Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Challenging Self Downing- The Use of Imagery

The use of imagery is extremely important in the change process. While many have written about it, Arnold Lazarus made one of the most important, early contributions to the place of imagery in psychotherapy.

His model, Multimodal Therapy, is a fairly comprehensive approach to change that has a strong behavioral and cognitive slant. While traditional cognitive models of change typically focus on verbal cognition, words are not the only way that we internalize and process of beliefs. Lazarus contended that the use of imagery, or our thinking in pictures and images, could be an important vehicle for change and transformation.

Albert Ellis also reorganized the importance of imagery in his cognitively-based approach (RET/REBT); he and his colleagues developed a number of techniques which recognized the value of imagery  techniques. More recently sports psychologists and coaches, as well as organizational/leadership change agents, have come to realize the value of imagery techniques in the change process. I have found in my clinical practice, and my with coaching writers and scholars, that those who do not always do well with direct cognitive disputation my benefit from the use of imagery as a means if identifying and altering self-downing thinking.

While the aims and techniques are complex and varied, a key goal is to consciously create images or mental picture of yourself engaging in new and effective behaviors that challenge your self-downing beliefs. By consciously creating mental pictures of yourself effectually engaging in the behavior you wish to perform, you will begin to view yourself as competent and capable in that domain. These new images become challenges to your old, unhelpful notions of self.

So, here is a technique to try. Each day for a month (real change takes a while), I want you to pick one behavior/experience you wish to engage in that would challenge a self downing cognition. Take for example believing that you will never publish enough since you are too lazy (or another self-judgement) to write every day (this is but one, yet one that I hear each week).

Each day for a month, I want you to spend two or three minute visualizing yourself writing or some other task you wish to perform. For our purposes, I will use writing as an example. Imagine yourself sitting in your chair, with your computer, and really picture the small, sensory details around you. Imagine some familiar sounds and smells. Really place yourself there. Now, really see yourself writing. Imagine your fingers moving, imagine not feeling stuck, not being weighed down by anxiety or doubt, but letting go of these and writing.  Really imagine yourself looking satisfied, content, peaceful. Imagine yourself getting stuck for a moment, but allowing yourself to work through it without being blocked by fear and self doubt. Keep the image in your mind for several minutes. Do this each day for a month, or longer, each day before you write. Really spend time with the image, and work at viewing it and feeling it as clearly as possible. Try to focus on as many senses as you can. Really try to feel yourself experiencing a sense of competence and success.

Remember, none of the techniques here will magically change your self downing. You must work hard at it, and use multiple methods, over time.

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