Visualize to Create Emotional Objectivity

Death Come Quickly

(Geranium robertianum)

Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-hyperglycaemic, Anti-cytotoxic.

Intuition can be deceiving.

More on preparations for this herb from juliasedibleweeds.com. (Not my website, just one I like.

Intuition is one of the key ingredients for the Hero. In Harry Potter, for instance, Harry has knowledge and logic (aided by Hermione), a grounded, real-world, present-moment perspective (aided by Ron), and a magical perspective that lends him insight into how his actions effect others in the larger sphere of his world (Dumbledore). Harry, however, is made a hero both by the circumstances of his birth and by his very real ability to intuitively proceed into the unknown. His past and his intuition are what set him apart.

In the tarot, we might see these figures as the Empress (Hermione), the Emperor (Ron), and the Wizard or Magician (Dumbledore), while Harry is always the Fool whose task it is to learn from his encounter with the archetypes on his journey through the wheel (or to self-actualization in Jungian terms). He also has a shadow represented by the most evil dark wizard of all time, Voldemort.

On our own journeys to self-actualization, these archetypes may not seem so clear. If one has encountered trauma (who hasn’t, really?) our intuitions may be calibrated to expect the worst.

The Story:

Whenever DJ works overtime, I get some seriously bad anxiety. He might come home after a twelve hour day only to have to deal with me encountering a slew of emotional baggage that sounds like, “you would rather be at work, why don’t you let me know, you know how I am about schedule changes, do you even care about me?”

Total over reaction, especially because we’re both working hard to save up right now and I don’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. The logical, grounded, present moment perspectives (Ron and Hermione) tell me he’s just had a long day working hard for us to save for a car and because I love him, supporting him and being kind are what I want to do right now.

Instead he’s subjected to my complaints.

It wasn’t until he pointed out that these fights happen every time he works overtime that I realized what they were:

Abandonment issues.

My parents were often late to pick us up from day care, school, grandma’s, wherever. They worked hard–so much that my sister and I were raised by a village, really. Sometimes mom would be hours late to pick us up with no word. I’d worry about whether she’d died in a car crash or gotten kidnapped by evil men. I had terrible nightmares about my parents being taken away. Sometimes we wouldn’t see dad for weeks. The typical story I guess, “You’re going to your dad’s this weekend!” mom would say and then the rising excitement and the inevitable disappointment when some plan would fall through.

There was that guy who cheated on me when I was 19-24, too, and that situation has really led me to some paranoia around the excuse I was just working late.

Whatever. We all have something or other. The real concern is that DJ isn’t my parents or my ex and attributing the pains I experienced with them to him because of “instinct” is unkind.

It is not loving.

It is not fair.

He deserves better.

So this has to change.

I have to change.

It was a revelation to discover that what seemed like a simple childhood fear of abandonment or neglect had become hardwired into my adult brain and was expressing itself as my neurotic fight-picking. This is the definition of neurosis.

The complaints I was slinging at him were the complaints my childhood self would have offered my parents if she’d had language for them. Children don’t have language for their emotional experiences like adults do and my questions were always met with a, “Sorry, that’s just how it is,” anyways. They needed to be expressed and answered in order to heal that unhealed emotional pattern.

DJ was understanding. We don’t have those arguments anymore.

The Technique

A few weeks ago, I began to visualize my negative thoughts. I gave them form as demons, pictured them pestering me, and pictured myself forming a ball of light around my body that connected me to the heavens and the center of the earth. When I expand this ball of light, the demons leave. They are not allowed here. This is my space. I envision it, actually, as a universe transposed on this one but physically and energetically containing only me (a practice in multiverse visualization).

Visualization helped immensely. The imagery allowed me to make sense of a tangle of thoughts, unravel them, undo the knots. When I was a kid, my mom would offer this visualization technique whenever I had a bad dream or nightmares. Wrap yourself in a cocoon of light. Nothing exists here but you. The light will burn off anything else.

As an adult, this visualization technique appeared to me in lightworking classes, merkaba activation meditations, and in therapy. Something about it helps on a spiritual level as well as a fundamental psychic level. It helps to create a navigable boundary around the idea of a self in a Taoist sense–the witness, the one behind the one in the experience. This is a bit like jumping out of the hero self into the wizard self. Distance offers perspective.

