How do I stop…
Help, I can’t stop…
- picturing them together
- thinking about him all the time
- being afraid
The ability of the mind to form ideas, concepts and experiences across sensory modalities within the mind even when such things are absent from literal reality.
You will draw into your life that which you devote the most energy. We use creative visualization regularly, but often we recall and replay negative experiences we do not want to relive, thus increasing the likelihood of repeating those negative experiences. Most people need no assistance imagining the ways things can go wrong. Since no one wants to relive their negative experiences this is not done deliberately. That is especially true when you are experiencing crisis and trauma. It can be hard to redirect your focus from that which is already happening when the pain has the power of present reality. It is thus important to make a conscious effort to focus on the positive goals and outcomes. With the power of conscious intention, you can harness the power of creative visualization and direct it toward positive creation.
Creative Visualization: Imagine & Believe
Like affirmations, creative visualization is a method of changing thought patterns and beliefs, but instead of using words and phrases it uses imagination to visualize the physical process and end results. Though the term visualization references sight, the technique is multi-sensory, imagining sights, smells, sounds, touch and taste. As with affirmations, creative visualization is imagined in the present tense.
Consider Creative Visualization to be guided, purposeful and active meditation–active in that the meditation contains an imagined experience rather than simply emptying the mind. You may be your own guide, creating your visualization as it happens, going through a preplanned experience, or you may you may use a prepared audio either using your own voice or an external guide.
What are you trying to achieve? You may have a Big Goal in mind, but what smaller goals do you have along the way? You may have a Big Goal of reconciliation, but you will get there through smaller goals. Are you detached? Are you still in panic mode, cycling emotionally? If so, you need to work through those first, so use Creative Visualization as a relaxation tool. This is not about your relationship and marriage, instead focus on calm scenes where you feel comfortable and safe. Each person finds relaxation, comfort and safety in different experiences.
- Floating on warm water with gentle waves rocking you
- Laying on a beach in the warm sun
- A forest where you can immerse yourself in nature
- A private room with comfortable furniture. This may be your personal temple or meditation and prayer room.
- Floating on a cloud
- Dancing in air, skydiving, flying, being a bird
- Scuba Diving, or being a fish
Imagine the scene in full detail. What do you smell? Create smells that may or may not be natural for the scene but that are calming for you. What are the colors? They do not need to reflect reality; the sky can be purple! What do you hear? Silence, meditation music, singing, sounds of nature such as waves, wind or animals…? What do you feel–inside and out? What do you feel in your body? Can you feel your pulse in your fingertips, your breath circulating to your toes? Is there a warm or cool breeze gently wafting across your skin? Can you feel the sun warming you back or warm hands or oils for massage? Are you fishing from the shore, a boat, a floating tube? Are their candles in your prayer room? Are you alone? Is your Guardian Angel there, or animals?
You cannot control anyone other than your Self. You can imagine a scene in which your spouse meets all your fantasies, but that is not within your control. Instead imagine and create healthy responses to your MLCer under all imagined circumstances. In your imagination, practice calmly dealing with Monster. Practice your continuing responses if Monster persists and does not allow your peace to diffuse a situation. Practice Acting as If so that you are not approaching your MLCer with an expectation of negativity beforehand. Practice handling your frustrations and vents–standing up for yourself in a controlled and yet firm manner without becoming defensive and accept that your MLCer may still interpret your actions as defensive, selfish, mean…or that they may not.
Four Steps for Creative Visualization1
- Set your Goal
- Create a Clear Picture or Idea
- Focus your heart and mind
- Positive Energy
Requirements & Necessary Elements2
- Intent & Desire
Align your thoughts with what you are visualizing for it to become reality.
Achievement requires prior thought and belief or a suspension of disbelief.
Willingness to receive that which you desire.
In Sports Psychology the terms visualization and imagery may be used interchangeably or closely, where imagery may refer to a greater depth of visualization in which the muscles feel and rehearse the experience. A well-known Russian study compared four different training regimens of four matched groups of elite athletes.
- 100% physical training
- 75% physical training; 25% mental training
- 50% physical training; 59% mental training
- 25% physical training; 75% mental training
There was a direct correlation between mental training and performance; the greater percentage of mental training showing the greatest improvements. Group 4 improved the most, followed by groups 3, 2 and 1 in that order.3 Mental training is effective because it increases motivation as well as confidence since the person has already won in their visualizations. It also has the benefit of improving focus because the visualizations sessions have greater freedom from distractions.
Visualizations are real to the conscious mind and thus they can realize a neuromuscular response. Consider a non-athletic analogy. Recall something upsetting; it may be an experience or even an idea, but think of something that incensed and bothered you so much that it is or was difficult to let it leave your mind. Yes, this may be the present crisis, but there are other things–political issues. Think about how you felt upon hearing the idea or during the first moments of the experience. If you focus on that in the present moment, does your heart rate increase, do you feel more agitated?
A mirror neuron is a neuron that responds both during action as well as observation of the action performed by someone else. Does this apply to internal mental observations–experiences created and imagined through visualization in the absence of literal experience? A person may have physical experience performing an action, but will there be a mirror neuron response when they practice the same action using only creative visualization?
Conditioning & Anchors
Imagination is powerful because it provides an anchor by connecting ideas with the senses. The addition of an emotional component provides an additional anchor, further strengthening the power of imagination. Emotional anchors are organic, but you can also create deliberate conditioned anchors. Think if bedtime rituals (brushing teeth, dressing in pajamas, bedtimes stories to the kids…) For some the various actions performed prior or bedtime and only at that time become associated with falling asleep and help to induce sleep. For some people this works in a negative way also in that they may have difficult falling asleep in the absence of the actions. Anchors are often used in hypnotic inductions to induce relaxation.
An anchor is a word or action associated with a memory or many memories; it may be conscious or subconscious. An example of a conscious anchor might be apple pie. What do you think of when considering apple pie? Cinnamon, holidays, harvest, American as…, tradition…? The word will conjure different responses from different people. A subconscious anchor might be an emotional anchor that you are unaware of or it could be an anchor created to elicit a response such as the ringing of a bell; you may not be aware of the anchor or the response, rather it bypasses the conscious mind and thought processes and elicits a response–action. You can set-up anchors for your meditations, self-hypnosis and visualizations that will aid induction. Anchors are meant specifically for the experience of inducing the state you are seeking and should not be used at other times–since you only want to associate the anchor with entering the desired state. So if you use lavender to induce hypnosis, please don’t use lavender in your car! Though if you want to use lavender all the time, you will not associate it solely with hypnosis.
An anchor might be a series of actions that when put together work as an anchor but separate have no inductive association. Combining prayer, scented candles and specific lighting might be your anchor. If you want to combine those elements at other times you may reserve a specific prayer or specific candles or lights for your anchor or include specific elements that prevent induction.
Though Creative Visualization is considered a meditative technique of imagining an experience, why not build the experience artistically as a means of creative visualization? Sculpt, paint, draw, perform or write what you want, who you are and who you want to be; become your creation. Often the great discovery is that you are and have always been that which you have rendered artistically. Michelangelo said his creations were already in the stone; his job was to remove the extra pieces.
- Gawain, Shakti. Creative Visualization. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2002, pp 22-24.
- Gawain, Shakti. Creative Visualization. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2002, pp 49-50.
- Garfield, Charles A. PhD. Peak Performance-Mental Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes. New York: Warner Books, 1984, 1–17.
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