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Is It Possible To Over-Do It with the Guided Imagery??

20 Oct

Hello Belleruth,

I was most fortunate to have attended your Conference on guided imagery in New Orleans. I utilize TF-CBT with children, but had not been maximizing the relaxation-imagery component, and this will help me ramp that up to help these severely traumatized children and youth.

Now, I am in my forties and suffered from what I now know were panic attacks for most of my late teen and early adult years, possibly due to hormonal shifts I now describe as anxiety. 

I believe in the guided imagery work and felt its deep movement during your conference and bought a pile of products for personal use. I have immersed myself in these audios and now, a few days later, I am exhausted and have muscle soreness, chest pains and shortness of breath.

Is this likely the past trauma "rearing its ugly head"? I have not had a massage in about five years but plan on having deep tissue work in a couple of days.

Any other suggestions (other than keep listening to the audios, proper rest and an increase - perhaps twice per month massages??). Is this a common response and will the symptoms reduce?

 I suspect it's my body's way of holding on to the familiar but we didn't talk about that this weekend and I just wanted to know your thoughts.

Many thanks, Ellen



Yikes, Ellen!

You may want to slow down a bit!!  Sounds like you may be pushing yourself too hard with this gentle but effective technique.  Too much of a gentle but effective technique and the results aren’t so gentle, you know?  It’s rare that this happens, but it does on occasion.

So, hey, what’s the rush?  You’ve been living with this for a long time – you may want to let go of it a little more slowly and gently, with proper respect for your poor, weary, overloaded body and psyche!  Rule number one:  Be gentle with yourself!  Listen to your body and let it guide your pace.  Right now, I think it’s telling you to slow down and cut yourself some slack.

Yes, massage is good - as often as you can afford it, as long as it’s with a sensitive and skillful massotherapist.  I’m not so sure if deep tissue is best – this might be painful, and could wind up becoming more pounding on yourself!  (Is this your default position?? I hope not.)  Maybe you and the massage therapist could play it by ear, and checking to see whether gentle or medium pressure might be better for you at this stage. 

Other forms of energy work would help too - Reiki, Zero Balancing, Qigong, Hellerwork, polarity therapy… the list is long.  Acupressure or acupuncture could be a big help, too.

Moving is good, even if it’s slow and gentle yoga stretches.  Aerobic exercise is would help, if and when you’re up for it.  Drink lots of water.  Try to take slow, deep belly breaths whenever you remember to do so.

Singing, toning, and working with sound bowls could help move some of that gunk out of your system, too.

All of these things can help to cleanse and clear your system of everything that seems to be surfacing.  But mostly, just don’t hammer yourself too hard to 'fix this' overnight.  It moves when it's ready to, and there's an internal body wisdom to the how's and when's.

Oh, and if these symptoms persist, see your Doc!  It’s always possible that we’re over-interpreting this, and you’ve got the flu!

All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award