This visualization technique for emotions is intriguing to me. A friend called a while back and told me she had some immense anxiety about something going on at work. Intuitively, I guided her through a visualization meditation.

If you were to picture this feeling, what would it look like?

Intuitively, she came up with the image of a rubber ball. The worse the anxiety got, the faster the ball would bounce. She actually started to laugh. Being able to picture the anxiety as a rubber ball let her manage it in such a way as to find it funny. Oh! Look at that! The ball is bouncing faster, so that’s what my emotion looks like. This very much reminds me of the scene in book three of the series in which Professor Lupin unleashes a creature called a boggart in the classroom.

The boggart is a creature that takes on the form of what a person fears most. The solution to defeating the boggart is to imagine it as something ridiculous. The solution is laughter. Visualization of unpleasant emotions as objects or as creatures turns them into something around which we can form a narrative or upon which we can take action.

For instance, she was able to throw the rubber ball away.

Picture it bouncing along forever. Picture it in a trash can. Picture it burning in the infernos of hell.

When it comes back, you can now just picture it away again.

Why Does it Matter?

For the Hero, intuition is supposed to be informed by rationality and a grounded perspective in order to navigate the threats of the now.

Now when I encounter those days, I picture my childhood self, laying on a cot in daycare, unable to sleep and waiting for mom while the hours pass. I know that girl in the cot will be just fine. The emotions of abandonment and neglect come up in that picture and are far less scary. They have an image, a name, a context, one that doesn’t belong to my present experience. They come and they go.

Who knew one’s intuition might be calibrated to unhealed emotional dramas from when was five years old?

This process of creating objectivity isn’t just helpful for people with neurosis or mood disorders. Those dramas from childhood may not be bad objectively, but they may be limiting to your present self.

Say your intuition is calibrated to expect the same, the normal, the expected so you never change or grow and you find yourself constantly bored. Maybe you start drama. Maybe you’re unmotivated. Maybe what you are motivated towards perpetuates some kind of pattern you’d like to change.

Good or bad, if your emotional experience to a present situation is rooted in past experience, then you are not actually in the experience of now at all; you’re in the experience of your projected expectations of the now which makes your influence on the outcome of now dependent on your relationship to your past experiences.

Sounds icky.

If, like me, your emotional attachment to a situation is unreasonable or illogical (rooted in past experience instead of present moment awareness) then it’s possible that our intuitive responses to the present situation may be perpetuating old emotional patterns rather than generating newer, healthier ones.

Cultivating present moment awareness and visualizing emotions that do not make sense in the present, allows me to see them as a flow of passing thoughts and related imagery rather than all consuming tidal waves that dictate my reactions. My intuition requires some recalibration.

For the hero, this looks like seven books of encountering the same enemy who takes more of a physical form with each encounter.

Voldemort starts off as a shadow of Harry’s old trauma–the death of his parents–and grows to become the monster who threatens everything he holds dear in the present. Harry must confront his shadow in order to be free to experience a happy present and future.

Turning an emotion into an image acts like a spacer, taking us out of the victim mentality (why is this happening to me?) and bringing us not only into a space of curiosity and creativity, but also of the archetypal wizard. Seen objectively, we understand the role of this object in the larger scheme of our personal narratives.

What’s wonderful about this for me as someone with a mood disorder is that visualization is a tool that allows me to manage my emotions without identifying with them. Sometimes I just don’t know how to name an emotion. Other times I don’t know why I’m feeling them or where they come from.

Throughout my day, emotions come to me like moths to a flickering light, batting in and out from the darkness of the subconscious to conscious awareness and away again. I can feel immense despair–The world is going to end soon I just know it–only to discover I’m just hungry.

A characteristic of cyclothymia is a rapid cycling of emotions like this.

Exercising the imagination to manage my emotions in this way is both creatively engaging and therapeutic for my general emotional, mental, and physical stability.

The Psychology and Archetypes

As a child, I read and read and read any book, any word, anything I could get my hands on really.

As an adult, I turned to drugs, alcohol, and developed an eating disorder, excessive exercise, anything really to relieve the pressure of what felt like constant emotional turmoil.

Only now, as an adult, am I realizing that cultivating a visual imagination and exposing myself to stories and language has immensely helped me in being able to rapidly contextualize the random emotions I feel at any given time of day so that they can flow through me rather than owning me.

