The following is the first of a series I intend to write on guided imagery – also known as guided affective therapy or katathym imaginative therapy – as a psychotherapeutic device. Although punctuated and (hopefully!) free from any major grammatical errors, it’s essentially a free-writing recollection of my therapy sessions in which this technique was used.
I am told there is a house on a hill. Can I see it in my mind?
Close eyes, lean back head, breathe deeply. But eventually…yes. Yes, I can.
And am I willing to agree to a guide taking me around the house, but let my own mind decide the specifics of the house’s aesthetics?
I draw breath, and close my eyes briefly in contemplation. But yes. Yes, I am.
A path winds up the hill towards the house, a little fence running at a right angle to where I’m standing. What colour is the fence? I don’t know – I can see it, yes, but I don’t really see it. No matter – one thing I do know is that it has a gate, and the path continues through it up to the door of the house.
The house is alone in the vicinity. Aside from the grass that surrounds it on all sides and the fence, the area in which the house stands is entirely devoid of features.
Walk up the path, says a voice from somewhere in the distance.
The gate’s in the way, I tell it.
Open it. I do, and when the voice instructs me to continue along the path towards the door, once more I dutifully obey.
The voice asks what colour the door is? Does it have any other attributes – a knocker, a postbox?
It’s black, I think, and there’s a grandiose knocker. The voice asks me to describe this, which I do. I describe the postbox, the panelling of the door. It’s fascinatingly well-appointed.
And then it tells me: open it. Open the door.
Somewhere, I feel the furrow of a puzzled frown. I speak. Not think words and sentences, as it has felt I’ve done hitherto, but speak them aloud.
I always knew this was the endgame, or at least a focal point. But I feel incredulous even so.
“Yes, open it,” a man says aloud, in the same ‘new’ way as I have spoken.
I see flashes of ordinary life. A banal room, its walls adorned with non-descript pastelly colours. A bay window looking onto a bustling street.
My reticence is noticed. “It’s OK,” the man says. “It’s safe to open the door.”
The door reappears in front of me. I take a deep breath, and push it with a slightly wavering right hand. I close my eyes tight in psychological preparation.
I push it. It is locked. The door is locked.
I relay this information to my guide, the voice. For a minute, there is only silence, and that banal room and that boringly ordinary street slide into view. I feel my eyes move from the windows to the area opposite me. The man sits there, with a rather befuddled expression on his face. He sees me looking at him and says, “you have a key.”
So I return to the door, slowly and deliberately unlocking it, eyes wide shut in continuing trepidation.
And I push it, wondering – simultaneously feeling curiosity and an inherent sense of ominousness – what fate awaits me within.
The door opens.
This series continues here.
Picture credit: see outgoing link. Image modified by me.