With my own guidance, I use something I call dynamic visualization to send and receive images for a two way conversation. I have also been able to use that with clients to gather information from their higher selves about their progress, and areas still to be addressed. Here’s an example.
Most of Lisa’s life had been traumatic in one way or another. Her family was dysfunctional, and all the people she counted on were engaged in destructive behavior. In her early 20s, she married a guy who had been raised in a similarly destructive family, but they were well matched on that level at the time. The original dynamics of their marriage carried them about 20 years, and then erupted in one big blowout, but they were still together, in therapy and recovery, when she reached out to me for help.
We started with her childhood, removing the emotional impact from those experiences one by one, and as the healing process started to generalize, she gained a great deal of perspective and peace. In that process, we also touched on her early marriage, her current marriage, and the blowout in between.
Once it was clear that she had gained some emotional distance from the past, I was able to incorporate some dynamic visualization, just to ask a higher version of herself where we should focus any additional work. She has a natural talent for visualization, so this tool was really useful with her.
I always start with a few breathing exercises to ground and quiet her system, and then we choose some kind of peaceful landscape, preferably with a dark background. She imagined a night sky with a moon, over a range of hills in the distance, and some kind of meadow in front.
Trying to look at her whole life at once would put too many variables on the table, so I wanted to break it into contained chapters. First, I asked her to imagine herself and her husband in the current state of their relationship, and asked her to rate her feelings about it from several of the dimensions that she works on with her therapist. Does he seem trustworthy to her? Is his attention focused on their marriage? How comfortable does she feel about being married to him? Does she feel any disturbance in the space between them? We had already done versions of this before so this was an easy place to get started. Once we had some baseline measurements, we put her current marriage in a snow globe for safe keeping, and moved on.
Next, I asked her to put the rest of her life in three separate snow globes. The first would contain her childhood, including all the family characters and dynamics covering the time until she met her husband. The second would be the first twenty years of their marriage when they were both a perfectly toxic match and ending with the blowout six years ago. In the third, we put the blowout and all the aftermath of the last six years, then chose an arbitrary time to separate that from her current marriage, which was in a fourth snow globe.
As she created them, I asked where they were being placed in her landscape. The current snow globe, which we called #4, was as big as the moon and it was slightly off to the left. Globes #1, #2 and #3 were off to the right, standing in line with #1, the childhood, farthest away.
We looked at #1 first so it came to the center of the landscape. One by one I asked her to bring forward the individual characters who had played significant roles in that chapter. With each character, I wanted to evaluate her experience of them by asking about their size compared to her, their color/clarity, and any static around them or other indication that she isn’t free of that relationship.
Note: Size, color, clarity, and animation are all standard visualization elements that represent how associated someone is to the image in their mind. The bigger, more colorful, more clear, or more animated the image, the more association and emotional impact it has. As the image loses its power, it will become blurry, show in grayscale, become smaller or move farther away, and/or lose its animation.
By those indications she seemed to be reasonable unaffected by those characters, so I asked her to consider a few questions – is it possible that he or she was doing his or her best at the time? Does it seem possible to forgive them for how they treated you? And does it seem possible to forgive yourself for being involved?
Keep in mind, this was not a healing exercise but an exploration to gather information. I was making notes about where she was getting stuck and asking her to rate the resistance from 0-10 wherever we found it.
Based on that exercise, it was fairly easy for her to consider acceptance and forgiveness in Globe #1, so we brought Globe #2 to the center, and watched Globe #1 move back to the right side. Again, we’re watching what it does on its own, not forcing anything to change.
With Globe #2, I wanted to see how much distinction her system was registering between the toxic guy she married and the husband she has now, in addition to the difference between her own old and new selves. I asked her to describe the guy she saw in Globe #2, and he was a mess in a variety of ways. She could see an inner disturbance in his body that showed her why his promises may have been as unstable as they later turned out to be. I asked her to compare that to the current husband in Globe #4, and while they are the same man, the new version was much more peaceful, warm, and reliable. One of the biggest challenges in staying with her marriage after enormous trauma was being able to look at the same man and see only the man he had become, not the man who had done so much damage. It was really helpful for her to see how far she had come.
Back to Globe #2 I asked her to do the same with herself – first to describe the younger version of herself, and then to compare it to the version she sees now. The younger version was just as toxic and unstable as he was, although in different ways. As she had in previous healing sessions, she could see why the two of them were matched together, and why their marriage was destined to blow out the way it did. In that chapter, she felt like she was in control, but seeing it from a distance, she saw a much needier, insecure girl who desperately needed control, compared to the much more peaceful, grounded version of herself in Globe #4.
Looking just at the younger versions of herself and the guy she married, I asked about their sizes, clarity, color, and animation just for baselines. These still had some color, but not a lot of size or animation. I asked about acceptance and forgiveness from all directions, and she seemed comfortable enough with those considerations for now. I always know that we could come back later and find that parts of emotional impact have resurfaced, so this is just gathering information for now.
We put everyone back in their globes, then turned our attention specifically to Globe #2 as a unit. I asked about its size, and it was smaller than Globe #4, which was still the size of a moon, then I asked if she could either make Globe #2 smaller or push it farther away.
This is the kind of image manipulation I will use for information, not as an attempt to heal or force anything. If she can make it smaller or push it away and it stays there, then its influence over her is likely not so powerful that it needs more work. If it bounces back, then it’s still asking for attention.
In this case, it was fairly easy to push away, so we asked it to find a place in the landscape to rest. It landed in its smaller form just in front of the hills. I asked where Globe #1 was in relation, and she said that one had drifted behind the hills.
Globe #3 was next, and we had not done much healing work on this chapter. Usually we can direct the healing to the earlier material and the rest will resolve in tandem, so I was very interested to see where we were on this section. There had always been images in this chapter that haunted her, so we went through a few of those to see how much power they still carried by evaluating size, clarity, distance, and color, etc. We found more work to do here, and in exploring the possibility of forgiveness she was not nearly as ready as she was in the other globes.
I did ask her to compare the versions of herself and her husband in Globe #3 with that of current Globe #4, and she was able to make solid distinctions, which was a good sign, considering how close in time they were. It was helpful for her to see how much difference she recognizes in both herself and her husband in this scenario, as she was not seeing that in her conscious daily life.
We put everyone back in their Globes, then evaluated Globe #3 as a unit for its size, color and clarity. It definitely stayed bigger than the other two no matter what we tried to do with it, and it started complaining to her about its discomfort. We put that at the top of the list as our next healing target, then asked it to find a place in the landscape to rest, and it joined the others on the right side of her image.
We revisited this 4 globe exercise a few times to re-evaluate progress, and help her see how she perceives her husband on a higher plane. We kept playing with the images to see what was possible, just to gather information, and then conducted the healing as a separate process.