Tag: self-discovery

The Power of Our Imagination

The Power of Our Imagination

Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey
Friends and Acquaintances by Gale Franey

A person’s ability to imagine is a potent source of power that every person alive possesses. We may believe that our imagination has been displaced by pain and trauma or that we no longer have access to it, if indeed we had any to start. Or, we may be operating on the assumption that we need to think our way out of the emotional and psychological quagmire that keeps us fixated on our problems.  I believe,  that regardless of the state we are in, our imagination is available to us and can become a potent ally in our efforts toward health and wholeness.

We are all born with the power of imagination. Think about it. Can you remember a time in childhood when you were so immersed in play, your imagination so taken with the imaginary world you had summoned up that what your mind had created  seemed absolutely real to you?

I remember creating a home in the woods across from my childhood home. Tree trunks became walls, mounds of snow were fashioned into chairs and fixtures. What my friends and I created was absolutely real to us. I’m pretty sure to the eyes of an adult it would simply have been snow and woods. My perfectly crafted kitchen, complete with a pot of soup atop a beautiful white stove would have been rocks, and branches.

Our imagination is a source of power available to us at all times. Those of us who have been traumatized or who have suffered severely in our lives have turned a good portion of our imagination over to our pain.  What is fear if not a thing devised by our imagination? Perhaps the more potent our imagination, the more severe our pain.

Since my accident and subsequent PTSD, all it takes is a flash of an image at the right moment to set my heart racing. In a nano-second I am plunged into the arena of my imagination, re-living the accident as if it were presently happening. I had just such an experience last week while exercising at the club I recently joined.

I always choose a treadmill that faces a large window, so that I can focus on the big beautiful tree across the parking lot, rather than the TVs that are on the wall to either side of the window and always on. I had done so this day, but I just happened to glance at the TV, almost a side-wise, mostly unconscious glance at the screen to my left. Just as I did, an image of a man driving a car, his face painted with impending doom and terror, flashed before my eyes.  In the following nano-second the impact occurred,  and my imagination jumped into overdrive. In a split second, I was thrust into the midst of my own nightmare. Captured unwittingly, I felt as if I had no control over my suffering.

If we can recognize the power that our imagination plays in our lives,both for good and ill, we can begin to direct its course. We can choose where we will put it to work. You may say, “but we have no choice when fear overtakes us, when the physiological effects of PTSD become the driver of our emotions and imaginations” but, I believe we do have a choice. Our basic survival instinct may be broken. Our brains may replay horrific images and memories, seemingly without our say-so, but I believe we can, bit by bit, take back our power and retrain our imaginations to work in our favor and in cooperation with our healing efforts.

Using one’s imagination to counteract depression, anxiety, and trauma is a tool that is always at our disposal. Instead of choosing to let fear run the projector in our mind, we can choose hope, beauty, love, and reinforce these things as often as possible in our day-to-day lives. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a process, a practice, and ultimately a choice.

This is the fundamental principle behind the gratitude journal. When we stop and think about something good in our lives for which we can be grateful, a mini-film plays in our imagination – a reliving of something positive – and positive feelings flood our bodies. This, my friends, is far better than the flood of fear that when left unchecked leaves us only to continue suffering.

Making the choice to pay attention to what our imagination is doing, to become conscious of the imaginings that are transporting us to painful places and choosing, when we can, to imagine positive images and outcomes can begin to create an environment where healing can take place.  Our imagination can become our best friend instead of our worst nightmare.

One More Hour of Peace

One More Hour of Peace

c33ce167d791d319f9af4a186ee0272bOn the mend from dental work performed last week, I’ve been  feeling a bit blue and lethargic. The gloomy weather hasn’t helped a bit! This morning, after three days of antibiotics I felt just enough better to force myself into motion. It’s difficult to know for certain whether it’s better to rest, or to move. I decided it was time to find out, so I took off for a long walk with my eagerly awaiting companion. He too was long overdue for some sustained motion.

It was  absolutely the right move. Walking, even on misty, cold days restores my soul and adjusts my perspective on life. Breathing in the moist air fed more than my soul! It seemed to vacate the cobwebs in my breathing apparatus and fired up my imagination.

Our imagination is so essential to the healing process. It expands our world view and allows us to see beyond our pain and whatever it is that is plaguing us in the here and now. Trauma forces us into a dark cave. It shuts us off to possibility. As wounded individuals, the fear and pain that is too often our constant companion takes over our imagination and turns it into a manufacturer of worse case scenarios of the highest order.

