Do You Need Insight on “Why” in Order to Change?


Hi, Belleruth.

I believe my insomnia comes from deep-rooted fears. I’m fearful but not what you’d call phobic. I do not fear leaving the house. And I do not have panic attacks. But I am a generally worried person, who sees the world as a dangerous place and whose fears keep me up at night.I believe I would have to have some guided imagery that addresses fears or lack of. Which do you suggest?

Thanks in advance, Greg

Dear Greg,

I’m really glad you asked about this, because (a) I have some straightforward suggestions for you, and (b) it gives me an excuse to jump on a favorite soap box and correct a common misunderstanding lots of people have, that it always takes insight to heal or change.’ It’s how my whole generation of psychotherapists was taught, and how many of us still practice our craft. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Even if your insomnia does come from deep-rooted fears, you may not need to investigate them, understand them or root them out of your psyche in order to start getting a good night’s sleep... maybe, but not necessarily.

That insight-oriented, psychodynamic style of treatment, founded on the notion that understanding the cause is key to creating a shift, doesn’t perform any better on therapeutic outcomes than a behavioral style of therapy, which basically says change your behavior/focus of attention/body awareness and your psyche will follow. In fact, in many studies, the behavioral approaches have the edge, on both the speed and the degree of change that happens.

So the good news is, listening to guided imagery or meditation is a form of behavioral therapy that creates change from the outside in. It can entrain a more relaxed breathing pattern, relax your muscles, shift your focus of attention away from your busy, worrying, agitated mind – and help you fall asleep.

And of course, once you start getting good sleep, you get a whole host of related benefits and changes resulting from no longer being sleep deprived, depressed, cranky and cognitively impaired.

So for all these reasons, I recommend, first and foremost, our Healthful Sleep imagery for going at this behaviorally. It’s simpler and if it works, why, that’s all you might need.

If you still want to better understand the why’s and wherefores of the problem, I’d suggest either therapy with a live human; or a guided imagery exercise that leads you into an imaginal dialogue with someone or something that could provide answers - a wisdom figure, your inner child or your body, for example.

For that, I recommend William De Foore’s Nurturing Your Inner Child; or you could try our Unlocking Intuition guided imagery set, where the 3rd or 4th exercises can be used for this; or, Martin Rossman’s guided imagery audios, which use this device of evoking an “inner advisor” very effectively.

And finally, there are journaling exercises that use a very specific protocol to create an internal dialogue – again, between you and another part of yourself, your body, a wisdom figure, a parent – you name it - and this technique also produces insight in surprising and marvelous ways. For this, I suggest Ira Progroff’s book, At a Journal Writing Workshop.

Hope this helps. Best of luck to you.