The 3 steps you need to do to get ready to do imagery and visualization sessions.
It is a standard move in hypnosis and imagery work to use an “induction phase” to start things off. Hypnotists and image workers ease people into closing their eyes and heading down stairs or to a nature setting for a walk.
Why is this necessary? These opening images and suggestions are needed by most of us to shift inward, relax, and be open to what the imaginal world contains. Typically, it takes a bit of time to move from our everyday concerns towards a place that is quite dreamy and less goal-oriented.
But we can get masterful enough that long induction times are not needed. We can have powerful images without closing our eyes and descinding a staircase. In fact I freely get people to resist closing their eyes as I lead them through a standard induction to prove this point.
Spot Imagery Popping Up Everywhere in Your Daily Life
A big obstacle to having imagery upon command is realizing just how much imagery we engage in during the typical day. We don’t just think and feel using words. Images rapidly fire up and die away as we: imagine some worry; figure out what we want for lunch; as we describe some event to a friend; have a gut feel about someone we like or don’t like; as we look at photos, diagrams, and movies online; and give instructions to someone who has lost their way on the road.
Start now to notice just how much imagery is in your life. Catch it everywhere you can. This will show just how fast imagery can fire in your mind under conditions not resembling a long imagery induction.
Get Simple, Drop Imagery Blocking Thoughts and Feelings
Inductions were developed to get us to move away from blocking thoughts, feelings, and tensions we too often carry with us everywhere we go. For rapid imagery, get good at learning how to drop that stuff, at least for a few minutes. This usually requires a change of life philosophy. Regular life philosophy has us on alert carrying concerns about any unfinished business or worry a bit or a lot about what is coming up next. When we are not doing that, we are analyzing and planning. We need to drop that stuff to enter deeply into imagery. We need to become simple. Simple in the sense that we are going to bring our focus to the moment (goodbye worries and guilt) and do what we have to do. In the case of imagery, we have to tune inward and get dreamy. The more stuff we leave behind and be our simple selves, the quicker and deeper we can go.
Find the Feeling
Adding to this practice is the practice of regular imagery practice. If a person has consistently practiced getting into an altered state, in time, this state can be evoked. The practitioner knows they are there through a combination of a physical sense of a shift in their body towards quiet and ease and a mental shift towards imagery, dreaminess, or at a minimum, a deep quiet receptivity.
But getting there takes some time. Here’s the practice steps:
-consistently practice with moderate or long sessions so you create the opportunity to experience the full range of shifting that happens
-consistently observe in these sessions what it feels like for you to go deeper into imagery. Pay attention to your body: look for shifts in breathing, changes in muscle tone, expanding ease and even disconnection from your body; and pay attention how you loose your grip on inner chatter and the external world.
-when you are comfortable that you have done enough of the above, try shorter sessions of 5 minutes or so and see how deep you can go. Make comparisons: how does the short experience compare to the longer sessions; what is the same between sessions; what can you accomplish in the longer sessions that you can’t and can in the short sessions with no lengthy period of easing into deep imagery.
Start in the Same Place
Our overall goal is to get to where we can: shift to inward focus, move into a space which feels poetic in the sense that imagery has a feeling tone that draws us in by way of our curiosity and desire to know more, and a space that calls us to be open to abstractions, surprising combinations, mystery, and discovery of what is important for us to know at the time of our looking.
To get in that place faster, start off all of your sessions with the same place. Find an inner spot that is special to you and stick with it. Develop it over time by getting to know its details. This depth of knowledge, picking a spot that is special to you, and regular practice will start up an automatic association in your unconscious. Bring up the spot in imagery and your body, thinking, feeling, and unconscious will start to move quickly into the routine patterns of being that you have created in your past sessions.
An inside strategy would involve turning inward to a large, small or moderate degree, and then doing something there. It could be doing visualization of a calming place, person, object, pet, song, etc. It could involve watching our breathing, or doing a body scan to see how we are feeling emotionally and bodily (and both). Frequently, this is the strategy we use when something is concerning “out there”. Sometimes a meeting is not going well, or we are in the dentist’s chair, or we need to withdraw from the bustle around us.
