These are all self-help methods, many of them involving
purely internal mental processes. As practitioner interventions, they really
fall within the next (the catalytic) chapter; see therein interventions nos. 8,
9 and 18, where you are enabling the client to work with emotions through the
use of some self-discovery technique. However, these methods are not simply
about working with distress emotions. Note that many of them are centrally
concerned with developing the self-transfiguring state of the person. They are
about deep levels of feeling, intuition, imagination, reflective contemplation
and intention - which ground us in our inherent spirituality (see Chapter 3, pp.
23-25). For a comprehensive map of spiritual and subtle states, and of methods
of spiritual transformation see Heron (1998).
1 Active symbolic re-vision. Invite clients to make an
art-form to re-evaluate their traumas. At the level of imagination, they give
symbolic form to any one or more of the distressed aspects of their life stories
(with both personal and cultural content). This is not a literal re-creation as
in psychodrama - which is a cathartic technique - but an imaginative restatement
and reformulation, expressed in music, in painting and drawing, in drama, in
dance and movement in poetry or in biographically based fiction.
The assumption here is that the organising power of the
imagination at level 3, with its latent archetypal content at level 4, can
reconstrue resident imagery at levels 1 and 2 so that its disorganising effect
on emotion is reduced.
2 Passive symbolic re-vision. Suggest to clients that
they attend selected artistic events. It is the incidental function of a great
deal of art, of which we are the spectators and/or audience, to have symbolic
transmutative power. For we iNew Page 1mplicitly project our own agendas into the poem,
drama, picture, music, dance, novel; and the more commanding the imaginative
power over form and process in these creations, the greater their effect in
reconstruing the resident imagery of our hidden distress agendas at levels 1 and
2, and in reorganising the associated emotions into a more harmonious mode.
3 Imaginal work with core passion and vision. The
client may have an imaginative vision of a certain possibility for his or her
life which has hovered in the sidelines for a long time, kept in the wings by
distressed attitudes. You can encourage the client to uncover, affirm, develop
and above all realize this vision, this central passion, this life-dream. Once
it is realized in living, then its formative presence, simply through the
process of living it, can work to reconstrue some of the resident imagery at
levels 1 and 2 and so transmute the negative energy of the distress associated
with it. This formative potential of soul I also call 'the archetype of personal
destiny': see catalytic intervention no. 15 (Chapter 9).
4 Imaginal restructuring of belief systems. Belief
systems are acquired at levels 1 and 2, are organized around deeply ingrained
perceptual imagery, and some are charged with distress emotion. This distress is
the glue holding together negative and restrictive beliefs, which limit how we
perceive ourselves, other people and the world. You support the client to use
creative, active imagination to restructure these restrictive beliefs into an
alternative system and re-educate his or her mind to perceive the world, to
feel, think and act within it, in terms of the new system (Heron, 1992, pp.
148-9). This system, generated at levels 3 and 4, starts to reconstrue resident
imagery at levels 1 and 2 and reduce its distorting effect on emotional energy.
5 Imaginal restructuring of self-perception. This is a
particular application of no. 4. When clients have a lot of negative emotions
about their self, as an alternative to discharging the distress of old external
invalidations which they have since internalised, you encourage them to see
their present state not as the distressed outcome of past oppression, but as the
receptive opening for liberating possibilities streaming in from the future; or
to see their shadow side not as something bad to be deprecated and cast out, but
as a loam or humus to be positively accepted as a nutrient source of growth; or
simply to focus in a sustained way on their strengths. This imaginal
restructuring of one's negative self-image is intended to transmute the distress
associated with it, whereas the use of contradiction (no. 13 in the cathartic
list, Chapter 7) is intended to discharge distress emotion.