In order to thrive after trauma, we must take control of our imagination and point it in the right direction. Those who suffer the most as a result of abuse and trauma may just be the ones with the most powerful imaginations! If this is so, and I believe that it is, then the future bodes well for them as well, as when they are able to unleash this power in a more promising direction, the joy will be as high as the pain was deep.

It is difficult to understand sometimes, particularly when we have had a life long habit of trauma induced negative thinking, that we can harness our thoughts and use them to pull us out of the darkness. While it is important to understand our trauma from a psychological perspective, to grow in self-esteem and self-love, it is equally important to begin practicing a different way of imagining every chance we get.

For example, I recently submitted a few articles for publication to an agent that admittedly was a bit above my “pay grade” – but one can dream, can’t one? To make a long story short I received a rejection letter.  I wasn’t surprised and yet it triggered a spiral of negative thinking. My monkey mind went to work on me…over time! Of course, it didn’t help that I was fighting an infection and  was physically  off my game, but the fact remains it all added up to my overactive imagination turning on me.

It is in these moments, precisely in the midst of a downward spiral, that we must learn to grab hold of our imagination by a force of will and yank ourselves back from the brink. It is a choice. It doesn’t feel like one, but it is.  The trick is to catch ourselves in the act and then break the cycle. The more we are able to do this, the better we will become at doing it, and ultimately the better control we will have on how our past trauma impacts our present lives.

Going for a walk this morning was just one more step in breaking the power that trauma and abuse still has on my life. My choice to walk not only changed but it also interrupted my thought flow, it opened me up to the powerful imagination stimulus of nature. that readily available gift that always reminds me of all that is life-giving and sustaining. It grounds me in a way that nothing else does. As I walk my thoughts go, out of habit, without effort I fall into a more receptive mode. I listened to the damp woods, the trees, the rocks, the rushing stream and was able to take in their message, their gift, their strength. I was able to reconnect with my own positive imagination and I returned home renewed and restored, one more battle won, one more fear conquered, one more hour of peace.

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A Child without Edges

A Child without Edges

art by Molly Brett
Fairy Artwork by Molly Brett – click on image for more info.

A childhood of abuse or neglect sets the stage for an adult who does not know who they are. Healthy boundaries are either a mystery or non-existent. They are either too rigid or too fluid. When we don’t know who we are, we may unconsciously cling to the rules and belief systems that were imposed on us as children, or we borrowed them from an external belief system such as a religion, a political party, or a social group. It gives us a sense of identity and security. It gives us the edges we are unable to create from within as children.

Or, we may exist without edges and live the life of an emotional and psychological amoeba. In this case, we allow whoever or whatever is in our life at any given moment to take up residence within us. We live in a constant state of reaction to, rather than action toward. Never having learned to validate our own wants, needs and desires, we wander aimlessly through life falling victim over and over again to the whims, desires and manipulations of those who don’t hesitate to tell us what our boundaries should be. The child who is ignored, drowned out, or in any other way taught to ignore her own inner voice and guidance, is a child without edges and a child doomed to suffer as an adult.

These two different reactions to abuse are a match made in heaven. They attract one another like iron to a magnet, perpetuating the chain of abuse in an endless dance. The rigid must constantly remind themselves and all with whom they come in contact, of what they believe and who they are. Beneath this drive is the unconscious fear that without constant feedback and validation they would crumble and disintegrate. It’s a life or death activity that keeps the veneer in place.  What better way to do this than to seek out those with porous boundaries, who are looking for their edges, who are willing to be influenced, and who have learned not to question or challenge?

If, however, we have the opportunity to see, sense or become aware of the ember of our real self that still glows in the recesses of our heart and soul, we can begin the exciting, albeit terrifying journey of self-discovery. We must go back and raise ourselves, give ourselves the adult guidance and structure that allows our inner child to blossom.

We once had our very own responses to life. We once had our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own deep physical and emotional expression of all that we are. We can have it again.

The disassociation I experienced after the accident was the most extreme expression of my own disconnection from myself, though it began much earlier. It is an utterly terrifying feeling to be without boundaries, to feel utterly powerless and helpless. How many children feel this way every day of their lives? How many of these children grow up to be deeply troubled adults?

As a victim of abuse or trauma, finding a connection to oneself is an ongoing challenge, but one that is not only essential but worth the effort. When we heal our own suffering, we stop the cycle. It’s time to stop the cycle of abuse.

