Unpleasant memories can be hard to handle. They can creep into your mind as nasty images, often in the middle of the night, and won’t go away. You may find yourself replaying over and over again an upsetting row with your horrid parent, or an argument or unpleasant encounter you experienced outside the family.
The positive news is that there is a way to try and reduce the power of these images.
It is called visualization and is a technique that uses imagery to soothe and manage painful memories. It can work by itself or be combined with relaxation, mindfulness or meditation.
To try it out find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably, close your eyes and breathe slowly and regularly, easing your stress and tension each time you breathe out. Do this a few times and then think of an image you find relaxing. It can be a place you have visited, or just somewhere that makes you feel safe. Maybe it’s a particular beach or a countryside view you love and relax in.
Alternatively you can choose to visualize a painting or photograph that gives you pleasure. Look at the details carefully or imagine yourself as part of the image. Take you pick and see what works for you.
If you try visualisation regularly it can help you in all sorts of ways.
Here are a couple of examples.
Coping with a low mood.
If you feel particularly sad, choose images that help you relax and picture yourself feeling happy, perhaps with a particular friend. Alternatively think of a recent time when you felt cheerful and remind yourself that you can feel the same way again.
Dealing with angry feelings
Think about the most relaxing and soothing image you can picture. Perhaps travelling to a remote and peaceful beauty spot where you can unwind.
If the unpleasant images and thoughts continue, try thinking that they don’t belong to you but you are watching them on television and turn the volume down or change the channel.