The context for these videos
Each post in this short series is from Alec’s weekly livestream to the Facebook group Finding the Balance with Anxiety Freedom Cards. Each week I focus upon one of our innate resources or needs as depicted in the Anxiety Freedom Cards. And the reason I’m doing this is to show you how you too can live a life free from anxiety and stress.
Please let me know what you think by scrolling to the bottom and commenting below!
Hello, and welcome to another of my Tuesday Two o’clock Topics on this Tuesday, the 25th of May. And the topic today is a continuation of the discussion that I started last week on one of our most important power tools, something that we’re born with, one of our innate resources, and it’s our imagination.
And I talked a little bit last week about uses and abuses of imagination, and it’s link to creativity and how it’s the starting point for any particular journey that we plan to take in life. And this week I’m just going to expand a little on what I said and share some of the thoughts around this topic.
Good afternoon, CG. Thank you for your comment. It’s good to have you with me today. How are you? Yeah, thank you for commenting.
So I also should set the context. This whole approach is about recognising those important resources that we’re born with. That we come into the world equipped with things like our imagination, our rational mind, our memory, our dreaming brain, our ability to connect with other people, rapport or our ability to stand back to the bigger picture or observing self, and also our emotions and our pattern matching brain. The way that we understand the world through narrative, through story, through pattern matches.
And the reason that I focus on this way is that I, I have evidence my own personal experience of 17 years as a psychotherapist, that if we start with the basics, just, you know, what tools do we come into the world equipped with? What do we need to use them for? And of course, the answer from our perspective is to get your needs met in balance. If we start simple like that, then we can actually overcome enormous obstacles and we can make fantastic progress in life. Even before we get to anything more sophisticated, like therapeutic interventions, I’m not anti therapy in any way, but I think there’s an enormous amount that people can do just by looking at the basics, by making sure that we’re using our tools effectively, the tools that we were born with, and by making sure that we know and recognise our own needs and that we apply the tools in a balanced way to getting our needs met in balance, because this leads to a life that is relatively free from stress, from anxiety, from endless worry or unnecessary worry. Let me say it that way. And into a life where you really can achieve whatever you set your mind to, but it all starts with imagination, which is why this is such an important card for me.
What do you want to know about imagination or what are your thoughts or concerns? Please do share them with a comment below this video, either in the Facebook group where you’re watching this on my blog. If you’re watching this live, I’ll do my best to address any questions as they come up. If you’re watching it on replay, still do comment because I really like to interact with people and get other people’s opinions, other people’s perspectives. You know, I, I have my one life and my one ex, life experience to share, but other people have radically different insights, radically different perspectives. And I think that we learn best when we are inclusive and get everybody’s input. So please comment on any thoughts, any observations, any criticisms of this approach, I’ll be very glad to hear them.
One of my favorite songs from my childhood, a classic is the song by John Lennon: Imagine.
And it’s, if you don’t know it, or if you haven’t heard it for a while, just after I’ve finished this, pop over to YouTube, Google “Lennon Imagine”, and you can listen to the full glory of not just the song but the video that went with it with Yoko and John together. And John, when asked about that song is reported to have said this.
If you can imagine a world of peace, if you can imagine a world with no denominations of religion, not without religion, whatever religion is, but without this divisive, my God is bigger than your God business. Then if you can imagine the possibility, then it can be true.
And I think that resonates with the message I was sharing last week from the Napoleon Hill that said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, then it can achieve.” So there’s a common theme there, but we have to be able to imagine the things that we want to see in life before they have any chance of becoming a reality.
So how do we go about creating a vision? Last week I asked you what you would need. Is it more time? Is it a quiet space? Is it the right mindset? Is it, you know, what would you need to be in place in your daily life to be able to sit down and spend some time actively using your creative power, to let it fly free and think about whatever, better things you want to bring into your life, whether that’s better work, better relationships, better finances, better anything. You know, what would you need? Now, I’m going to suggest today a procedure that I’ve used quite a few times in the past, that you might think is not for you when you first hear it, but I urge you to try it because I was a bit skeptical myself when I first did it. I’m a fairly rational and logical person generally. I do have a create a creative imagination, but it’s not my go-to tool.
And the exercise that I’m inviting you to take part is creating some sort of vision board. And it can be in whatever form you like, the way I’ve done it in the past is I’ve got a big sheet of card, maybe, maybe that big. And I go through magazines. I collect just, you know, any kind of magazine with any activity or interest that you like. Magazines to do with home life and stuff were key in creating this space that I’m sitting in right now, but whatever floats your boat, just collect some old magazines. It can be, you don’t even have to be magazines that you’re interested in the topics and then get a pair of scissors, set yourself an hour, at least, maybe a couple of hours. And if you find that hard to fit in, switch off the news or Netflix tonight, and just do this as an exercise because you won’t regret the benefits that you get from doing it. And you go through the magazines and you just cut out words and pictures and shapes and textures and colors and anything that takes your fancy.
