This is why I use pictures with my clients

How often have you struggled to put into words something that you’re feeling? Maybe it’s a goal you want to achieve that you can’t quite articulate. Or something feels off in your life, but you’re unsure exactly what it is. Equally, you may struggle when asked to brainstorm, coming up completely blank.

To help in all these situations, I like to use images with my clients. However, it wasn’t always this way.

The Backstory

Back when I was training as a psychotherapist, I got into a few arguments with one of my tutors. He was old-school psychoanalytic, and a strong believer in the ‘purity’ and ‘neutrality’ of the therapy space. According to him, there should never be anything but two people in the therapy room. Well, a couple of chairs and a couch and maybe a painting on the wall, but you had to think carefully about what the picture showed, to be as neutral as possible.

The concept of using objects or images purposefully as part of the therapy filled him with righteous anger. Yet, for me, what he was saying was blatantly ridiculous.

There is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ space. As soon as you walk into the room with someone, you look at what they are wearing, you listen to how they speak, you notice their perfume or aftershave or lack thereof. Beyond the therapist’s person, you take note of the colour the walls are painted, the style of the furnishings, where the building is, what kind of building it is. Already so much information on which to base assumptions and judgements.

Using Imagery

If you get so much ‘extraneous’ information about someone from the first second you meet them, can there be such a thing as ‘neutrality’? My answer: No!

And if there is no neutrality, then bringing more things or images into the space isn’t a huge crime, a watering down of the therapeutic environment. In fact, it could even add to it!

If you’ve ever struggled to put things into words, using images or objects as a prompt can be really helpful.

Brainstorming

For example, if you need to brainstorm something, choose a couple of images at random and see what ideas they help you come up with on your given subject. You can do this using postcards, or googling for something: a situation, an object, a person, even an emotion.

A visual cue may activate quite different thoughts and ideas than just working around the question logically. And the randomness of elements in an image can spark ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Looking for a Feeling

It’s not just about coming up with new ideas, either. You can also use images to figure out what you are feeling.
You may know things are a bit off somewhere, without knowing precisely why, or being able to say what it is you feel about the situation.

A visual cue provides an external way to gain clarity. Through reflecting on an image, you can achieve a different perspective. Rather than your feelings being inside you, hard to see, you project them outside, onto a picture. Then, by saying what you see, you can then realise what is going on inside.

So many of my clients have had ‘aha’ moments when asked to describe an image, and then asked where in their lives they have that feeling or have experienced something similar. Until you can get that little bit of distance, it can be hard to see something that is within yourself. Once it’s outside you, though, suddenly ‘boom’ you can see it!

Imagining Your Future

Not only that, images can also be used to connect with what you want to be feeling.

Have you ever had the experience of wanting something – a new job, a better relationship, an exciting holiday – and then discovering that even with that thing, you still don’t feel happy?

Often, you may put your hopes onto a particular thing or person. In fact, what you are really seeking is to feel a particular way. Getting clear on how it is you want to feel can open the path to achieving that in ways that are real, rather than what your head tells you should be the solution.

Choosing an image that represents your desired goal, and then considering how it ‘feels’, rather than just what it represents logically, helps you figure out what you really want to achieve.

Equally, there is a large body of evidence for the effectiveness of visualisation in achieving your goals. This is one part of the science behind hypnosis. However, not everyone is skilled at visualising, even when in trance. Having an image to act as a springboard can be really powerful, and empowering.

Using Imagery in Coaching

In a coaching context, you are often encouraged to create a vision board. This helps with the process of clarifying what you want. It also helps in goal-setting, establishing what you would need to see, hear and feel to know you have achieved your goal.

You can also use a single image in brainstorming, or as a motivational tool. The old practice of putting a picture on your fridge to remind you of your motivation (or in more modern terms perhaps making it the screen saver on your phone or computer), really can work.

Using Imagery in Hypnosis

Some people find it really easy to visualise when in trance. However, if you are not one of them, it can be very helpful to have one or more images to use as a springboard for imaginal work. In this way, you can make your visualisations clearer and more powerful, helping you to achieve your goals faster and more effectively.

