Imagine you are standing in a green meadow with the blue, blue sky above you. Now turn around and see your horse. What does your horse look like? Does he have a name? Can you jump up and ride your horse?
In therapeutic sessions using imagery with children we set off on an adventures to discover the child’s inner hero – a hero that can tackle the monsters in dreams (or under the bed), but also the monster who sits in the next seat at school and keeps nattering “You are weird…”
What’s exciting about this process is that you start the child off on a personal quest, giving guidance on the way, but you don’t know what kind of hero will emerge. It can be vivid, exciting and surprising. For example, a young lady who was struggling with pre-teen peer acceptance transformed herself into an eagle – one that was powerful and able to perceive clearly from great height. This simple perspective shift allowed her to feel strong and to take a more distant approach to the drama. Looking down, safe above the fray, she learned to let things go, to realize that some of these girls were not really good friends, and to see in the distance a friendlier and more fun group to engage with.
Confidence and trust in one’s own coping skills can be eroded by anxiety and fear. A young boy who spent many hours awake at night worrying not just about school, but also about the monsters under his bed, went on many imaginary adventures. We tackled the monsters under the bed as well as those beasts hiding in a cave, and rescued prisoners from castles. He learned to be inventive, to be persistent in facing his fears and to take risks. He started sleeping better, taking risks on the ground, playing soccer and thus scoring some goals. He confronted his playground bully, and challenged himself with harder math – and succeeded! The adventure went from his being “no good” to having hope, and dreaming new dreams about being a professional football player or perhaps a poet.
It is not always miraculous but it is always fun. Whether with eyes open or closed, whether encountering dragons or stepping into the shoes of an annoying brother, imagery empowers children to rely on their inner creativity, wisdom, and resources. And if we are really lucky, we get to observe that it lights up the child from the inside and helps each to step into the world with increasing self-confidence and self-knowing.
by Sheona McEwan | SOI Teacher & Practitioner
Sheona is leading workshops on Imagery & Children in 2023.