6 Imaginal restructuring of events. Perception of
particular situations is at level 1, against the backdrop of level 2. When
clients perceive a particular situation as distressing, an alternative to
cathartic work on it is to invite them to reconstrue how they perceive the
situation. They hold the distress awarely in mind, without trying to do anything
directly to or with the emotion. Then, by an imaginal act at levels 3 and 4,
they learn to see the situation in a new light: its imagery is cast in a totally
different perspective of meaning. And this changes the organization of the
emotional energy attached to the old perspective. Thus a situation first
construed as a debilitating threat, can be re-construed as an invigorating
7 Reversing the image internal to distress. Distress
emotion itself has an image internal to it: something dark, murky, turgid,
agitated. Invite the client to take the focus of his or her attention right into
the heart of the murky distress emotion, and hold it there as the image of a
bright light bulb. If the client sustains this, gently but persistently for long
enough, the distress image will be completely reorganized into one of clarity,
and the distress emotion transmuted into positive emotion. The knack is to
maintain inner alertness without becoming entangled. This is an ancient oriental
8 Archetypal imagination. The client can explore his
or her own relation to archetypal images by an exercise in active imagination
about interacting with them. You can guide and prompt the client through a
conscious symbolic day-dream, a spontaneous, unscripted story of interweaving
with images of wisdom, folly, birth, death, necessity, man, woman, love, light,
darkness and so on. This will reconstrue lower level imagery and transmute its
associated emotional energies.
9 Charismatic expression. This is a dynamic way in
which the client can manifest their interaction with the archetypal parameters
of human existence. You invite the client to engage in here and now creative
improvisation, exploring their relationship with what there is - with being in
its many modes and dimensions - through the archetypal meaning of posture,
gesture, movement, sound and breath, and through the declaration of verbal
assertions and metaphors. This improvisation may include elements from nos. 10 -
13 inclusive below. For more on charismatic expression see the section below,
Such improvisation integrates the movement of immanent,
indwelling spiritual life with the impact of dynamic archetypes, transforming
lower-level imagery and transmuting emotional energies. A similar effect, though
less powerful, is through traditional formalized and pre-designed systems of
posture and movement such as Tantric mudras and Tai Chi. A halfway house between
the improvised and the formalized is found in my workshops on charismatic
training (for a full account see Heron, 1999, Chapter 12).
10 Reflective contemplation. Invite the client to
dwell reflectively in archetypal symbols such as mandalas, the tetragrammaton
and others, to achieve a subtle transmutative effect. This reflective indwelling
means allowing the symbol to resonate with associations and meanings within the
depths of the mind.
11 Disidentification. Invite the client to invoke the
archetype of his or her self as a principality and power of consciousness that
is beyond the range and claims of distress emotions. 'My everyday self has
distress emotions; I am not distress emotions; I am consciousness as such.' More
generally, invite the client to trace his or her 'I' to its source in an
absolute, ineffable awareness beyond all name and form. This transcendental
perspective reorganizes lower-level imagery and emotional energy.
12 Cosmic identification. Invite the client to invoke
archetypal knowledge of the universe as a vast interrelated system on many
levels and with many dimensions of being, by declaring - in speech, gesture
posture and movement - an identification with this, that or the other entity,
presence, principality or power. Again this perspective rearranges the resident
imagery on levels 1 and 2, and reorganizes the energy of any distress emotion
associated with that imagery.
13 Worship. Invite the client to open to ecstatic
encounter with the transcendental Thou through praise, high prayer, numinous
adoration; and in everyday life, to practise enjoying the presence of God/dess
as the reality of interconnectedness, as the go-between divinity.
14 Concentration. Invite the client to hold attention
focused for a long time on one image, whether physically perceived or mentally
visualized, and to trace that image back to its original source in
consciousness-as-such, thus entering a primordial perspective that reorganizes
lower-level imagery and its associated emotional energy.
15 Witnessing. Invite the client simply to notice and
watch and not identify at all with distress emotion, so that the imagery that
generates it will be reconstrued enough for it to transmute. A less focused
version of no. 7.
16 Switching. Invite the client to switch out of a
situation or activity charged with the projected distress of one sort of
resident imagery, and to move into another kind of situation or activity charged
with the positive emotion of another kind of resident imagery. This may kick
back some rearrangement to the abandoned area.
17 The transmutative process cue. Sometimes the client
spontaneously assumes a posture or makes a gesture that has spiritual
significance, like a mudra, one of the consciousness-changing postures in
oriental yoga. You can ask them to stay with it and develop it, finding the
words that go with it. This may be the start of transmutative work. More
imperceptibly, there may be a significant pause: a silence that is luminous with
18 The transmutative content cue. Occasionally, the
client may unintentionally say a word or a phrase, or cut a sentence short, in a
way that reveals a sudden breakthrough into an altered state of consciousness.
The slight and brief aperture will close again quickly, so you move deftly and
invite the person to repeat and elaborate the words, expanding awareness into an
extraordinary state through the unexpected gap.