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Listening to Diabetes
Using Guided Imagery for Relaxation and Insight

by Susan Shaw, M.S.W., C.Ht.

Archetypal imagery. Marielle Fuller used a form of archetypal imagery with roots going back to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Each journeyer met imaginary companions in the forms of an angel, a wizard, a jester, and a good witch. Personal relationships were developed with these figures, who were then consulted throughout every journey as guides. Therapy was complete when the individual could “travel” unassisted, beginning by meeting all of the guides in a clearing, and then following their directions.

The journeyer can benefit from a number of imaginary tools while engaging in evocative or archetypal imagery. These include a light to shine on images to see them better, a crystal to draw a circle of protection around oneself during moments of fear, and calling one of the imaginary guides for help when encountering an impasse.

Interactive guided imagery. Interactive guided imagery, developed by David Bresler, PhD, (President and Cofounder of the Academy for Guided Imagery in Los Angeles) and Martin Rossman, MD, combines evocative and archetypal imagery, allowing both the journeyer and the facilitator to interact and communicate with the images. Interactive guided imagery requires a trained, skilled, compassionate facilitator who encourages the individual to stay on track but allows the journey to take its own course.

Some facilitators will prescribe specific images and scenarios for the journeyer. This can be harmful if the individual associates any such image with past trauma. Even an image as seemingly harmless as a big, blue lake can be inappropriate if it brings to mind a boating accident and the person is not prepared to process intense feelings. Open-ended, evocative suggestions that invite journeyers to discover their own places of peace, safety, comfort, and beauty are usually more therapeutic and meaningful.

What to expect
The ability to benefit from any form of imagery depends on one’s belief system, personality style, and mental health status. For example, one study showed that imagery could produce changes in immune cell counts, but only in people who believed beforehand that this might be possible. Some people will cry tears of joy after a particularly moving imagery journey, while others will find a similar journey relaxing but remain emotionally unaffected by it. Depressed or anxious people may have difficulty developing internal imagery; for these individuals, other therapies or medication may be needed first.

Expect that becoming deeply relaxed will take practice and experimentation. Everyone experiences distracting thoughts — just notice them and let them pass while bringing your attention back to the internal image. People who are highly creative and open-minded may have wild, elaborate journeys with such spectacular imagery that they worry they’re nuts. Don’t worry; the world of imagery can indeed be fantastic. Just be sure to interpret the meaning of your inner journeys carefully when deciding how to apply what you’ve discovered to daily life.

Imagery is like a box of matches: Both are useful, but used to excess or carelessly, both can cause harm. For example, I have seen harm come when journeyers get overly enthusiastic about the possibilities of imagery and make unwise health choices (such as rejecting conventional medical treatment), and when facilitators use imagery in a domineering, instead of collaborative, manner. Always examine your feelings, use common sense, work only with facilitators who offer plenty of choices, and as Marielle Fuller used to say, “Never do anything in imagery that you don’t want to do.” However, try not to leave anything unfinished. Stay with images and explore them with curiosity until you know why your mind is showing them to you. Dismiss any overly intimidating images by just telling them to go away.

Marielle Fuller’s “Healing Pool”
Drawn from the work of Marielle Fuller, this script contains elements that help journeyers through the phases of withdrawal, release, recovery, and opening up. Give yourself plenty of time, and enjoy!

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