From the Humanist Health News Network REHUNO Health we are setting up a place of exchange where there is a new look at everyday life based on an experiential and existential psychology (the Psychology of New Humanism), which provides us with a perspective and proposals for personal work so that we can find a full meaning to our existence and a life free of unnecessary charges and suffering. It is not, therefore, a therapeutic psychology or one that deals with any pathology, but is aimed at anyone who wants to understand themselves and have the tools, if they so wish, to initiate a positive change in their lives. Psychological wellbeing is undoubtedly one of the foundations of integral health, which is why it is an aspect that must be addressed.
By Jordi Jiménez
We invite you to put these proposals into practice and also to contact us and tell us about your experience. Write to us!
Introduction to the series “Psychology of New Humanism”.
In this new series of articles, we will review some of the theoretical topics of this school of existential psychology and show different applications and exercises that anyone can do in their daily life. They will be a good support to understand what happens to us, to overcome difficulties and to positively modify our relationship with the world around us. Some of the topics we will deal with are the following:
- Mental images and their function
- The energetic circuit in the human being and its centres of response
- Physical and mental relaxation
- Coherence and happiness: principles for a coherent life
- Breathing and mindfulness
- Gratitude and asking as a daily attitude
- Levels of consciousness and dream interpretation
- Failures and reveries
- Learning to resist violence
- Role models and inner Guides
- Love, reconciliation, assumptions, possession and other topics of interest in our daily life.
We hope you like it and find it useful.
The role of mental imagery
One of the fundamental mechanisms of human consciousness is its capacity to elaborate mental images in response to external and internal stimuli. These images serve the function of precipitating the body to move that response to the external (or internal) world. For example, if I have a feeling of hunger (internal stimulus), my consciousness elaborates an image of the fridge or perhaps of a restaurant, and this image is what precipitates my body in that direction so that the unpleasant stimulus disappears.
Even if we call it a “mental image”, these re-presentations are not only visual: there are auditory, tactile, olfactory, etc. Any of us can imagine music or remember a smell, or imagine the texture of an object. They are all images and this imaginative capacity allows us to project, foresee, plan, but also to remember or rescue from the past and, of course, to create, invent and move forward into the future.
We can now demonstrate to ourselves the characteristics of the image (in this case we will do it with the visual one). For example, we close our eyes and imagine that in front of us there is a… pink elephant. Already? Perhaps the image of an inflated air balloon in the shape of a pink elephant appears, or the image of a live elephant painted pink appears. These two images may be large or small in relation to us, they may be very close or further away, the pink we have imagined may be lighter or darker, and so on. Finally, we may not visualise any image of an elephant at all because we like kittens better or because we don’t feel like it. First, this exercise shows two things: first, that the representation of mental images is intentional; second, it shows the enormous flexibility of the human imagination. We can imagine, if we want to, anything, anything at all. Thanks to this capacity of consciousness, we can create, invent, move forward, etc. It is thanks to mental images that all works of art have been created, as well as all technical and scientific advances. First it is visualised, then it is realised. First the internal image, then the external, tangible object.
But this capacity, so essential to our life, also gives rise to a peculiar phenomenon. In the previous exercise we may have been able to imagine a pink elephant in front of us, but when we open our eyes, we see that the object is obviously not there. There is no concordance between what I imagine and what I perceive. This non-concordance is what allows the phenomenon of illusion, of the illusory, to occur. Let’s not get into evaluations, it is neither good nor bad. Depending on the situation, illusion is necessary to be able to create an artistic work, for example, or to be able to modify a problem, something that is not working, having to imagine ways out or solutions that do not yet exist. Every future project is only in my imagination until it is realised, in the meantime I open my eyes and it is not there yet. But it is essential to imagine it in order to realise it (hence those slogans of the last century such as “imagination is power”). However, at other times, illusion disconnects us and distances us from “perceptual reality” (we will explain another day why we use inverted commas when we talk about reality), it creates difficulties for us when we need to make an accurate and precise analysis of a situation. If we have said that when faced with a problem, we can imagine ways out that are not yet there in order to be able to move forward, we also have to see clearly what the problem is now and understand it well, in profundity. For this we need to open our eyes wide and perceive without interference what the situation is really like. Imagination is an interference here.
Putting the mechanisms in our favour
There are mental images that appear very automatically, such as images of food or places where there is food when I feel a hunger stimulus. But we have already mentioned that there are other images that require more intention on our part, such as creative images. Let’s do a brief exercise: sitting comfortably and relaxed, we close our eyes and let different images of our daily life, our work, our relationships, friends or family, etc. pass by. After a while we will observe that some of these images make us feel good and others make us feel tense. We can also see that in some imagined situations we get “trapped” or hooked, it is difficult for us to let go of that image. We can finish the exercise whenever we want by opening our eyes.
With this we have been able to see that there are images that produce tensions in us. But also, thanks to this mechanism we can “solve” or modify those complicated or conflictive situations that arise. For example, I have a difficult situation at home, at work or with my family and I know what I should do, but I don’t know why I don’t do it. There is a lack of energy and brightness in the image. I can take the image-solution of that situation (to call it that) and visualise it with force, with energy, feeling it with my whole body and dedicate a couple of minutes to that exercise every day, without preoccupying myself with anything else. In the end, if one has managed to see that image-solution clearly and brightly, the rest goes by itself, it ends up happening like that (approximately) because our action will move in the direction of that image, the mental image will guide our action. But it has to be an image as clear and intense as the image of the fridge when you are hungry. Those are the images that precipitate.
Another, more common case is when faced with a conflictive or difficult situation, I don’t know what to do, I can’t think of anything, that is to say, no image-solution comes to me. In these cases, it is necessary to dedicate more time because it is a question of “visualising” different images of response to the situation and paying attention to the sensation that each one of them leaves. That is to say, I clearly imagine a scenario and I pay attention to how the situation would look like if I did that. Then I imagine another scenario and then another. As in the previous exercise, I visualise different images. I keep an open and non-judgmental attitude; I can visualise any possible solution (I am just playing with the images) and I attend to the feeling that each one leaves me with. If I give a violent response, how do I feel? What harm do I cause, and what would a non-violent response look like? It is almost an exercise in dynamic meditation.
Once there are some images that are possible responses and that leave us with a sense of coherence, we do as in the previous case: we visualise them with clarity and FORCE, and we feel them with the whole body, giving them energy. As we do this, we will tend to act according to these desired images. But we have to have something in mind: the image shows us the direction to follow, but by itself it does not change anything. The whole body needs to be involved in this change. That is to say, we must feel these solutions with the whole body as well as visualising them.
And so much for this first instalment of the series. This is a good way to start to get in touch with oneself and to start to choose freely and consciously how we want to live and under what conditions. If you want to discuss the topic you can do so right here.
For more information, see: Psychology of Image