comfreak/Pixabay
Source: comfreak/Pixabay

My early work in psychology centered around imagery — how images are formed; how they affect people and their relationships; how they can be used in the service of insight, learning or change. I loved studying imagery, writing about it, using it in clinical practice, and designing workshops. As president of the American Association for the Study of Mental Imagery, I gave talks about ways in which the images through which we see our families can guide our expectations, understanding, and behavior. Today, in this short exercise, I explore using imagery to expand ways in which we show love.

What is an image?

  • An image is a mental representation of an experience or an idea. It can be visual, auditory, tactile or olfactory. It may (or may not) have qualities of temperature, tension, movement. It can evoke internal feelings that define or accompany emotions or remain neutral.
  • An image can be stable or evolving, vague or clear. The image may stay exactly as it arises or it can change, becoming more or less acute, more or less detailed. Paying attention to it will allow it to do what it wants to do — fade or clarify, be stable or transform. 
  • An image can be remembered, and the memory of it can come complete with emotional associations. For example, for me, recalling an image of rocking brings up the sensory image of  David’s gently rocking converted barge along with a moving visual image of us on it, physical feelings of swaying, my heart pounding, and feelings associated with when we first fell in love.
  • An image can be permitted to arise, like when I breathe deeply and let a picture emerge from my unconscious. When a person allows the mind to quiet, through techniques that can range from breathing to meditation to yoga to running, images do tend to arise. When the space is there, images can float through it. Once a person is experienced in meditation, images can easily pass through consciousness, allowing one to take notice or not.
  • Or an image can be created consciously, like when one assembles pieces of an ideal encounter or imagines a moment at home or work.  

Here is an example of an image you can use to explore love:

  • Relax, breathe deeply. If you are comfortable, close your eyes. Allow yourself to picture someone you love. 
  • Notice the image and what senses contribute to it. Is it primarily visual? Do smells or sounds or a sense of touch or even taste add to the vividness of the image? Does the image remain stable or shift?
  • Allow yourself to imagine a string that connects the two of you. What is it made of? Does it have color, texture, temperature? Does plucking it make a sound? How elastic is it? How strong? How can It become tighter or looser? How do those adjustments feel to you? What forces can affect your string? Can it melt? How fragile or durable is it?  What control do you have over it? What control over it does your loved one have? 
  • Sit in silence and just observe the string. Can you notice changes in it? What are they? Can you identify any forces that nudge or force the changes into being? What aspects of the string are most easily modified? Do you have any reactions to those modifications?
  • Using a classic Gestalt technique, can you imagine talking to the string?  Can you ask it, “Does it matter where you attach to each of us?” “Where are you happiest being attached, and where are you least comfortable?” “Can you imagine the source of any discomfort?”  “How would you like me to address the discomfort?”
  • Note how you feel as you make these observations. Imagine any reactions of the one you love who is on the other side of the imagined string. Can you identify an emotional dance between you as the qualities of the string spontaneously change or are changed by one of you?
WerberFarbrik/Pixabay
Source: WerberFarbrik/Pixabay

How can exploring this image show love?

  • Being — or becoming — aware of the images that we have about our relationship with someone we love can help us better understand how we experience the relationship at a given moment. In addition, this consciousness can also help us see the ways in which we unconsciously expect a loved one to respond to us and how we, in turn, are likely to express our self.
  • The fact that we took the time and turned our attention to exploring the images illustrates a caring about the quality and characteristics of a close relationship. Our participation in the exercise pays a tribute to our relationship's importance to us.
  • Our awareness can give us a jumping off point to examine what we expect and, by better understanding it, to discuss our assumptions and better align them with those of the loved one. Who feels how about the current connections? If one person would like a change, how does the other one feel about that? Do the images provide any guidance on how to bring changes into being? How comfortable or uncomfortable would that process be — for whom?

After you engage in this exercise, how do you feel? Is your partner willing to try it?  How easy or difficult is it to share your respective experiences?

Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower

Visit me at www.miracleatmidlife.com

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