Exercise Your Power of Imagination
Episode #5 of the course How to heal yourself from phobia step by step by Gracelynn Lau, MWS
Welcome back! Yesterday, we took a step forward to create an action plan for your self-treatment. Today, we will talk about the first preliminary step before you implement the action plan: activating the power of imagination. Like any kind of performance, rehearsal always helps. By visualizing yourself doing the steps in your action plan, you are rehearsing for success.
Most people who experience phobias have powerful imaginations. Many of us are very good at picturing the terrible situations and easily visualize ourselves feeling terrified. Each phobic experience reinforces the repetitive negative images that the phobic object or situation left in our mind. There are ways to change the use of imagination and turn this powerful tool into our best ally.
Visualize Yourself in Action (for 15 Minutes)
See yourself taking Step 1 (your action plan) in your imagination. Start by thinking about it. Place yourself in the situation in your mind. Get really creative in your imagination by focusing on the physical surroundings. Visualize as many details as you can: the sound, the time of the day, the people or helper with you, etc. If you can’t even look at the picture of your phobia object, visualize yourself looking at the picture. Set aside 15 minutes each day to practice this imagination exercise for at least two weeks.
Picturing yourself in this scene repeatedly helps you get used to the situation in your mind. Before I took the step to stroke a cat, I had finished a 25-day visualization exercise. Each day, I spent 15 minutes imagining a cat walk by my feet.
Solutions to Potential Problems
Visualization gives you a chance to practice how you would handle potential problems before they actually happen. You can determine which coping techniques will be most effective for you when fear arise. By rehearsing your coping skills, you get more comfortable to responding to a phobic response during your action plan.
Write down four possible scenes of encountering your phobic situation. Start by imagining yourself having your typical phobic response in the situation. Then ask yourself how you would respond to this situation differently. In your mind’s eye, watch yourself using those techniques. Does it work? If not, how would you change it to make it work? Write down a list of skills or items that can help you tackle the situation. For example, a person with elevator phobia may find carrying a flashlight helps ground the fear, or someone with fear of public speaking may find that peppermint essential oil helps soothe their anxiety.
Create Relaxing and Positive Imagery
This is a great distress tolerance skill. By imagining ourselves in a relaxed and positive situation, actual relaxation may be experienced. The body and mind need a chance to associate positive feelings with a phobic situation. In your imagination, create a vivid, perfectly relaxing, and safe scene. Bring all your senses into play.
Now imagine yourself in the phobic activities. Picture yourself handling the object or situation with comfort and confidence. See yourself in your mind’s eye feeling calm, secure, and free of anxiety.
Practice this positive imagery until you notice how you can easily shift from tension to calmness in your imagination. Write a detailed description of the scene and the imagined experience of being there.
Imagine Life without Phobia
Now, let’s time travel to the future. Take a moment to imagine how proud and free you will feel after you successfully handled your phobia. How would you feel and act when you are living your life without the limitations of phobia? Write a paragraph to describe your life without phobia in present tense. Refer to your experience of phobia in past tense.
Don’t underestimate your power of imagination. A study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden showed that the sensory signals generated by one’s imagination are strong enough to change one’s real-world perception of a different sensory modality. What we imagine seeing and hearing can change what we actually see and hear. Spend some time to let your imagination go wild. Tomorrow, we will look at the second preliminary step: mindfulness meditation.
The Neuroscience of Imagination by Andrey Vyshedskiy
Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang
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