There are times, however, going inside is not the best strategy. For instance, if we are trapped in repetitive negative thoughts such as worry and anger, going inside where those thoughts/feelings are flying about, and introducing a counter to that can be too challenging. Going outside, can be the direction to go.
Going outside can distance ourselves from our mental/heart chatter. Simple attention to our surroundings can help. Listening to the soundscape, for instance, pulls us from our troubles within. Look deeply at colors, differences in sizes of objects, light and shadow; feeling the wind, the movement of your feet; anything can keep us outside of your inner rumblings. Activity, especially activity with some challenge to it, will engage a great deal of our brain and reduce at least some of the energy going to our inner landscape. Of course, there are the well developed practices: mindfulness, Tai Chi, and Open Focus.
Next Steps: Aim to master a set of inner and outer target methods; experiment with them a great deal to make them your own; do a quick practice session every day. Use as needed. If one direction doesn’t help, switch directions.
We naturally split ourselves whenever we practice some guided practice such as guided imagery or self-suggestion (aka self-hypnosis). We give part of our attention to the guider, some attention what we are experiencing, and there is a quiet observer that takes on the task of watching the process. Three hats at the same time are on top of our heads and we thought we were in deep relaxation.
Erika Fromm, in her research on self-suggestion, called this multi-hat process ego division, where our self-awareness gets allocated to three concerns. She even threw in a fourth, the doubter. Ah yes, there is the doubter. Our inner critic that has serious questions about the process, whether important things can be experienced, and whether we are the right person for the job. One more hat, please. Fromm did find that, at least in hypnosis, some people could do somethings better when guided than when they guided themselves. But she also found that some experiences were better in self-guided processes than when there was guider.
Find Out for Yourself – Guided or Self-Guided, Which Works Best for You?
First, get some guided imagery recording that you like and are very comfortable with (you don’t need the doubter rambling on about the guider, his/her voice, word choice, etc.) and work with it four or five times. Note what happens, what works and what doesn’t.
Next, use the same script, as best as you can recall or and/or take notes to self-guide. Use that approach four or five times.
Compare: How do the processes differ in terms of: getting deeper; getting more vivid imagery; getting involved in the action; effectiveness post guided imagery session.
From this work you can really sharpen your practice by knowing how you wear many hats and still get quality experiences and focusing on the most effective process for your interests/needs.
Self-Hypnosis: The Chicago Paradigm – Erika Fromm and Stephen Kahn
I spent a lot of my time making imagination work hard to get to the point where I discovered it is simple. Keep things simple. Realize that we are surrounded by imagination at work, 24/7. When a friend tells you a story, when you go to the movies, or when you come up with an analogy to explain something, you are letting your imagination powers run more free than usual. Doing imagination work captures your inherent abilities to go within and imagine and makes them available for inner explorations.
In all of my workshops, during individual training, and in groups, I start with asking people call up some place in their mind’s eye that they know very, very well. It doesn’t have to be some place special. The exercise is to make the inner experience of the space increasingly vivid to the point it feels roughly like being there. To accomplish this, our imagination senses are engaged; when we walk about the space the space feels like reality. When we touch or pick up something, that too gives has the sensation of weight and space.
Getting to Your Memory Place – Steps:
1. Pick a place you know well in the real world.
2. Close your eyes and settle in. Relax downward until you start to get dreamy-like.
3. Bring to mind the memory of your selected space.
4. Be in the space by really paying attention to details such as the lighting and sounds.
5. When you are ready, walk over to some object and pick it up or at least touch it.
6. Take your time and explore your memory place. If there is something about this experience you want to remember in detail, reinforce your memory by noticing a few more times what you want to remember while holding the intention in mind: “This is important to me and I want to remember it well.”
7. When you are ready to wrap up your inner explorations, reverse the process: start to become aware of your body, then the room, where you are, and the day of the week. Come on back fully.
Of course, repeat many times to: master the above steps, the experience, and what you need to do to go deeper next time. Happy travelling.