“Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine yourself sitting on a beach listening to the waves of the ocean”
If you have heard about guided imagery, then you probably recognise this as a start of a relaxation technique where you are invited to close your eyes and let your mind drift away to another place. This can be very helpful in creating a sense of calmness. However, sometimes our distress can become so overwhelming, that trying to get our mind to drift to an imagined place is next to impossible. After all our brains are built to process only so much information. So does that mean that guided relaxation is completely useless in this case? Not necessarily. Let me tell you about Safe Place relaxation.
What is it?
In a way Safe Place imagery is similar to guided relaxation. However, instead of being guided to imagine yourself in a scripted imagined place you are invited to think about a place that gives you personally a sense of safety. If you live by the beach, then this may very well be the place you feel most safe at. However, it is absolutely your choice where your safe place is. It can be your bed, your childhood home, the car, in the company of your friend. Anyplace, anywhere. I have had clients who felt most safe in their local shop, in their car driving along the motorway or lying on their kitchen floor.
How do you do it?
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Don’t try to force your breath, just notice what is happening.
Imagine your safe place. Look around and notice what you see. Notice the colours, objects, light. If you want you can go for a walk, or if you prefer then stay lying or sitting down. Whatever feels comfortable.
When you have a clear picture of your safe place, engage your other senses. What can you hear? What can you smell? Touch and feel? Is there anything you can taste? Immerse yourself in the place.
Don’t rush. This is your place so you can stay as long as you want.
Notice the effect your safe place has on your body. How do your shoulders feel now? What about your facial expression? What feelings can you notice now?
When you feel ready to leave your safe place, look around once more and remind yourself that this is a place you can visit any time, any place. It is YOUR safe place.
What if I don’t have a safe place?
Some of you may have had such difficult lives that the idea of safety is a completely foreign concept. How do you then practice safe place imagery? Well this is where you can get creative! If you have never felt a complete sense of safety, brain storm what a place like this might look like. There are no rules! When you imagine the tension in your shoulders disappearing where do you picture yourself being? In a warm embrace, in a room filled with colourful floating balloons, in a forest by a bubbling brook? Don’t get frustrated if this doesn’t come to you straight away. Start small (perhaps think of a colour that feels peaceful) and build up on your idea. You will get to your safe place soon enough.
So give it a go and let me know how you get on. 🙂