This is a really thought provoking and important article by psychotherapist Joshua Miles, on the importance and power of imagination (and metaphor) in therapy. The article points out that “some people in therapy benefit more from working within the world of metaphor and imagination, than exploring what is more factual or ‘real’….. it can be in abstract or creative patterns of thinking, which can lead us down meaningful avenues of self-exploration and growth”. It took me a while to see this; in the earlier stages of my therapy I was dubious of using ‘non-factual’ aids as facilitators of internal change. However, the longer I have been in therapy the more vital imagination and metaphor have become, and, aside from the therapeutic relationship itself, I would say that for me they have been the biggest agents of change. As this article highlights, I think that the power of imagination and metaphor rests in their inherently personal nature and malleability. To quote: “Through imagination, we can add or remove meaning as necessary, and there are no wrong or right answers.”
I think this is an interesting and important post for any therapy client to read – for me, it is particularly key at this time as I am currently on a six week ‘therapy break’, and using imagination and metaphor will be crucial in helping me to deal with the ‘gap’. They will enable me to keep the memory of my therapist alive; to challenge and re-interpet any internal resistance and counter-productive feelings; and to think of creative ways to make the best use of this time, so that I can learn from it and have interesting ‘stories’ to tell my therapist when we resume!
I know that I will re-read this article a number of times over the coming weeks, and hope you will find it helpful too!
People enter into therapy for different reasons, whether to understand bereavement and loss, or to explore a recent spate of anxiety. In therapy there are many aspects of our lives, experiences and relationships which can be explored. Therapy emphasises the importance of exploring our minds, seeking truth or clarity and uncovering our past. This exploratory process takes place in the hope that we may unburden ourselves from a myriad of complex thoughts or feelings.
This is why imagination becomes so important in therapy, because it allows us to explore thoughts and experiences, which if shared in the outside world, may not be understood. Imagination enables us to view or interpret experiences with a variety of different lenses which we can alter, change or shift as our mind explores concepts further.
Why Imagination Matters
All of us hold the potential for imagination, creativity and reflective thought, and can benefit from thinking…
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August 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm
What a timely post for me – this helped me understand what my therapist was trying to get at in my last session, imagination-wise. I didn’t understand at all, and it was too much (and incredibly painful) at the time to imagine what she wanted me to imagine, but I think I will ask her to try again in the future because it obviously has benefits. Thanks for sharing. xx
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August 17, 2016 at 7:56 pm
Hi, I’m glad it was timely! Like you, earlier on I found it difficult to grab hold of what she was offering and difficult to understand how a poem, for example, could be helpful to me, but it happened gradually the longer I was in therapy. Partly I had to allow myself to accept these things as ‘legitimate’ aids to therapy and aids to creating a stronger, healthier me. I was suspicious of what I saw as ‘props’ or sticking plasters – these things had brought me comfort in the past and yet I ‘relapsed’, and so I was determined that somehow this time, I would ‘recover’ without these things. But creativity and imagination are a fundamental part of life and can be crucial to recovery – and I realised that this time things were different as I had far more self-awareness than before, and I understood _why_ certain words, poems etc were helpful. More importantly, that they were helpful not necessarily because they were ‘objectively true or special’ in some way, but because they helped me understand myself better, and because I could harness them to my growing sense of self, not the other way around. In thinking about why certain poems, pictures etc particularly appealed to me, I understood more about what was important to me, and why. Sorry, I’m not sure if any of that makes any sense! But I’m glad you are going to persevere 🙂
August 6, 2016 at 11:00 pm
Perfection. I bless you.
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August 17, 2016 at 7:47 pm
Thank you so much 🙂