Guided Imagery and Visual Imagery – I’m learning more tools!

 Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life and you will call it fate.  ~  Carl Jung

Guided imagery and visual imagery are two more techniques based on the concept that the mind and body are connected.  They involve the subconscious and imagination and help with stress reduction and relaxation.  The subconscious, as explained to me, is like a computer CPU continually processing things in the background, mostly without our knowledge.  The conscious is like the computer screen – we only see a portion of what the computer is processing.

In my pain psychology sessions, we approached guided imagery by first selecting something to symbolize my “inner advisor” (the non-conscious, or subconscious self).  This could be a person or an animal, etc. – but something that feels safe to be with.  The next step was to close my eyes, select a safe and secure place where I can feel relaxed, and visualize this place in my mind.  The inner advisor I selected was one of my favorite dogs we had when I was a kid.

Next, I was coached to very kindly and gently, put a question and invitation out there, such as, “If there is anything I’m not aware of and need to know, I would like to hear it – I am open to hearing it.”  I was to ask my inner advisor to come forward on this matter (basically, asking for input from the non-conscious self).  I also asked questions about what my body needed to heal.  Having great patience after asking questions is very important.  An answer will come when a person is ready, open, or feels safe enough to hear what the answer is…..and….when people are relaxed and patient, they are more open and more likely to get an answer.  I was hoping than my answers would arrive quickly, but I learned that answers may not arrive immediately and may require several attempts before the non-conscious part feels ok about releasing information.  (Yes, with me, it has taken many attempts.  I’m still waiting for answers with some of my questions.)  With each attempt, I needed to wait and see what transpired in my imagination.  What is happening?  Are we talking?  What other images appear?  Is the inner advisor saying anything to me?  If not, that’s ok.  In time it will come.  In what form would the answer arrive?  How will I know it’s the right answer?  Well, that’s in a later posting.

Visual imagery also involves the imagination.  So in my exercises, I made up a place to be – a nice, pleasant, safe place where I felt secure.  The difference with visual imagery is it involves imagining the sensations:  not only seeing, but also hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting.  Feel the weather, hear the noises, see the sights, smell the air, etc., and imagine actually being there.  I imagined myself sitting on a beautiful sandy beach with the cool ocean breeze blowing in my face and hair, the gentle warmth from the setting sun touching my face.  I could feel the sensation of sitting on cool, soft, silky, moist sand; smelling the ocean air and feeling the spray of water as the ocean waves hit the beach; seeing the sun starting to set and the vibrant colors of orange, yellow and red reflect off the water; hearing the sea bird calls.  Again, I put questions out there and asked my inner advisor to come forward.

I was told that my body still has things to say, but when the time is right the answers will come.  The important things I needed to remember are:

  • Be patient and non-judgmental.  Impatience hinders progress.  This is a process that takes place over time.
  • Don’t make demands with the questions and don’t get mad.  Don’t strain or overwork.  Ask the question and leave it.  It will come.
  • Don’t work too hard at it.  Be curious and aware, and “just go with it.”
  • Trust yourself and trust the process.
  • Be KIND to yourself – don’t call yourself a stupid idiot and beat yourself up if the answers don’t come as quickly as desired.

As with meditation, these techniques also felt strange at first, but after trying them and getting some results, they are not so strange anymore.  This supports the saying “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” especially if you have nothing to lose!  If it works, great!  If not, no one has to know you tried it, especially if you are concerned about what other people might think.

Have you tried guided imagery or visual imagery?  If so, what were your experiences?  Do you believe there is a part of you, in your subconscious, that knows what you need to heal?

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