Engaging with the power of imagination

creative imaginationOur  ability to engage with imagination is what distinguishes us from all other species. But it is something we have rarely been taught how to work with. Our ability to compute and to analyse (the typical left side of the brain functions) have been well developed in our education systems, but not our capacity for imagination.

If we think of this in terms of the elements, then air, and perhaps fire, have traditionally been the dominant elements in our socialisation. Air encompasses intellect, computing and analysis whilst fire brings confidence and risk-taking. These are all great qualities and have served us well in creating everything that surrounds us. The trouble may come when we are not balanced as individuals. The ability to have grounding experiences (earth) and to process our feelings and emotions (water) have largely been left to extra curricular activities. Meditation and yoga practice are now everywhere, admittedly, even in primary schools, but there is still a long way to go before we can begin to see a more holistic approach to teaching and learning in the education sector.

Here is an exercise on trying to engage with the active imagination. A preamble for working this way would involve taking some mindful steps in becoming receptive by undertaking some deep breathing exercises. The following questions could act as a guide:

1. What are your current main stressors?

2. How does this affect your body?

3. It is like ……?

4. Is there a memory where you felt like this before?

5. If this symptom was a friend what might it say about your life?

(This exercise might not, however, be suitable for people who might be experiencing psychotic symptoms).

Seeking to engage with an exercise like this can help to produce images and symbols which can help bypass mental defences, when the thinking function is dominant. So often we can feel stuck in our minds, whether it is worrying about things that haven’t happened, or tiring ourselves out by searching online for more and more explanations to questions that are hard to answer.

For more on this topic see my latest article on Engaging with the power of imagination to help ease anxiety.


Creating greater connection with essence to better cope with triggers to addictive processes

Creating  greater connection with essence to better cope with

triggers to addictive processes

Addictive processes workshop

What? an experiential workshop

Where? CCPE, 2 Warwick Crescent, London W2 6NE (see map below)

When? 29 & 30 November, 2014

  • Having gained insight from how to deal with addictive processes, are you now ready to look deeper within?
  • Would you like to connect more with your essence so that you can better deal with difficult reoccurring feelings and explore how such difficult feelings can impact on your sense of a safe place within yourself?
  • Would you like to gain greater clarity about your triggers to addictive behaviours using creative imagination, music as a symbol and drawing?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above then this workshop may be for you. Connecting with your essence will allow you the opportunity to see your struggles in a different, clearer light and enable you to find inside yourself the guide you need. In this workshop, you will use visualisation, image work and music as a symbol to identify with different states of consciousness to get to know a deeper part of yourself in a simple and safe way.

The workshop will be facilitated by myself. I am a trainee psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience in 12 steps recovery, and this project is part of the requirements for my final year for the Diploma in Psychotherapy at CCPE in London.

The cost for the two day workshop is £80, or £60 if booked by 3 October, 2014. In order to book a place, please contact Noel Bell at noel@noelbell.net or call 07852 407140

This workshop is limited to six participants.

Requirements: You will need to be in personal therapy in order to attend the workshop.


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Transpersonal Psychotherapy – Jungian Approaches to Imaging and Symptoms as Symbols

Jung and Symbolic Language

We are now returning to the more transpersonal focused material on the course.  We had  a strong taster in the first year during a week of creative imagination, which I personally found very powerful and transformative. Perhaps that week, upon reflection, was the foundation of the whole course for we had learned the fundamentals about working with the imagination. 

I have enjoyed the psychoanalytical theory thus far on the course and the existentialist lectures that formed a bridge from psychoanalysis to the transpersonal.  Now we are about to embark on the work of transpersonal authors such as Ken Wilber, and work with the Chakras, the planes of consciousness and the alchemical journey.   But first,  we had a lecture on Jungian approaches to imaging and symptoms as symbols

Symbolic language is the language of the soul. Remember that the shadow is not always negative.  The shadow contains all that is unconscious and might contain a positive quality.  For instance, being able to receive and acknowledge praise from others could be in the shadow as that person might not be able to easily receive compliments.

What does an image stir in you?  This is where advertising agencies have traditionally been particularly clever in targeting consumers with advertisements to sell expensive goods and services. Once you become conscious and discover what the symbol is all about it then will leave your psyche. A repetitive dream means we are not getting the message which our unconscious is sending us. In that case the image or symbol will continue to bang on the door.

Symbols and images can lead us into active imagination. Active imagination is a massive landscape containing all collective unconscious, where archetypes live and it is where Maslow referred to peak experiences.  What defines transpersonal psychotherapy is the defining orientation of the therapist namely that the client is a spiritual being.  Transpersonal psychotherapists share a lot of common ground with therapists from other schools in the way they will reflect back material to the client, mirror to the client, engage in active listening, holding and containing and so on. But the defining difference in transpersonal psychotherapy is the active seeking for the spiritual dimension.

you should be guided by the client.

It is dangerous to interpret symbols and images particularly from dreams.  You should be guided by the client. What do the presenting images and symbols mean to the client? Our job, however, as therapist is to help decode the symbols and messages from the inner world that are manifesting in the physical world. How can I help a particular client secure meaning for a particular symbol or image at this particular stage of their life? Reading a dictionary of images might inform your knowledge on the subject but might also produce the risk that you jump to conclusions.

How to work with the active imagination?

We can explore initially through association and interpretation as clients need insight. We can explore what is happening in the body. The aim is to associate where energies are getting tied up with particular symbols. Can we help clients to reclaim energy that is stifled elsewhere?

Here is an exercise on working with the active imagination. Take some mindful steps to becoming receptive by deep breathing.

1. What is your current main stressors?

2. How does it affect your body?

3. It is like ……?

4. Is there a memory where you felt like this before?

5. If this symptom was a friend what might it say about your life?

Then work with the images that come up. This exercise might help to bypass the defences with a client. Obviously one needs to tread carefully here when dealing with clients who might be experiencing psychotic symptoms.

Additional resources:

Some interesting quotes from the lecture:

Seyyed Hossein Nasr Man does not make symbols, he is transformed by them.

Myth consists of symbols that have not been invented consciously, they have just happened.  Jung

Erich Fromm  All myths have one thing in common; they are all written in same language namely symbolic language.  Symbolic language is a language in which inner experiences, feelings, and thoughts are expressed as if they were sensory experiences. It is a language which has a different logic to the one we speak in the day time. It is a logic in which time and space are not the ruling categories but intensity and association are.


Contacting your Inner Wisdom with Transpersonal Psychotherapy

I attended a fourth year student project at the weekend and the theme of the event was about contacting your inner wisdom using mindfulness techniques.  Students at the CCPE are required to complete a fourth year project to meet the requirements of their transpersonal psychotherapy diploma training. You can attend one of these by paying a nominal fee (that covers the cost of the room hire) and in return you get the opportunity to explore a personal issue in a safe and supportive environment.  We started the project by listening to classical music, to engage left side of the brain, and over the course of the two days we undertook guided visualisation, meditation using candle fire, psychodrama and drawing.

I am always amazed at the feedback I receive from others at what my subconscious throws up facilitated by the excellent Massimo Pamitsch.

Transpersonal Psychotherapy is often considered the new kid on the block. But visualisations, guided imagery, studies on the planes of consciousness and altered states of consciousness have been around for years. After all, Ibn Arabi was talking about these things in the 13th century. Perhaps we should see Transpersonal Psychotherapy as containing the a body of knowledge that is the oldest, not the newest?

But as soon as I think I can define Transpersonal Psychotherapy  then I am entering deep water.  It is to be felt, not defined or explained. My drawings (above) will probably testify to that.