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.


Setting goals: Identify with your saboteur in psychotherapy

Identify your saboteur in psychotherapyThis past weekend we had a two day experiential workshop on the psychology of accomplishment, a mandatory part of the diploma course. However, you do not need to be a student at the CCPE in order to attend a weekend course like this.  If you wanted to attend you could come as a member of the public and sit with diploma students.

The power of the weekend was to identify the role of my inner critic, the little voice that says ‘give up now’ and to strive to continue to manifest the qualities to continue to boost my confidence, belief and esteem.

I had previously attended a life coaching course in London which was run by the Coaching Academy.  That particular course had incorporated a lot of NLP tools and techniques such as the timeline exercise, the GROW model, the comfort zone exercise and the Wheel of Life exercise.  I was, therefore, intrigued whether there would be much overlap with the transpersonal psychotherapy view of goal setting.

The weekend comprised of the following:

  • The art of choosing a goal.
  • What stops us from choosing right goal and why we fail to achieve the goal.
  • The role of concentration, meditation and dreams in achieving our goal.
  • Planning, motivation, sacrifice and completion.
  • The role of perseverance and how to develop it.

The Elements Model in its current form is unique to the CCPE‘s transpersonal approach to understanding personality as ‘an individual’s unique expression of the divine’; its focus is unfolding qualities (Gruber, 2007). The aim of the Elements Model is to bring balance and harmony between the elements.  As a result, a lot of the work in therapy is to assess where your potential is in relation to the elements.

Accomplishment has three paths:

1) The path of the Master: This is the striving for expertise and reward. The master will employ a force of will to make things happen.

2) The path of the Saint: This can manifest as a commitment to a cause such as to an environmental cause such as Greenpeace. There is an inner discipline and self sacrifice.

3) The path of the Prophet: One can have power but also have humility to not abuse the power.

Earth qualities

Earth qualities can involve conserving, guarding, control, patience, perseverance  and thoroughness. For instance, do you have the patience to see a goal through to the end and persevere? Do you tend to cut corners and often fail to have the thoroughness to maintain energy levels? Can you protect your idea or goal from other people’s negativity?

Water qualities

Water qualities involve the ability to sacrifice, engage with creativity and emotion (love). These qualities are crucial in seeing your goal through.

Fire qualities

Fire qualities include having hope, faith, courage, independence, power, self-confidence and dedication.  These qualities help develop your initial idea and bring it into reality. You need to engage your fire in order to win others over and to make things happen.

Air qualities

Air qualities include the ability to discriminate and concentrate as well as having the wisdom, clarity and intuition to both set and achieve goals.What are my strengths and weaknesses?  Richard Branson is apparently very good at knowing what he does not do well. He will delegate those things and stick to what he knows best.

we might all have these qualities but they are

often hidden

In transpersonal psychotherapy there is a process of transformation through manifesting qualities. We might all have these qualities but they are invariably hidden, latent or undiscovered.  A transpersonal psychotherapist will use integrative tools and techniques and borrow from the Psychodynamic, Humanist and Existential schools in dealing with our psychological wounds and in uncovering potential.

Real power is a balance between your powerful energy and intelligence. Setting a goal was similar to the SMART principles of the GROW model in that your goals need to be achievable, measurable and realistic.

there are not many shoulds in psychotherapy

but here is one here

There are not many shoulds in psychotherapy but our hand-out referred to once you having started upon the path to your goal, you must attain it. The hand-out also stated that we should not change goals until they are finished, otherwise it would represent an incomplete Gestalt. Leaving a goal unfinished is damaging to the psyche whereas accomplishing a goal gives you power and confidence.

The process of accomplishment is always more important than in actually achieving the goal.  Our nature influences our goals.  Do you know yourself?  Our accomplishments are largely a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. We are far more capable than we imagine. The goal is psychotherapy, after all, is to accomplish mastery, to become the person we can really be.

 to know our old negative life scripts is to free up choices and give us freedom

Where do we trip ourselves up?  Where is the limiting belief? Have we located our saboteur?  To know our old negative life scripts is to free up choices in the present and give us freedom.  Our old psychological wounds need healing, just like scar tissue needs healing.

