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STAYING CALM IN A HURRICANE – GUIDED IMAGERY DO’S AND DON’TS

18 Sep

            If someone tells you that visualizing minimal damage to your house will make you feel better during a hurricane, don't believe it...


There’s been a lot of advice lately about how to stay calm in a hurricane, so you can make good, rational choices about what to do and how to do it. And since we’ve got several gonzo storms in the vicinity at the moment, this makes sense, and we’ll take all the good advice we can get.  

Having experienced a lot of hurricanes myself (and worried about more);  and having some purported expertise in mind body methods, I’m here to say some suggestions about using guided imagery are quasi-informed and ill-advised. So, reader beware.

For instance, I just read that a calming thing to do is to imagine minimal damage to your house.  

This is not a calming thing to do.  If you’re in the path of a hurricane, you’re already imagining what might become of your house.  It’s called worry, and, once you’ve done what you can to protect your house, this is only going to make you feel more helpless and out of control. This happens in the thinking part of your head and tends to go around in circles. It turns into rumination, which is even less good for you.

Truth is, any well trained Ericksonian hypnotherapist will tell you that just the phrase ‘damage to my house’, whether it’s phrased as “no damage” or “minimal damage”, only means one thing to our right brain function: damage.  
So please don’t do that to yourself.  Instead, you may want to imagine the storm being over, and you holding your loved ones close, all safe and sound.  You can feel their skin, smell their hair, resonate with their heartbeat.

Or you may want to recollect a beautiful time or place, that generated feelings of safety, love, protection and support.

 And you would want to remember or imagine these things with all of your senses – not just “visualize” them.  In fact, try not to use that word, ‘visualize’.  Stick to imagine, because it’s best if you can imagine what these experiences felt like in your body – what they looked like, sure - but also how they sounded or smelled and maybe even tasted.  You may have had sensations on your skin, or an experience of certain emotions filling you up. Any and all of it is the kind of imagining you want to be doing.

Bottom line: you want to make it real to your body, and the language of the body is first and foremost sensory perception.  Only one piece of that is visual.  And, by the way, only around half the human population is strongly wired for visual memory.  Lots of us are more aurally oriented or kinesthetically attuned.  Why limit this to visual?  

Additionally, remembering or imagining sensory perception enhances the altered state – puts you into a mini-trance - and this, in turn, intensifies the ability to imagine.  So you’re creating this lovely loop that feeds the richness of the experience, and increases its calming impact.  Once you get used to doing it, you’ll be calming yourself in a matter of seconds, not minutes. This is not an exaggeration.

So that’s my advice.  Get a little advance practice with using multi-sensory guided imagery as directed above. And please do not imagine minimal damage to your house. 


All best,

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Belleruth

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