Imagination for Coping- An Example

March 22, 2007

I was telling someone recently about a way I have used my imagination to help me cope with a stressful situation and I thought it would be a good idea to share it here. Many years ago, I was to give one of my first presentations about using imagery as a way of knowing, learning, growing, and healing to a large group of professionals. I was aware of a great sense of fear and anticipation leading up to the event. I was very well prepared and knew my subject well but I was a still very nervous about the talk and I realized that I was expecting to be judged and criticized. I recognized this as having little to do with the external reality and more to do with my own issues so I decided to take a dose of my own medicine and address it using my imagery methods.
Entering into a state of active imagery, I spontaneously imagined a gremlin that was a representation for the inner state of fear and self-doubt that was causing me to distort the situation. I tried to greet the gremlin and have a dialogue with him to try to reason with him to change his behavior as I would usually do in the imagery process, but he would have no part of that- he only wanted to take me over and gain control to make me afraid. I also realized that if the gremlin were allowed to get close enough to me to take over, I had little resistance.
So I re-imagined the gremlin at a distance, headed towards me, with the intention of reaching me and taking me over to cause me to feel fear and self-doubt. I saw the gremlin off on the horizon on a path, slowly walking in my direction. Using the perception of distance perspective, I gave myself the ability to reach out and take the small version of the gremlin in my hand before he was so near that he was too big for me to handle. I then imagined that once the gremlin was in my hand it changed to a ceramic figurine that I could place on a shelf where it would have no effect on me. If I were to ignore it until it was too big for me to imagine holding in my hand, it could take over, so it was important to develop awareness of this as early as possible.
This method worked for me at the time of that presentation and has worked ever since- for me and for others to whom I have taught it. You could call this an adaptive strategy because it helped me cope but does not, in any immediate sense, eliminate the condition. Only in the long term of using this method does it begin to have a transformational effect to change me in ways deep enough to significantly modify or eliminate the problem. As I gained confidence in the exercise to be effective, so can I gain in the belief that it can be overcome. The exercise itself is adaptive and the long-term use can be transformative in regard to the problems it addresses.
For an even better example of the guided imagery in use for learning, growing, and healing see the article reprint from the January, 2006, issue of Oprah Magazine, Imagine That, by Marian Sandmaier, at my professional web site,

2 Responses to “Imagination for Coping- An Example”

  1. great story, really enjoyed reading it. a real concrete example of how abstract imagery works!


  2. claudia Says:

    Bob i enjoyed your story. There are probably lots of stories like that that you have never told us. I’d like to hear more.


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