“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
~ Etty Hillesum
Through Empowered Life Solutions, you are learning the connection between your anxiety and your thoughts. In guided imagery, you take the connection between your thoughts and your feelings and use it toward healthy living. In guided imagery, you use a series of directed thoughts and suggestions that guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. Your body responds to what is imagined as if it were real. While this can be a problem when your thoughts produce anxiety and panic, it can also be helpful in learning to manage stress, anxiety, and panic. Plutarch, the Greek Historian, teaches the inner strength of guided imagery by explaining that, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
My first experience with guided imagery was in graduate school. Barbara Wheeler DSW, my professor and mentor, led us through a guided imagery called, “Your Inner Advisor,” designed to help you access the wisdom and strength you have from within yourself. Getting comfortable in a hard, classroom chair with the small, attached writing desk is no easy task; but through her guidance, I followed her training in relaxation, deep breathing, and tensing and relaxing muscles. In a relaxed state, I allowed my mind to move to a place of inner awareness.
These things are now so familiar to me, both in personal use, and in guiding hundreds of clients through the process. In this imagery, Barbara led us to the part of ourselves that is most wise and safe. We asked our inner advisor a question. We listened for the answer. We explored obstacles to the answer. Then the imagery brought us back to an awareness of the classroom. We opened our eyes and came back to the reality of graduate school. Looking around the classroom, I anticipated excited conversation about the amazing experience we just had. Rather than excitement, there was a rush to get to the next class as if it had been a routine classroom experience.
Over time I realized that, for most of my peers, it had just been another technique they could put in their tool box as therapists, but it had no real personal meaning to them. I, on the other hand, had an experience of personal insight and growth. I was converted to the power and depth of guided imagery. Through imagery in my mind, I was transported to the cabin my parents owned when I was a child. Every detail of the cabin was stored perfectly in my mind: the color of the furniture, the texture of the log walls, the sound of the fire, the picture over the mantel, the layout of the rooms, and the sound of pleasant conversation. It was all there in perfect order in my mind.
Within the guided imagery, my inner advisor answered a question. The question had previously seemed overwhelming, yet the answer was right there within me. The guided imagery tapped into my own inner strength and wisdom, brought it forward from my unconscious to my awareness, and empowered me to use it so I could heal.
“You have power over your mind–not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
~ Marcus Aurelius
Years ago I was with my younger sister when she experienced a serious anxiety attack. As a survivor of domestic violence, she had been suffering from anxiety and panic for years. Even after escaping the abusive relationship, she still continued to feel like life was spinning out of her control. Continually in a state of anxiety and fear, feeling joy and a sense a well-being was foreign to her.
While on a family camping trip, I discovered my sister hiding behind her truck with high levels of anxiety. She was ashamed and didn’t want me to see her level of distress. As a therapist, I recognized the anxiety and asked if she experienced it often. She confessed it was a regular occurrence. I asked if she would be willing to let me direct her in a guided imagery. She reluctantly agreed. In the safety of her camper, she lay on her bed. I guided her through some basic deep breathing and relaxation exercises. She allowed herself to follow the sound of my voice through a simple guided imagery to find her own personal, safe place.
I watched her body progress from a rigid stance to a limp, relaxed state. A single tear escaped from her eye, slid down the side of her face, and fell on the bed. She allowed the anxiety to move through her. At the conclusion, several minutes of peaceful silence passed between us. Then she simply said, “thank you.” After several more minutes of silence, she broke out in a relieved smile and said, “Wow! That was better than sex!” We both laughed and knew the anxiety had passed. She experienced what Ralph Waldo Emerson taught when he said, “To look behind or to look upfront is not as important as to look inside.”
Empowered Life Solutions premium content provides a variety of guided imageries in which you can participate. You may download any or all of the following:
- Floating Leaf Imagery – Guided imagery to help enhance the skill of observing your own thoughts for the management of anxiety and depression
- Safe Place Guided Imagery – Guided imagery to find a safe place in your mind as part of relaxation or in times of feeling overwhelmed or stressed
- Inner Advisory – Guided imagery to help access inner wisdom for a specific issue you are dealing with
Guided Imagery is a powerful tool to achieve a relaxed state, gain inner wisdom, or choose the thoughts to which you will respond. Thus guided imagery becomes an aid to living in the here and now, to feeling more in control of your emotions, and to increasing creativity. By utilizing the connection between your imagination and feelings, you may decrease your feelings of vulnerability, add to your feelings of optimism, and increase your overall feelings of well-being. Maya Angelou states that, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” Guided Imagery is the pathway to that light.