What if I Have No Loving People to Recall or Imagine??
I have been listening to your Weight Loss guided imagery program and have noticed that there is a section that brings me great sadness. Saturday I was crying outright during the section and had great trouble getting on with my day. It is the part where you have me visualize all the loved ones helping me. There is no one there. I am alone. I don't know what to do - I believe the imagery is helping but this part is having a real negative impact on the rest. I would appreciate any advice.
Sorry you're having a hard time with that part of the audio. This sometimes happens to a certain percentage of people (a related question we hear a lot of is: “what if there’s no safe place?”). It's easy to get caught up in focusing on what you should have gotten, deserved to have gotten, but didn't get, and be flooded with all the sadness, anger and devastation of that. I have two things to suggest:
First, for the purposes of this imagery, it would help for you to choose in advance some authentically positive images - even if it's a tangential figure to your life, like a teacher, a grandparent, a coach, a little friend or a pastor that you didn't even have that much time with - but whose kindness you remember. The wonderful thing about imagery is, it doesn't matter how much actual time you had with them - even a fleeting contact that was loaded with emotional nourishment and support can be replayed, over and over, to fill up those empty spaces.
Often there's a pet - usually the family dog - that gets a kid through an ugly or loveless childhood, by providing the unconditional love and sensitivity that was missing in the adults involved.
Or sometimes it's an image of divine help that gets a kid through - a religious figure, like Jesus, or an angelic presence or even a special, magical being you invented as a kid - maybe an imaginary friend or an idealized image of someone else's parent. A lot of kids are sustained by their imaginations during difficult childhood years.
Or they have a sanctuary they go to, where they can feel safe and nurse their wounds... somewhere in nature or at somebody else's house.
So, my suggestion is to think back on what actually did get you through all those hard times, and very consciously pluck your image from there.
It doesn't have to be a loving parent or a fabulous spouse. Small things work for this too. And some people even imagine their adult selves, loving and supporting their child selves with the kind of nurture and care they wished they'd had. Any of these will work for the imagery.
If you veer off your focus and wind up feeling that intense sadness, to the degree that you can't focus on the imagery, then I'd just let yourself feel it - acknowledge it, feel it, and let it move through you without judging it. It won't last forever and it won't impair your ability to function as long as you don't fight it and just let it be. Then get back to the imagery when you're up for it.
I hope this helps. Please let me know how it goes.
Ed. Note: We heard back from Lauren that a friend reminded her that she has her and she would be happy to inhabit the imaginal support group of her imagery; and that this was her depression talking (exacerbated by some medical issues), and she needed to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm her. She felt that picking out figures in advance would work, and that animals have always been important to her.