Anyone can use their imagination, right? Or can they? First, they have to know they have one in order to use it. Yours might be a bit rusty, and in need of an upgrade, or it can be finely-tuned and hyper-reactive, but more often than not, it can be so blatantly under your noses that you can overlook its importance; it can fall into disuse, but is guiding our lives nonetheless. Dina Glouberman, who uses image work everyday of her life, says, imagination is the “forgotten language that isn’t taught in schools” and an ‘adjunct’ to thinking with words. It comes in two modes: the everyday, which works through the ego and the past, and the ‘genius,’ which operates through the higher intuition. Artist and poet, William Blake, being light years ahead of the current law of attraction evangelists said “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.” He said it is ‘spiritual sensation’ and if this is true, we may have got it all the wrong way round, and events we think of as concrete and external are the result of internal images we have unwittingly emphasised, and formed out of the fabric of our personalised imagination.
We use images all the time – we just may not realise how much. We are contained or expanded by these inner ‘maps’ of life.There may even be multiple maps of reality we operate from which do not not align neatly together causing some distress. Images are more powerful than words sometimes; yet words themselves are still really images at one remove as they signify a meaning that has that has become separated off from its original ‘mother’ pictograph. Lakoff and Johnson remind us, language is a web of ‘metaphors we live by’ such as love is war, time is money, money is fluid, up is good and down is bad etc. Our understanding of the world is constructed this way from the images embedded in language.Yet, who knew how important they were?
Just ask yourself how do you see yourself now? Big? Small? On top of things? Or squashed somewhere underneath? Just examine that image in detail. Consider its dimensions. If that makes you feel better or worse about the situation, then you can get an inkling of that image’s power.Working with your imagination is bit like driving; and I recall how difficult it was to get control of a car when I first got behind a wheel. It takes a long course of practice to become a confident user, but the steering, the gears, the accelerator, clutch and rear windows are all there to be combined for a smoother drive down the highway of life.
Vision Your Future
Hoping to read his highway code on images, I attended a recent workshop called Vision Your Future by Dina Glouberman at the Association for Humanistic Psychology, the first of their Self and Society series. Having been aware of her work for a long time, I had expectations that it would be just the tonic I needed to restore flagging and broken parts of my life – and it did. Glouberman is unique for her lightness of touch. What she achieves is done with great ease borne of experience. She showed people how to access tools of self development and therapeutic healing using only pictures in their heads. She touched on methods used in psychotherapy, hypnosis, NLP, Gestalt therapy, visualisation, and the law of attraction without ever naming a single one of them. This was an impressive feat in itself as some teachers race to invent methods, with new technical-sounding labels that can be patented, packaged and sold.Yet, here they all were finely distilled into fuss-free essentials. All you have to do is think of an image about a problem and then work through its ramifications, perhaps expanding it, or changing it to allow you to think differently. The impact of this changes your perception, and thus the world.
This beauty of image work, in contrast to psychotherapy, creative visualisation and vision-boarding, it is both simple and doable. Yet the changes can be profound. This less cerebral quality helps to bypass the logical mind and go directly to the subconscious whose language is image and symbol. We probably would not have to bother explaining how it works to a child as they are natural right-brainers. Clearly, Glouberman has acknowledged and absorbed the processes known to Jungian psychology and Gestalt, where positioning and talking to empty chairs is encouraged. You can be in a trance standing up with eyes open just thinking of your image.
To See or Not to See?
The interesting thing about image work techniques is that, besides DIY, they can be used in other contexts, not just in therapy, so for example I could use them in teaching/learning to help students get past their blocks about writing and exams. Often I get students to switch pictures using mind mapping. This is as simple as a shift from a static linear A to B picture to a more dynamic one. This usually includes time or three or more intersecting dimensions which is enough to open the doors of understanding. Students achieve that ‘aha!’ moment. But since I work with a lot of art and design students it is gratifying to see how instantly they connect to imagery, usually favoured over words.They would be designated ‘visual’ types.
All of us have the potential to be visual. We are not just one sensory type, but a composite blend. But what if you are not visual and you are not able to ‘see’ images in the mind? Glouberman also says an image can be sensed, or felt. Glouberman makes it easy for those who are worried they cannot ‘see’ or ‘visualise’ very well by substituting the words ‘sense’ or ‘feel’ or even ‘act out’ covering all varieties of sensory input. This is why she has avoided the word ‘visualisation’ or any association with that field.