I got in touch with my saboteur through meditation and reflection in my workshop and I was given the above image (which I drew badly).  The remedy for recovery is consciousness.  The word recovery comes from the old latin word recupaire, meaning to recuperate and to regain consciousness

The tools and techniques on the planning and the execution of the goal were akin to the guidelines as set out in any coaching text book and echoed the thoughts of any personal development coach such as Brian Tracy or Tony Robins.  Examples would be the need for proper planning, action, self discipline, time management, self discrimination and self confidence.  There were also elements of NLP in imagining and dealing with limiting beliefs.

Where the material differed was in the spiritual aspect of goal setting and in where goals can find us, rather than in us setting the goals.  What is our divine journey?  Where have we set goals that differed from our life scripts?  What makes someone like a highly paid banker decide to quit and work instead with kids, for a fraction of their old salary? Or make a sibling choose a different career from the career which the family have chosen for centuries? These examples might be evidence of people getting in touch with their essence.

I managed to make an achievable realistic goal to be met by November 2013.  So, I am off to start the process …….

See here for a list of future events. Attending a course like this would offer the opportunity to explore whether the CCPE could be the place for you to study, or merely an opportunity for you to work on something purely from a personal development point of view.


Feel the Fear and do it anyway
Brain Tracy talks about keys to success
The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always get what you want



What is the Elements Model and how useful is it in Psychotherapy?

Have you ever wondered what the Elements Model is and how useful is it in Psychotherapy? Or indeed have you ever heard of the Elements Model?

The Elements Model, devised by CCPE, is a transpersonal integrative approach to understanding of personality and emphasises the potential of clients. The Elements Model indicates that whilst we might have a particular orientation, we can develop other parts for a more balanced type. This is different to what Jung believed.  For Jung, we have a type of personality in that in some areas of our life, we are extroverted but introverted in other areas. The Elements Model has 3 positions: expressive, receptive and balanced.  Therefore, the model comprises twelve types in all, master, prophet and saint. However, no one is a pure type in this model as oscillate between different positions.


1. air (expressive, receptive, balanced)

2. fire (expressive, receptive, balanced)

3. water (expressive, receptive, balanced)

4. earth (expressive, receptive, balanced)

The focus of the Elements Model is on unfolding qualities

The Elements Model in its current form is unique to the CCPE‘s transpersonal approach to understanding personality as ‘an individual’s unique expression of the divine’; its focus is unfolding qualities (Gruber, 2007). The aim of the Elements Model is to bring balance and harmony between the elements. Speaking one’s truth (fire quality) without sensitivity and empathy (water qualities) can become blunt hurtfulness and arrogance. In transpersonal therapy the therapist must then identify the quality that is needed to restore balance. The aim of everyone is to be the Prophet, can they either be master or saint. This is done in stages and several rules apply. However, developing a new element is the most difficult thing to do. One should try to balance an element that is already strong before trying to develop a new element.

In order to develop latent qualities, it is necessary to see those qualities in another person. The one who sees beauty becomes beautiful. The therapist assesses with the client which quality is needed to enable them to deal more effectively with the problem. The Elements Model is thus a holistic health model that affirms existing qualities within a person and is underpinned with a belief in human potential – a potential that has its roots in our essential spiritual nature.

neither evidence-based, nor underpinned by science

I like an approach that affirms existing qualities and one in which focuses on potential. Critics of the Elements Model, however, suggest that being unique to CCPE renders it of limited use in a multidisciplinary setting. It is neither evidence-based, nor underpinned by science, but encourages observation and inner knowing rather than learned knowledge. Critics also argue that those with borderline personality or psychotic symptoms are not appropriate candidates for transpersonal therapy techniques because of the potential for ego defences to be overwhelmed. But these conditions are probably relative contraindications at best. However, for Linehan , she used mindfulness techniques and visualisation with borderline patients in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and suggested that even patients with fragile or unstable ego functioning can benefit from such work.

when and indeed how I intervene is what makes psychotherapy an art form

Transpersonal psychotherapy is not alone in encompassing spirituality into treatment. Other modalities allow for the spiritual in their therapeutic approach but transpersonal psychotherapy actively involves the spiritual element in the client work. However, bodywork and meditation can only give me images and these must reflect the client narrative.  I may have all sorts of theories in my head and techniques up my sleeve but these will be redundant if I am not truly conscious in the therapeutic relationship. However, when and indeed how I intervene is what makes psychotherapy an art form. If I was interested in purely evidenced based interventions then I might have studied clinical psychology instead.