When I was a little girl I had a favorite tree. It was nestled deep in the forest behind my house. It’s beautiful, massive, strong root system jetted straight out from the soil, creating a network of limbs over the creek below. I would climb into those roots, sitting on my very own nature’s bench, suspended over the rushing creek, to dangle my feet in the icy water below. I could sit there for what seemed like hours, relaxed, calm, lost in the mystical world of my imagination. Sometimes late at night, when the old farmhouse was creaking, and every shadow made my heart pound stronger, I would imagine that I was back in the protection of my tree. Little did I know that I was practicing my own form of “special place” guided imagery. I was traveling back to my “special place” in my imagination in order to feel more calm, secure and relaxed.
Finding your own special place using guided imagery is a popular technique. It is beneficial for some of the following reasons:
- Security. It allows your child to create a safe place in his mind that he can return to whenever he is needing a boost of feeling safe and secure.
- Predictability. The special place only changes if your child decides that it should. Practicing special place guided imagery and repeating the exercise over time works to establish a predictable environment in the imagination. This is especially useful in times of transition or disorganization/chaos.
- Container. Completing a special place guided imagery script gives the child a container to feel safe in. There are boundaries and the special place is just that, a specifically identified space where your child can depend on knowing where it begins and ends and all the things within it.
- Power/Control. Special place guided imagery meets the need to have power/control and influence over one’s own environment. By imagining a special place, you have the power to create anything you would like in that place. No one is invited into your special place without your permission. If you are a child who is highly sensitive to others’ invasion of your personal space or has had difficulty with others invading personal space without permission, then this activity helps to re-build the sense of power/control/influence over your own personal space.
- Positive Viewpoint. Special place guided imagery can be used to shift a negative viewpoint or fixation on the negative things in life to more a positive perspective. What a wonderful tool to use when you need a shift, as most of us do from time to time.
- Neural Net. Brain science and the phenomenon of brain plasticity, suggest that the neural nets in the brain, i.e. the firing connections between groups of neurons (brain cells), is strengthened through rehearsal and repetition. This research shows that the brain actually molds itself around repetitive firing patterns between brain cells. What this means for relaxation practice is that the more you rehearse feeling good, calm and relaxed in your mind, the more you will establish an automatic neural net that fires when you start to practice. The neural net will build around the connections of visiting a special place and feeling good. Practice and repeat this over time and, soon, simply thinking about your special place will elicit feelings of relaxation, regardless of whether you do the entire guided imagery script or not. What a lovely association.
- Creativity. Special place guided imagery is a creative experience. Closing your eyes and having the opportunity to create a place unique for yourself is hugely creative and greases the wheels of the imagination. Depending on the script used, your child has the opportunity to add waterfalls, planets, trees, dessert sand at will, the options for creative expression are limitless.
Try out this “special place” guided imagery script to start: