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Directed Imagination

What is directed imagination? It is the use of our imagination to implant particular images into our archetypal fields. Later, when we are in those archetypal situations, we will tend to "act out" the images. The images could be those of a healthy body, or objects which we want to own, or activities (such as sports) which we want to master, or psychological qualities which we want to cultivate. (Directed imagination is similar to "visualization.")

We use our imagination frequently throughout the day. We use it in our story-like fantasies and daydreams, and in our recall of memories, and in the mental pictures which we create to help us to understand concepts, and in the scenarios which we might use to plan a future activity (e.g., a vacation, for which we design our agenda by envisioning the places which we will visit). For some people, the "thinking" process is composed primarily of words; other people "think" primarily in pictures. (Albert Einstein, whose imagination helped to create the theories of relativity, said that very little of his thought process involved words.)

Be careful when using directed imagination. This technique might be dangerous for people who tend to hallucinate, or who have difficulty in differentiating physical sensory images and inner imaginative images. For those people, an inner image can seem to acquire a life of its own, continuing beyond the end of the directed-imagination session; it might even recur spontaneously throughout the day. To avoid some of these problems, end your session by intentionally dissolving the images, and then relaxing by gazing at the normal black screen of the mind before opening your eyes. If the problems continue, use the grounding techniques which are described in the meditation section of The Human Handbook -- and consider the possibility that you should not use directed imagination at all. (For psychologically healthy people, the techniques are surely as harmless as any other use of the imagination.)

How does directed imagination work? We implant images into our archetypal fields. The images -- along with the thoughts, energy tones, and actions -- become a permanent record of our interaction with the archetype, even though the interaction is occurring "only" in our imagination rather than occurring in our current physical circumstance. Thus, in future encounters with the archetype (in our imagination or in the physical world), these images will influence our perception of, and response to, the archetype.

Directed imagination has been used successfully by many people.

  1. It has been used by athletes. For example, ice skater Elizabeth Manley, and diver Greg Louganis, said that imagery helped them to win their olympic medals.
  2. It has been used to treat medical disorders. Imagery has helped people who have migraine headaches, obesity, high blood pressure, and other ailments. (Please do not use directed imagination in lieu of medical treatments; we can visit a doctor and we can also use directed imagination.)

Techniques of directed imagination. 

  1. We can use the general guidelines which are in the chapter regarding archetypal field-work. To avoid redundancy, those guidelines are not repeated here.
  2. We can combine the different types of field-work. For example, while using directed imagination, we can also use:
    • Self-talk statements.
      • We can associate a self-talk statement with an image. For example, while we say, "I am relaxed when speaking in front of groups," we imagine ourselves standing confidently at a podium.
      • Instead of saying words, we can visualize words which have meaning to us. For example, we can see the word "love" in large white letters. Try different words, different colors, different styles of lettering (e.g., script type, or all capital letters), different backgrounds (e.g., a blue sky, or a chalkboard). One variation of this exercise is to see the word (e.g., "love"), and experience its corresponding state -- and then allow the word to disappear while we maintain the state.
    • The as-if principle. Whenever we act "as if," we can use directed imagination to affirm the action which we are performing; for example, if we are acting as if we are peaceful, we can create images of a relaxing place (e.g., a quiet riverbank).
    • Energy toning. We can use energy toning (i.e., emotions and feelings) while we do directed imagination:
      • We add the corresponding energy tone. For example, if we are visualizing ourselves in a peaceful setting, we generate the energy tone of happiness. If we are visualizing a desired object or a condition (e.g., a healthy body), we implant the tone of enthusiasm and gratitude.
      • We use personal images. We are more likely to evoke an energy tone if we imagine a scene with which we have a personal affiliation; for example, to evoke serenity, we would imagine our favorite beach instead of a fabricated scene of a generic beach.
      • We enjoy the natural feeling of joy which arises when we use a pleasant image. The joy occurs because the image increases the flow of life-energy.
      • We use the image with various energy tones. As explained in the chapter regarding field-work, we are most likely to remember the images which we implanted when we were in an emotional state resembling our current state; for example, when we are depressed, we tend to refer to the same constellation (of thoughts, images, energy tones, and images) which we traditionally use when we are depressed. Therefore, we need to implant our images with a variety of energy tones, so that those images will be the dominant constellation in any mood which might occur in the future.
      • We generally refrain from creating images of unwanted conditions. For example, instead of visualizing ourselves winning a battle against an intruder, we can create a positive image of ourselves resting securely within the walls of an impregnable fortress. (If we visualized the battle, we would be reinforcing that imagery within our a-fields.)
      • We can use our body's physical energy. The body's vitality is added to the image-element if we use directed imagination while we walk, dance, exercise, clean our home, or perform other movements.

