These terms are used interchangeably but they are very different in one very important way: the amount of conscious control we have over the experience. Visualization – is the ability to bring a specific image or goal to our “mind’s eye” for exploration and creativity. An example would be: I need to develop a movie script and need to visualize the camera shots including which angles I will use, the anticipated lighting found on location, and other factors important to producing a good production. A second example: I’m having trouble following through on projects. I know the story of the tortoise and the hare is an important allegory for me about persistence. I will visualize the story each day before getting down to work.
Imagination – is broader than visualization because it allows more unguided elements from our unconscious to mingle with what we bring into an imagination session. For instance: Turning to the videomaking project, I know a lot about what I want to film but there are some aspects that I don’t know how to convey. In an imagination session, I visualize what I know but then I let things “go” and watch what my mind brings up. I let my imagination run free and I observe and learn.
Dreaming – is that state where we are very far from our usual way of being in the world. This is rapid-eye-movement dreaming as we sleep. Dreams can be recalled with practice and dream symbols and stories and can be explored for a deeper understanding of what is happening in our unconscious.