Guided Imagery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are some really good conditions for making my imagery as effective as possible?
Being relaxed; listening at a time you know you won’t be interrupted; shutting off the phone and other devices; using the half-awake, trancey times when just waking up or falling asleep; listening even if you only have 5 minutes, rather than waiting for a time with the full 20 minutes; using all of your senses, especially your kinesthetic or feeling sense; continued practice; going to the same place with the same music or props each time; using touch as a conditioning cue (such as putting your hands over your belly each time, and breathing deeply); not trying too hard or being too exacting about how you do this. Practicing with a group of people also helps.
Is imagery the same as self-hypnosis?
Yes, in a sense it is, but hypnosis is really a broader, umbrella category that includes verbal suggestion and thoughts without images along with guided imagery. For instance, telling yourself in the altered state that you'll be calm and confident qualifies as self-hypnosis. Seeing yourself that way, in sights, sounds or feelings is imagery. Although hypnosis also uses images, it isn't limited to them. And some forms of hypnosis are more directive than guided imagery, which leans more on suggestion and invitation.
How is imagery different from meditation?
Meditation is also a broader category that includes guided imagery. Imagery is a form of meditation, because meditation is any kind of deliberate focus, usually on just one thing or a very narrow band of things. This clears the mind, slows it down and calms and strengthens the meditator. For most westerners, imagery is a little easier to work with, more absorbing and appealing than the more stringent mindfulness meditation, which requires more discipline and practice with most people.
How often should I practice my imagery?
Everyone's needs are different, but you might want to start out a couple of times a day for about 15 minutes each time for 3 or 4 weeks. First thing in the morning and just before falling asleep at night are usually convenient and particularly potent times for imagery, but any time is a good time, and some time is always better than no time, so listen whenever you can. The more you do it, the less time it will take for it to have an impact.
Do I have to believe it will work for it to work?
No. You just have to give it a try, as openly and receptively as you can, putting your analytic mind on hold, and preferably try it more than just once. Skill improves with practice. But a lot of skeptics end up really happy with what guided imagery does for them.
Is this an ability some are born with and others aren't?
No. Anyone can do this to some degree, although it does come more easily to some than to others. And anyone can improve with practice, sometimes quite a bit. But some people simply prefer other techniques, such as biofeedback or acupuncture or mindfulness meditation, and there’s no reason to go against the grain if there is a method that’s more compatible that achieves the same ends.
How do kids do with guided imagery?
Kids are naturals at this, responding to guided imagery easily and intensely, because they haven't had time to be acculturated away from this natural, inborn ability. Contrary to what many people assume, adolescents are excellent candidates for guided imagery , probably due, at least in part, to all those trancy hormones coursing through their overheated little veins. So don’t forget to try or recommend this to teens, especially to help them with something they care a lot about, such as social confidence, sports performance or test-taking.