  3. We can acquire images from various sources. For the purpose of directed imagination, we might use an image from various sources:
    • An internal source. Our imagination, a fantasy, a sleep-time dream, a memory, intuition, a vision, etc.
    • An external source. A photograph, a movie, a magazine or newspaper, a web site, a television program, a physical object, a photo (or video) of ourselves performing the act which we want to reinforce, a verbal description of an image (e.g., a book's description of a setting, or a person's description of a vacation spot), etc.
  4. We use different positions from which to view the object of our directed imagination.
    • From the inside. We imagine a scene as though we are looking at it through our own eyes. We see the surroundings, the other people, and the parts of our body which we would normally be able to see (e.g., our arms, legs, and torso -- but not our head).
    • From the outside. We visualize ourselves from an external point, as a spectator of ourselves.  
    • From a specific person. We see ourselves as if we are looking through the eyes of a particular person or group of people. For example, we could see ourselves from the viewpoint of our spouse, or a parent, or a judge at an ice-skating tournament.
  5. We can use our other senses. For most people, imagination is primarily visual. However, we have other options:
    • We can use a different sense -- imagining sounds or smells or textures or flavors. For example, we might if we want to "visualize" comfort, we might imagine the aroma of our mother's kitchen.
    • We can use more than one sense. For example, if we are imagining a new car, we can "smell" the scent of a new car's interior; we can "hear" the sound of the engine; we can "feel" the texture of the smooth steel.
  6. We can allow ourselves to daydream and to fantasize. In our hurried, left-hemisphere-oriented world (and particularly in classrooms), daydreaming is not encouraged. But this activity is a good way to access our intuition and to enhance our ability to use or imagination.
  7. We can use an "animated" image. Instead of viewing a stationary object, we imagine a story with various settings, characters, and activities. (Some suggestions for story-lines are offered in the chapter regarding "guided meditation" in The Human Handbook.)
  8. We can use interesting images. We respond most readily to images which are bright and colorful and fascinating.
  9. We notice the images which we create with our words. Whether we are speaking, or listening to another person speaking, we often make pictures in our mind to help us to understand the words. In particular, we note the destructive imagery which accompanies our visual expressions, e.g., "He is a pain in the neck"; in that example, we are implanting the image of a painful neck.
  10. We relax. Images are associated with the right hemisphere of the brain, so we need to increase the activity of that hemisphere by relaxing and drifting into a dream-like state, as though we are having an effortless fantasy or daydream. However, if we go too far into that state, our imagery will be mere stream-of-consciousness rambling; we need to balance this with the left hemisphere's gentle control in order to maintain the stability of an image.
  11. We can visualize an object or an animal which we associate with a particular quality. For example, we can imagine a mountain when we want to develop stability. We can imagine a cloud when we want to be serene. We can imagine a proud lion when we want courage and self-esteem.
  12. We can intentionally tightening our muscles slightly as if we are physically performing the activity which we are visualizing. For example, if we are visualizing ourselves talking, we create a small stimulation in the throat muscles (but not enough to physically move those muscles).
  13. We can allow the image to "take on a life of its own." We can learn more about the object which we are visualizing if we allow the image to spontaneously change, or move; for example, if our image spontaneously become dark and ugly, we might examine our deeper feelings regarding that object.
  14. We do not use the physical eyes for directed imagination. Instead, we close our eyes and then we create the image on the black screen within the mind.
  15. We do not place the image directly in front of us, on that inner screen. Instead, we might have more success if we put the picture slightly to the left, right, top, or bottom.
  16. We can do a gentle visualization while we fall asleep. The possible results:
    • We will enter sleep, and then we will dream about the object of our visualization.
    • We will remain conscious while the body falls asleep, and then we will interact with the object in a lucid dream.
  17. We can expect improvement in our ability to use our imagination. Some people cannot visualize at all; they need to start by simply thinking about the image, or creating the feeling which would be associated with the image, or making a very simple picture. After we are able to make a mental image, we can develop our ability to visualize:
    • See the blackness without any image. This will accustom us to the use of our inner vision.
    • See a single color. Example: a red blob.
    • See a single shape. Example: a triangle in any color.
    • See a particular shape in a particular color. Example: a blue square.
    • See two colors in the same image. Example: a green star with a red border.
    • See two images simultaneously. Example: a triangle inside of a circle.
    • See one image, and move it. Example: move a square from the right side to the left side of the inner screen.
    • See one image, and alter it. Example: make a rectangle larger or smaller, or wider or narrower, or taller or shorter. By altering the image, we can improve its outcome; for example, we might change the image a basketball's flight, so that it does not bounce off of the backboard but instead it goes straight into the basket.
    • Change from one image to another. Example: start with a circle, and then delete that circle, and see a square instead.
    • Transform one image into another. Example: begin with a triangle, and change it (i.e., "morph" it) into a star.
    • See an object which is three-dimensional. Example: a cube.
    • See the three-dimensional object from various positions. For example, look at the cube from the top, and then from one side, and then from another side. We can rotate the object itself, or we can imagine moving ourselves to a different position while keeping the object stationary.
    • Visualize a familiar "still" scene which contains many objects. Example: our living room, with a sofa, chairs, a carpet, wallpaper, a table, etc. We are recreating the scene from memory.
    • Create a fictitious "still" scene. Example: a valley on Mars. We are creating the scene from our imagination.
    • Create a scene in which there is movement. Example: a tree in which birds are flying.
    • Put yourself into the action. Example: a forest in which we are walking. Instead of watching the images as though they are on a movie screen, we surround ourselves with the scenery, and then we take a walk through this world.
  18. We can imagine the scenes from books. For example, we can spend time with a novel (for which we would imagine the characters' actions) instead of a television (which offers a passive experience in which we are not using our imagination).
  19. We explore the symbolism of images. The intuitive and intellectual dimension of symbolism can add to our appreciation and use of imagery. To learn more about symbolism, we can read books about the arts (poetry, photography, film-making, etc.), and dream interpretation.
  20. We can be aware of more visual details throughout the day in our physical environment. This will help to develop our skill in seeing details internally. These same details can be used in our directed imagination; for example, if we make a point of noticing and remembering a beautiful cloud formation, we can recall this memory when we want to visualize a relaxing scene.


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