Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
The imagination is given a bum rap in western culture. It is considered to be a purveyor of illusions and a faculty that simply maximizes anxiety and fear. Nothing could be further from the truth. Surely we can imagine bad things happening. That is not unusual and we reap the negative feelings that go with it. However, what we fail to recognize is the power of the imagination to create images that help immensely in adapting to an environment without the physical presence of our loved one.
Think again if you were the victim of an authoritarian figure early in life who said in response to your fear, “You’re letting your imagination get the best of you.” Is that now one of your unconscious limiting beliefs?
Great architecture, inventions, discoveries, and music masterpieces, literally any new human creation, are a product in part of our imaginations. This is a mental faculty that we have all been blessed with to use in dealing with the changing scenes of life. You have the capacity to visualize and image how you wish to cope with any loss or construct a plan to change behavior. So how do we go about developing our imagination to help us cope?
1. Begin your journey by finding out all you can about how others have dealt with loss. This can occur through reading books on grief by professionals or people who have experienced a loss similar to the one you are currently experiencing. This will give you some basic ideas for constructing healing images that you prefer. If you know someone personally who has dealt with a similar loss successfully, be sure to have a long talk with him/her. Ask about their beliefs about coping well and what specifically helped them. Can you turn them into useful images?
2. Further your knowledge base by looking for information on how some of the more well-known writers and therapists have dealt with loss and how they look at the grief process. People like Carl Jung, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Moore, Gautama Buddha, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, J. William Worden and dozens of others can provide insights and ideas to consider in picture making. Don’t forget to include spiritual readings from your spiritual traditions.
3. Set an immediate reachable goal and make a plan. Start off with a specific goal for the next minute, hour or day. In order to do this you will need to start using your imagination to create the mind pictures of exactly what you will do to get through that next minute, hour or day. Be sure to “see” and feel the end result you want to achieve and the steps you will take to get there. You are imagining successful coping. What you image will result in physiological changes within the body.
4. Go into detail. Picture yourself moving in a specific way, saying a particular thing, and going through a behavior that will help in dealing with unwanted grief thoughts. Be alert to what comes up from your unconscious mind, seemingly out of nowhere, and pops on the scene. Your unconscious will supply you with creative ideas to reach your goal. Listen carefully to your inner voice.
5. Believe the use of imagination is your highly individual self-healing strategy. See it as a resource that is always at the ready. All you have to do is call it up and start creating positive images in your mind. One approach that can maximize results is once you have the image created surround it with a bright light or sparkling diamonds. This technique will maximize the feeling you are trying to create to change mood. Now expect an occasional failure at times. It happens to all of us. Just get up and start it over again.
6. Try interchanging images. You may imagine yourself meeting your loved one’s old friend for the first time and shaking hands. Then consider an image of giving him/her a hug and hearing yourself saying something about how much your loved one cared about him/her. How does one compare to the other in terms of feelings? What feels right? Perhaps you would want to make a call in advance. Again, imagine how you will start the conversation and what seems appropriate to say.
7. Use your imagination as the faculty for rehearsing various coping responses. Put yourself in a favorite haven where you know you can relax, a place you visited in the past, a cherished family memory, or whatever can bring up feelings of release and quiet. Now choose the way you desire to deal with a specific change you know has to be made. And here is the key: Keep replaying the scene. Repetition is crucial to healing because you are setting up a routine that will become a habit pattern of thinking and doing. Importantly, the repetition of vivid images influences the unconscious creating new beliefs and ideas that assist in adapting to your great loss. When you achieve success celebrate it and tell yourself you can do it again.
8. Here are some coping responses to consider in using your creative imagination. Make images of a beautiful song and what the words imply; challenge a fearful thought; ask a close friend for help on a task; create an affirmation or two to deal with ongoing anxiety; go to where love is; imagine the expansion of your lungs and the expulsion of tension as you use deep abdominal breathing to relax; imagine you are with the most loving person who has been of help to you and saying, “Thank you. I love you;” make a list of all the bonding relationships you still have and another list of those you need to strengthen or renew. Then construct visual images as to how you will strengthen and renew.
Finally, always be alert to zero in on the good feelings generated as you see yourself adapting. Become an expert on what you are feeling at any given moment.