Visualization is replacing the desire to suppress with booze and weed.

While there are other tools necessary to help tame the unwieldy beast, cyclothymia, visualization becomes the first tool in my arsenal of tools.

In this abstract found on the Wiley Online Library, John D. Teasdale published a paper in 1999, the abstract of which talks about what is happening psychologically during this process.

“A distinction is made between metacognitive knowledge (knowing that thoughts are not necessarily always accurate) and metacognitive insight (experiencing thoughts as events in the field of awareness, rather than as direct readouts on reality). This distinction, and its relevance to preventing relapse and recurrence in depression, is examined within the Interacting Cognitive Subsystems (ICS) theoretical framework. This analysis suggests, as an alternative to cognitive therapy with its focus on changing the content of depression‐related thought, the strategy of changing the configuration, or mode, within which depression‐related thoughts and feelings are processed, i.e. changing one’s relationship to inner experience. Specifically, facilitating a metacognitive insight mode, in which thoughts are experienced simply as events in the mind, offers an alternative preventative strategy. Mindfulness training teaches skills to enter this mode, and forms a central component of Mindfulness‐based Cognitive Therapy, a novel, cost‐efficient group preventative programme, for which there is encouraging evidence of effectiveness. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.”

I would tell you more about the research, but the article is one that requires purchasing. So frustrating that knowledge is power and power is hoared.

What I love about this quote is that it differentiates between knowing something and experiencing something.

I knew I shouldn’t have been reacting the way I was to DJ working long days (which only happens sometimes), both for him and for myself, but I kept doing it anyways. I knew, but couldn’t engage that experience because my emotional instincts were calibrated to an experience in the past that kept getting triggered by actions in the present. The past and present seemed related and similar only because I hadn’t healed the emotional need for closeness which I was actually preventing by picking a fight instead of facing the shadow.

The fear is the shadow. What you fear reveals what you want. If we can engage logically, and step outside of our knowledge and instincts into our actual experience (present-moment awareness) then we can logically take the action that creates the desired experience, but not if that emotional trigger takes over first. That has to be healed.

Anyways, visualization allowed me to get out of the persona (who I think I am, the Fool) into the Wizard’s perspective (who I actually am in relationship to others and the past). Visualization is my tool for engaging metacognitive insight, stepping out of metacognitive knowledge.

This is why curiosity and humility are so important. Knowledge is actually a barrier to experience. It creates a lens of expectation based on past experiences that may have no relationship to the present other than via our own interpretation.

The id wanted comfort and closeness and company. The ego acted this out in the form of picking fights with DJ. The Superego knows closeness and company are more likely when one does not pick fights.

The Shadow holds the key to enlightenment. I faced my neurosis with DJ’s help and patience. My Voldemort, in this case, was pretty tame. A young me just wanted mom to tuck her in and dad to say goodnight. Weird.

What’s even weirder is how much of our adult identities are founded in exactly these simple childhood desires.

Analysis For Application: Identifying Triggers

What kind of repeating patterns in your life would you like to change?

When do you notice these patterns arise (what triggers them?) Ask those around you who you love and trust to help you identify when you are engaging in the unwanted pattern and note: What were you talking about, thinking about, wanting, not wanting, what fears arise?

Visualize: Close your eyes and write down the images/words/stories that come to mind in the moment you are triggered. Picture this emotion as one thing in your mind and remove it from your space. Whenever this image comes back, just remove it. Let it pass.

What is actually happening? Actions…not opinions. Look up the definition of summary and keep all opinions and analysis out. Often, I will find that what I think his happening is laced with color from my expectations. In my English 101 class, the first assignment I gave my students was to write a summary only paper. This was my first assignment when I first took English 101 and it’s eye-opening. Keeping opinion and analysis out of summary is quite difficult. It’s also an exercise in objectivity.

Keep a mood journal. Writing down what my moods are doing without explaining them or trying to give them reasons is really helpful. On paper, it’s craziness.

What would you like to happen?

What logical, action steps (physical, daily activities) can you take to achieve that goal?

Keep a log. Take those steps. Record setbacks and what is happening to create those setbacks.

Go easy on yourself. We’re only human.

Good luck! Please feel free to contact me and let me know if you’ve had any similar experiences or if this process has helped you at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: