The Power Of Imagery

Written by APHP

July 12, 2023

How often do you daydream, create scenarios in your head?
How clear are the images to you?
What do you get from that daydream?  Is it comfort, joy, a chance to live out your goals and wishes? Or do you replay past experiences that have caused you pain and upset?  
Imagery is so powerful that it can influence your way of thinking, which is great if you dream of goals and aspirations because that will help to motivate you and drive you forwards in life.  However, if you are replaying events that have caused you pain and upset, it makes sense that this will reinforce any feelings that are associated with that event and strengthen the narrative that goes with it.
What if I told you that you can use imagery to change the perspective of an event, change the internal narrative that has caused you to stop believing in yourself or to minimise the humiliation that you have have felt in previous situations?  How would it feel to reduce the power that you have allowed certain life events or people to have over you?  
Here’s some examples of how you can use imagery to change your perception and feelings of an event or person.
***Disclaimer*** If you would like to use any of the techniques outlined, we advise you to speak with a properly trained professional therapist who can guide you towards resolving negative thinking, traumatic experiences or behavioural problems, in a safe and useful way. We have a list of properly trained and insured therapists available here, on our website
Glass box method
You might find yourself imagining an event that has caused you distress and you just can’t seem to shift the feelings surrounding it.  You replay it over and over in your mind and each time, the feelings are there, sometimes stronger than before.  This is because each time you replay it, you are reinforcing the neural pathways associated with that event, so that any feelings attached to it will get stronger.
By putting a particular scenario inside a glass box, it allows you to remove yourself from the scenario and place yourself in the observer position.  This can really help to analyse the event from a different perspective which encourages different ways of thinking and changes the feelings associated with the situation.
Remote control method
You might think of a time when you have felt humiliated either by other people’s reactions to something you did, or by being ridiculed.  
Imagine projecting it onto a TV screen. You are sitting in the armchair and have the remote control in your hand.  You have the power to change many aspects of this event with the click of a button.  
This method helps you to minimise aspects of an event that caused you upset but also allows you to increase elements that you wish were more visible.  
Recasting method
When someone in your life has controlled or manipulated you, it can be difficult to see them as anything less than strong and powerful.  This can also generate feelings of powerlessness within ourselves, feeling weak and unable to stand up for ourselves.  
By imagining the person or people, we can use imagery to create a version of this person that reduces their power, minimises their impact on us and turns our weakness into power.
Your story – the remake
The original version of your story, the one which has caused you pain and distress (whatever that event may be), is outdated with old fashioned narratives, beliefs and expectations.  Using imagery, you have the chance to create a remake of your story with adaptations to suit your current life with belief systems and expectations that serve you better.  You get to be the script writer, producer and director of your own film, all by using the power of imagery and your own mind.
Compassionate companion
We all need some reassurance sometimes, especially if we have experienced a critical upbringing.  It can leave you feeling not good enough, second guessing everything you do, questioning your abilities and having a great sense of self doubt.  By using imagery, you can create your own vision of support and encouragement.  It’s a way of forming your ideal supporter that you can call upon when you need someone to guide and advise you.  Of course, this comes from what you wish you could say to yourself, so by having a self generated image of what your biggest support would look like, you get to utilise all the positive aspects of yourself that may have been repressed, shunned or silenced during your life.
Think it, see it, go get it
Imagery is extremely powerful in helping to motivate and focus on what you want in life.  Whether it is in sport and needing to score a goal, or in life, wanting to master a certain skill, or in the workplace, wanting to do well in an interview and get the promotion.  By thinking about what you want, creating a visualisation of you aiming for the goal and scoring, practising the skill and creating a work of art or seeing yourself sat in your own office, you can help to build confidence and develop focus.  By replaying this created visualisation regularly, you can minimise distraction and increase concentration in that moment.  Take the example of scoring a goal.  Imagine you are taking a penalty and you can see the goal, you can see the other players around you and you can see the ball.  Replaying the scenario of you scoring the goal will tell your brain to focus on what is needed to score – focusing on the target, sending signals to the muscles and nerves in your leg and foot that will be used to kick the ball and eliminating irrelevant environmental cues such as the crowd chanting and the sound of vuvuzelas.
I hope this has given you some idea about the power of imagery and visualisation and how it can be used in many different areas of life. If you would like to know more about working with imagery or would like to work through any issues you may have using these methods then you are advised to contact one of our therapists at the APHP who are all checked and vetted to make sure they have thorough training and insurance. 
Best wishes
Hayley McAuley
Published : Jul 12, 2023