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Allowing vs Forcing

Monday, June 16, 2008

Imagery works best in a permissive, unforced atmosphere. It is a gentle, amorphous, right-brain activity that thrives on a soft, receptive state of mind. Commanding, scolding, or threatening yourself not only won't work but will probably defeat your purpose. There's nothing quite like a harsh, authoritative, pointing finger, even your own, for pulling you out of the sweet territory of healing dreams.


What seems to work best with imagery is an attitude of allowing, with respect for your own autonomy and need for choices. In a sense, you are asking permission of yourself to clear away space so your images can appear. If you find that you are in a fruitless power struggle with yourself, trying to "make" yourself have this experience, the best thing to do is just let it go and attend to something else for a while.

Sometimes you will want to very deliberately introduce specific images, designed to orchestrate certain events in your mind and body. At other times you will be interested to see what images spontaneously arise. At those times when you're trying to orchestrate specific images, you may find you're getting no cooperation whatsoever; that even though you keep putting forth an image that you think is appropriate, your deep self just isn't having any of it, and the image won't "take." This is when it is best to be flexible. Set aside your agenda and ask for what wants to be there instead. (The passive language is deliberate. The clearest, truest images show up when we take this receptive attitude and just allow the images to come, as if they had a life of their own. They do.) Then let yourself be surprised.

Usually, over time and with practice, your experiences with imagery become a kind of dialogue between both kinds of images, the deliberate ones and the spontaneous ones. A kind of continuing movie evolves, with surprising twists and turns, once you put yourself in this receptive mode and let the images roll.

Do keep in mind that your imagery is not going to look like a clearly defined Technicolor movie. It's more likely to be a multisensory hodgepodge, amorphous, and wavering in intensity. So please don't expect your images to come up to Hollywood production standards.

Nor do old notions of "paying attention" apply here. This is the sort of experience where it is normal to fade in and out. So don't expect the kind of rigorous, alert attentiveness that you invoked to, say, study for exams. That was using the left side of your brain. This is your right side. The right brain is dreamy, nonlogical, and laidback.

If you find yourself persisting in bossing, critiquing, and reprimanding yourself, try to do what a participant in a workshop once suggested; Create the image of putting all your self-criticisms, kicking and screaming, on a raft and floating them gently downstream.

~Belleruth Naparstek
Staying Well With Guided Imagery


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