Equally, using images can be a way to determine the focus for a particular session. It can clarify what you need in the moment, and what you want to achieve. It can also be helpful if you are someone who has difficulty putting what you feel into words. In this way, it helps you explain your goals to your therapist, so that you can better design an approach together.

Using Imagery in Tapping

In tapping, like hypnosis, it can be important to hone in on what you are feeling in the moment, or about a particular subject. Using images can help with this, providing a safe distance so that you can explain something without having to go into the content of your material, if you don’t want to. You can also use an image as your ‘reminder’ – using the words ‘that image’ instead of having to define the emotions involved or name the situation.

This helps you to get in touch with the material you want to work on, without having to go into details you don’t want to discuss, or that are too painful for you to approach directly. In this way, you keep the power of the tapping, without having to disclose anything you don’t want to, or go into details that might feel too raw.

 

If you’d like to talk through how this approach might benefit you, please get in touch by phone (07561 231 281) or email (ceejaymccracken@gmail.com).

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Here’s why you need to tap into emotion

Like the Christmas song ‘I saw Mommy kissing Santa,’ everyone has a story of something they experienced which affected them at a deep emotional level. Years later, the memory and the associated feelings and beliefs persist.

Memories are laid down when something happens that you get emotional about. That’s why you need to use emotion as a fuel to also unlock and release those memories.

People talk about situations that occur fuelling your anger or fuelling your desire. Actually, it’s the other way round: it’s your emotions that fuel the way you perceive things.

An every day example might be reading a trolling comment on the Internet. You get all angry and riled, and can’t sleep for being so annoyed. Telling yourself it doesn’t matter just doesn’t help!
This kind of thing happens to most people fairly regularly, a small but persistent source of stress. Or you may have bigger emotional issues or memories troubling you. Either way, stress is considered perhaps the biggest problem of modern society.
So, how can you de-stress?

Releasing emotions

Tapping, or EFT, is a scientifically validated way to very gently deal with stress and emotional blocks. It uses three basic tools, combined in an infinite number of ways.
The three basic tools are:
Gentle tapping on acupressure points
Reducing resistance to releasing blocks
Evoking the emotions to be dealt with
Let’s take a look at each of those.

Tapping on acupressure points

Emotional blocks create energetic blocks in your body. Just think of how you can get a tension headache, or feel sick to your stomach, due to emotional situations.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the modern scientific term used to admit that body and mind are intimately connected. Studies have shown that tapping on various acupressure points can encourage the energy in your body to flow again, releasing those emotional blocks in the process.

Reducing resistance

Though it may seem strange, you often resist releasing blocks. This could be for a reason as seemingly simple as being used to and ‘comfortable’ with the status quo. Or it could be something a little harder to shift: a deep belief that you are not worthy of happiness, for example.
Finding these limiting beliefs, and releasing them, is an important part of the process. Otherwise, they sabotage you letting go of your problems.

Evoking Emotion

Part of the tapping process is connecting to the problematic situation, emotion or physical symptom. In this way, you are targeting the problem itself, rather than just randomly moving things around.
For this, it’s good to use words that clearly remind you of the issue. You can also ‘feel’ the problem and describe it, especially with physical symptoms. Alternatively, you can visualise the problem, either internally, or using a picture or image as a cue.

EFT – Tapping

One of the great things about EFT is that you can use this tool for yourself. The basics are easy to learn, and there are a wealth of free resources available online to help.
Still, there are times when it’s helpful to have a trained person to guide you.
This is especially useful if you are not sure where to start. Or if you try by yourself but don’t seem to be making progress. Or if you struggle with motivation despite knowing you need to make changes. Equally, if you have more serious or complex issues such as phobias or a history of trauma.
If you would like to feel less stressed, calmer and more joyful, or if you have negative emotions you just can’t seem to shake, why not try a tapping session?
You can get in touch at ceejaymccracken@gmail.com or call on 07561 231 281.