “Ripple in still water
    When there is no pebble tossed
    Nor wind to blow.”

  5. Golly Richard, you’re too smart for me. I want to participate but I’m afraid I don’t get it how to meet you half way. The mobiüs loop would be my go to. Have you seen what happens when you cut it in thirds? Magic happens.
    Then I’d want to suggest kindness— how when given it comes back. If not directly to you to someone in your circle or even to a stranger. Is this too vague? Dunno. But I think kindness keeps us in a global embrace of sorts. ¿No? Yes!
    That’s all I got. Thanks for this. I’ll be following. XoXo May your year end festivities be merry and bright.
    🪺 ring for family
    🕸️ ring of connections
    And then there’s the advent wreath
    Thanks for shaking my neurons and making me “think” xoxo

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