Even Shakti Gawain, who first got everyone started on this track of visioning the future back in 1978, relates to Glouberman how she has nuanced her process. After the initial image, the process is also shaped and simmered thoroughly into the body until it is integrated and energetically aligned to form a fully resounding YES.Then what is meant to manifest, will. I have carried Gawain’s book Creative Visualisation around the world with me, each page well thumbed and annotated. It was never a simple linear A to B process from thought to manifestation, but a multi-layered, holistic emergence through individuation and personal growth with an appreciation of pain.So it is nice to see this point acknowledged, as it is not a simple ‘law’ in a complex universe. Each person’s astrological imprint sometimes formulating a life path that sometimes rocks the conventional expectations. It’s not all about avoiding the bad and focussing on the good. That may keep you stuck.
You Are What You Imagine
Also, in Glouberman’s most recent book You Are What You Imagine (2014) she outlines the three-step process of managing life’s bumps: catalysts, and triggering events, turning points, surrendering, and then moving into the future. Image work can be can used to help start new projects, overcome blocks, and heal wounds. It uses ‘genius’ imagination, not just everyday imagination, therefore it is ‘holistic’. You could be forgiven for having you are what you …….. (fill the gap) fatigue, as so many of these notions have been bandied about spinning us into an identity crisis: you are what you eat, you are what you see, and so on. But it is worth asking so who is running my show? My conscious or unconscious mind? If the DNA template of that resides in the imagination, then becoming familiar with your image power is a mandatory life skill, as if formulates who you are.
We are evolving beings, losing parts of ourselves: a snake sheds its skin because that skin is too tight for it, and it needs to grow beyond the old one and ‘imagine better.’ If you get stuck and dont shed this skin, you can become ill. This work can be used as preventative therapy to avoid becoming sick. She notes that successful people use imagery naturally, but so do unsuccessful people who just use different imagery, so it functions at a subliminal level. Interestingly, when we change ourselves, other people have a miraculous way of shifting alongside us, but in their own way, suggesting we are not walled off from other people. The membrane between us is permeable and porous. We just ‘think’ in bubbles of separateness. Other people’s images can therefore intrude on our energy and scramble it. We pick up their feelings and that blurry boundary can cause leaking energy fields. We can tune in to other people’s feelings even when we are not directly present with them. In the same Future Scenarios exercise where people operate their space ships, I like the idea of a ‘decontamination shower’ afterwards. It makes perfect sense, to cleanse off the resonance of the negative image.
Though it is also perversely true that some people in her sessions admit to having a leaning towards wanting that negative future. We sometimes have extreme fears of the future: painful illness, being poor, old age home, losing a loved one, grief, and financial insecurity etc. Glouberman just asks us to revision this image, much larger, remembering who we are. Often the fear just evaporates with this enhanced image, and people forget they ever had fear.
Usually, what holds us back is a small picture and the idea of expanding begins to take us further and beyond the confines of how we viewed the original problem. One final layer is that we are encouraged to do this with compassion and respect for our own magnificence: this is a powerful combination. Once the picture expands, people start to do something about it. Images can frighten people because it is too small or too real, but the expanded image can change your behaviour and give you renewed optimism.
She also emphasises the importance of surrender, of giving up hope for a better past when at major turning points, knowing what acts as a catalyst. People sometimes tend towards binary opposites; “in the high there is life and no death, and in the low there is death and no life” which sounds awfully close to bipolar disorder, but is common for creative types. This oscillation between extremes can lead to burnout people, a subject Glouberman has made her own, are at their best walking the path between the two visioning is not goal setting as it involves the intuition. It is holistic, not just using conscious thought processes.
While it would be very nice to think that I could go to a retreat on Skyros, in Greece, which Glouberman founded, to do more image work, the fact is you can do it sitting in your bedroom in the middle of wherever. Several exercises including the Daily Vision and the Plant, Animal, Object can be found along with sample chapters on Glouberman’s website that are free to download and use.
So I don’t mind being a rubber ball, or a tiger, or a rare plant, or stuck a prison cell for the sake of working through problems as I can begin to see around their corners, even to realise, there are no edges in the imagination. It’s all in a day’s image work.
© Kieron Devlin, arthealswounds.wordpress.com, March, 2015
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