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when the imagery asks them to imagine themselves surrounded by loving figures

09 Aug
A therapist asks BR what to tell clients who have never experienced any decent, safe or loving people in their lives, when the imagery asks them to imagine themselves surrounded by loving figures?
Dear BR,

Some of your imagery asks listeners to imagine being surrounded by loving people. What do you say to someone if they haven’t experienced any safe or comforting people in their life?

A therapist from Austin, TX

I hear that question a lot, especially from therapists. That sort of imagery is on a lot of my narratives, because it’s so powerful and effective, and most people respond so well to it. I understand that there are many people in the world with very few good experiences with parents or parent-substitutes. That’s why I made the imagery to be so broad-ranging and fill-in-the-blanks, with many choices: listeners can have a friend, a coach, a pastor, teacher, grandparent, sibling, a friend’s parent, etc; they can have an animal (I can’t tell you how many people were emotionally held together by their dogs or some other loving pet during a rough childhood); or they can evoke magical or spiritual figures, too Jesus, the Buddha, guardian angels, Mother Mary, elves, fairies, etc. Even a very brief, real-life encounter with a positive, nourishing person can be replayed in imagery again and again, and a little bit goes a long way. This is how brief, nourishing moments gain lasting value and make positive change in an otherwise difficult life.

However, some people may get trapped in the anguish and longing of thinking, "I never had anyone loving in my life" or "But he/she is gone now", and I’m all alone now and, in spite of encouragement to stay with the pure imagery on the right side of the brain, not the left-brain analysis or judgment about these sad facts, the person can’t get past this. In this case, it would be better to just go to something like the General Wellness imagery, which doesn’t depend on images like this, and doesn’t elicit the sadness.

I hope this helps.
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