Juggling work and parenthood has its challenges. Thursdays I work a split shift to ensure I’m home to pick up the children and prepare dinner before returning for evening appointments for our weekly walk-in counselling clinic. This past Thursday proved to be especially difficult as my 3 year old daughter cried on our front porch about wanting to go camping. As I tried desperately to coax her to come inside, her older brother announced he knew what to do. Within minutes he had transformed our living room into a camp ground complete with a camp fire, a tent and beach. You can imagine how quickly this gift of my son’s imagination resulted in a big smile and delighted squeals. Although we never left our house, sadness was replaced with pure joy as they sat by the fire roasting foam marshmallows.
The funny thing is I had actually been thinking about discussing imagination and visualization in an upcoming blog. Over the last several years, I have incorporated more of this work into my practice with some incredible results. Two exercises that can be found in Francine Shapiro’s book “Getting Past Your Past”; “Safe Place” and “Light Stream Technique” often result in clients feeling calmer, more relaxed and some have even reported a decrease in physical pain. Dr. Shapiro recommends (with cautions) using the safe place exercise as a daily practice. Shakti Gawain’s book Creative Visualization was a gift from my sister-in-law many years ago and one I highly recommend for anyone who wants to create a better life.
We can use our imagination to inspire resiliency and the rewiring of our brains!
Did you know you can use your imagination to alter a distressing experience or image? I ended a childhood struggle with sleeping in the dark by one night imagining I was burning the snakes that invaded my room just as Indiana Jones had done in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Arc”. There are exercises that help clients harness the power of their imagination to become the directors in their life stories. Imagery reprocessing, pioneered by Dr. Edna Foa, helps trauma clients recreate a sense of safety and personal empowerment by using their imagination to change the outcome of a trauma memory. When working with grieving clients or those anxious about death, I encourage clients to use their imagination and honour their faith to focus on whatever brings them the most comfort.
While we can use the gift of our imagination to sooth, it also has the potential to cause stress. Many of us fall prey to cognitive distortions that can make situations seem worse in our head and in turn intensify anxiety and depression. The imaginations of a young child can run wild, especially with upsetting news such as parental divorce. If children are not given specific answers, they can fill in the blanks with misinformation and self-blame.
I continue to be astounded by the power of the human mind to heal. I sincerely hope you can tap into this innate power on your own or with the help of a trained professional.
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