Recently I created a visualization to evoke the memory of what it feels like to see possibility rather than limitation. This was based on an experience that I recalled having myself, many years ago. At the time I wanted to change several things about my life, including moving to another state. But I was feeling stuck. STUCK. The word itself is evocative for me of the feelings attached to it – weighed down, encumbered, restricted, limited. There were several factors contributing to my situation at the time, most of them external. But one afternoon I found myself considering things in a new way. I saw new possibilities opening up and I began questioning my perception of being stuck and the beliefs I had about my situation and myself that kept me feeling stuck.
It was not that the contributing factors were gone, not at all, but somehow I was looking at things in a new way, and feeling differently about my own capacity to meet them. One of the things that has stayed with me most of all about that experience is how this felt in my body and changed my outlook. I was thinking more creatively, questioning my beliefs, considering whom I might engage to help me, thinking out of the box (I had felt I was in). And my body felt lighter, more open, less constricted. Because I had been carrying these feelings around in my body and my body was reflecting feeling stuck and limited back to me, reinforcing the state I was in.
Although a very different situation existed for me back then when I had this experience, and this was the inspiration for the visualization, after creating it I began to think that it might be useful now, considering the external limitations many are experiencing currently due to Covid-19, and all the myriad ways this is affecting people’s personal and professional lives. The fact is, no matter what the external environment is giving us, this is always only a part of the picture. It is our inner environment – how we perceive our world, feel about ourselves, process emotions and ideas, sense and carry emotions in our bodies – that also matters, and affects how we perceive and then respond to the outer conditions.
The purpose of this visualization is to remind one of the cognitive and somatic experiences involved in the perception of feeling stuck and then unstuck, of perceiving limitation and then possibility. Because remembering this in the body will reinforce our perceptions, and we can choose to see possibilities where we saw limitations.
Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your hands resting in your lap or on your thighs. Breathe easily and naturally, preferably through your nose only, without forcing any kind of rhythm. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths and bring yourself to this present moment of sitting and being.
Rest in your body as you recall a time in your life when you felt stuck, unable to move forward or to create what you wanted. If something else comes to mind that fits your definition of stuck, then follow what appears for you. As you imagine this time in your life, picture yourself as you appeared then or describe it in words to yourself. Or do both if that feels natural to do.
As you recall how it felt to be in that place, continue to breathe easily and naturally as you tune into your body, and notice where this memory of stuck lands in your body, where it might have even been stored in your body. What sensations are present now? Continue to breathe gently as you do a brief body scan, noticing where the sensations of feeling stuck are remembered in your body. Choose a word, color, symbol, and/or shape that represents this for you.
Continue to breathe naturally as you shift your focus to recalling what shifted or opened for you that relieved your feeling that you were stuck. Can you recall the moment when you saw or felt that new possibility open up for you? How did it manifest for you? Where did the change come from? What did it feel like? Picture yourself as you looked then as you experienced this or describe it in words to yourself as you recall how this felt to you. Check-in with your body as you continue to breathe – where does this remembered sensation of possibility, (feel free to substitute whatever word works for you here), land in you now? Is there a memory of this sensation in your body as well? Choose a word, color, shape, and/or symbol for this feeling/sensation.
Take a few breaths as you ease yourself back to a full awareness of yourself sitting in the present moment. Slowly when you are ready, open your eyes. Before you get up and resume other activities, if you are able, take a little more time to contemplate your choice of words, symbols, colors, or shapes for each of the feeling states you just visualized and felt. How are they different or similar? What do they mean to you? Feel free to journal about any part of your experience, or make a picture – of/about it, or to find a movement that expresses it. There is no one watching, no one to judge. Find something – an action or an object – that will remind you of this experience.
This way of connecting with your experience can be a resource for you. You might want to share your experience with a trusted friend who can support you, brainstorm with you, etc. Perhaps you set aside 5 or 10 minutes a day where you brainstorm ideas with no censor or judge to address something specific. Or perhaps you simply allow yourself to enjoy the sensations and experience of remembering the feeling of openness and possibility and allow this to feed you, as an act of self-care.
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Debra Vivi Steinfeld, MS, ATR, LMHC-QS, I am an artist, registered art psychotherapist, licensed mental health counselor, and qualified supervisor in the state of Florida. I specialize in navigating all the facets of life stage changes and both chosen and unexpected life transitions.