In Search of My Edges

Still Learning

My Safe Place

My Safe Place

3670679730_5c947acfb8As I began my healing work, I was guided ever so gently toward the discovery of my safe place. It did not come easily, nor was it anything like I expected it to be. I did not expect to go inside of myself and find an anchor, a lifeline, a living, breathing being that was at once me…and not me…that was a guide, a teacher, a lover and a friend.

I remember so clearly lying on the floor in the great room of my Lamaze instructor’s home. Propped up by the pillows I had dutifully carried, one under each arm, my belly leading the way from my house to hers each week, I lay in wait not only for the birth of my first child, but for the guidance I so desperately needed during the last months of my pregnancy. Her classes gave me an opportunity to literally and figuratively lay down my burden and be cared for just a bit.

The class was large. I was mostly silent, but I took it all in. Each lesson on one aspect or another of pregnancy and birth helped me feel a bit more prepared, though I instinctively knew that nothing could prepare me for the real experience.

At the end of each class, the instructor guided us through a relaxation and meditation exercise. “Your calmness will carry through to your child,” she would remind us. “Now, let’s get comfortable, close our eyes and breathe in peace.” She joined us on the floor and the room grew quiet except for the swish of air in and out in random bursts of good peace intentions. With each breath I took, I turned inward trying desperately to forget the drum beat of time that was catapulting me toward an unknown and terrifying experience.

Try as I might, I could not breathe in peace. I could not shut off my chattering mind and go inward to capture that peace everyone else seemed to be holding.  Each week, I’d place my hands on my tummy, trying to hold and love my beautiful unborn baby while my brain went to war with itself.  I wanted that peace she described and yet I remained saturated with fear and despair…and when I left her home I carried with me a layer of shame and guilt. I failed at bliss.

Decades later, at a very different time and in a very different place, I was handed another opportunity to enter in.  This time I was either ready to let go, or, more likely tricked into letting go. The universe had seen to it that I lost every battle I waged for thirty long years. Then, a young woman was placed in front of me, whose guidance I would have to make a conscious decision to accept. I had no more tricks up my sleeve, no more clever nuances of intellect or ego to help me escape.

Deeply traumatized and frightened beyond reason, my body and mind were ravaged by life. I would either take her hand or die. It was that simple.  I guess I wasn’t ready to die, though I wasn’t convinced of that when I closed my eyes and followed Crystal’s lead into our first guided imagery meditation.

Her gentle voice led me and I followed, breath by breath. It was if she knew exactly what I needed and exactly what to say. She held my spiritual hand and showed me how to allow the breath of peace to do its work.  Step by step, breath by breath she led me to the door of my soul. It was only the beginning. The merest start, and yet, it was huge.

That day, I came face to face with the door of my safe place.  A large, thick wooden door with decorative square panels and a large gold handle, its large brass knocker seemed to mock me. When Crystal suggested that I open the door I was overwhelmed with fear. Everything in my body resisted forward motion. I could not move my mind to allow myself to open the door. I stood frozen in place, shaking inside and out.

“What is keeping you from opening the door?”, she asked. What, or who, is taking your strength and blocking your path?” Eyes shut, tears running down my cheeks, I was one with my imaginary world. As I stood in that place in front of the door I told her what came to me in that moment, “I am terrified to go in alone”.

“Is there someone you would like to invite into the room with you? Someone who will hep you and support you? Remember, this is your space. You are the only one who can invite someone in and you can ask them to leave whenever you want.  Is there someone who you can ask to help you open the door? They can be real or imaginary.”

Immediately, my husband came to mind. He reached for my hand. As I took his hand, he pushed the door open, but he did not go in first. He held the door for me as I walked in. He stood behind me for a few moments and then gradually disappeared. I was safely inside. I knew I no longer needed him there with me.

I breathed in the sunshine and fresh air as I tentatively and  slowly explored the space in which I found myself.  Surrounded by beautiful, lush green gardens and soft, colorful flowers I sat down on a smooth, round, rock beside a small pond. I watched the birds flit from tree to tree and the bees buzz from flower to flower. I listened to the water trickle down a tiny waterfall at the edge of the pond as cool breezes washed over my skin and the sun warmed my shoulders. This was a peaceful place. This was the place where my soul lived. I had come home.

It was hard to leave that day,  but I learned quickly that it is always there for me when I choose to visit. Throughout the course of my healing journey from PTSD, and the continued healing of all of life’s woundings, I  find strength and guidance here in this place. My imagination, my soul self, is my guide and teacher. Through guided imagery meditation with Crystal and more and more frequently alone in quiet private meditation, I find strength, peace, guidance, answers, direction and healing.

Creating a New Life

A Grounding Place