Now the key element to this is don’t think too hard. Don’t rationalise, that that’s later in the process. That’s not what we need right now. What we need at this moment is to just get cutting and sticking and you cut out images that strike your fancy and you paste them on a board in a fairly random chaotic way. Now, when you first start doing it, it feels a bit contrived. It feels a bit artificial. You might think, well, what am I trying to achieve with this? That’s rational thinking you don’t need that. Just keep cutting and pasting. And over a period of time, you’ll start to get a theme and you’ll think, oh, actually, yes, I’ll look for another image that’s a bit like that. And maybe you might even want to get on Google, or you might want to choose images from some of the websites that provide huge quantities of free images. Things like unsplash.com.
Pinterest is a good source. And just, if you kind of think, Ooh, I’d like an image of a, if it was me, it might be a skateboard or a guitar, as CG well knows. You can see in the icons that you put in that comment. Let’s look at guitars and maybe I have a, you know, I have a desire to bring more music into my life. I might find a picture of a cool guitar that I like the look of. It doesn’t mean I want to buy that guitar. I’m not being as, as controlling as that. It’s just to remind me that guitar is important to my life. So I find a picture of a guitar. I print it out. I paste it on the board. I find a word that says harmony. I pick it out of a newspaper. I cut out the word, I stick it on the board. I find an image that’s the Glastonbury pyramid stage, maybe, cause that’s always been one of my dreams. And I stick that on the board. But I also pick up anything that happens to catch my eye as I’m going through the process. And the more you immerse yourself in doing it, the more momentum you get and the more meaning that you can start to make out of it.
Now, the first time I ever did this was with Bindi. I think she had done it before. So she was kinda more experienced than me and I felt fairly self-conscious and I wasn’t really sure why I was doing that or what I was trying to do, but the more that I just stuck with the programme, the more I just allowed myself to get engaged in it, the easier it became. And by the end of it I was actually really enthusiastic. And it was interesting because at that time I think we were thinking about what kind of living space we would like later in life.
I’ve always had a fantasy about having a large wooden floored group room where we could run workshops. With maybe a view over the sea and there’d be wooden window frames. And I just had this image in my head. So I was looking through, you know, design magazines or the kinds of things you see on Grand Designs, expensive posh houses, and just cutting out images that, that attracted me and sticking them down. And during this process, we were also thinking of having this posh shed built in our garden, which was our office for many years. And I happened to come across a picture of a wood burning stove. Now I used to live on narrow boats and I had a wood burning stove, which I loved because it was a source of warmth and radiant heat. And it was a, it was, had a personality of its own. And I learned eventually how to light it very quickly in a way that would stay in for a full 24 hours while I went off to work and then came back. So the stove was an important part of my life. And I saw a picture in one of the magazines of a wood burning stove so that went on the vision board. Bindi was working alongside me. She comes cut a picture of all wood burning stove. Guess what? In the corner of this room, there is a wood-burning stove. We made it a reality because we were both subliminally thinking that time on the boat was a great time. That was a golden period of my life. And so we’ve recreated a little bit of that by bringing a wood burning stove into our house.
But the point is, get creative, silence your critical rational thinking, and just spend an hour or two cutting and sticking and creating, as I say, I do it as a, as a big image on a cardboard board. And then I usually stick it on the wall and then subliminally over the next days or weeks months, I’m reminding myself of what I care about and what I want to think about, but you’ve got to start somewhere and this is a good way of beginning. So unsplash.com, good source of images, pinterest.co.uk I think it’s, I think it’s different URLs for different countries and even just Googling images and then go to the trouble of sitting yourself down with this task in mind. And you don’t even have to know what it is you’re trying to create, just go with the process and allow your creativity to take over.
And remember that one of the, if you look at the style of this image, it is a fairly chaotic process. It isn’t rational. It isn’t ordered. It isn’t neat and tidy. Like when we think about things rationally. You know, this is the ordered. Everything measured, everything in its place, image. The imagination, let it run wild. And don’t censor it at this point and just see what you come up with. And then share what you’ve come up with by posting a comment under this video. I’d be really interested to hear what you come up with. And if I can find it, I’ll take a picture of my last vision board and share it with you.
Okay, so that’s a little exercise that I really think is worth doing. And I also want to share, it seemed relevant when I make my notes for this, but the dangers of positive thinking. Now, Bindi and I are, we’re going to go camping in Exmoor. And, we love our holidays and we, we feel positive about it, but you know what English weather’s like. We could end up sitting in a tent in rainfall. Who knows what’s going to happen! So how do we apply your imagination or your creative positive thinking to the situation? Well, we do it without being too specific. So Bindi and I know we’ll have a great time because we’ll go to bed when it gets dark, we’ll rise when it gets light. We won’t be living to a clock or to the internet. We’ll be off grid to a large degree. I would imagine that it’s not even going to be a phone signal where are we going to be. And we know from experience that if we just flow with the natural rhythms of the day, we’ll have a wonderful time. If we got specific and saying, oh, well, we’re looking forward to being on the beach in the sunshine, or we’re looking forward to specific things. Then we may very well get disappointed. So we don’t get too specific in terms of setting the vibe for a break, but we do get enthusiastic and excited about the idea that we’re going to be living in a different kind of routine to the way we are when we’re at home. So, you know, there is a danger to positive thinking if you, if you think that, oh, I’ve got to force myself to think of very specific, positive things. That’s not really what it’s about. It’s more about being positive, no matter what happens. So I just wanted to share that.
There is a link below or in the comments for this week’s Tuesday Two o’clock Topic. I think you can see from the worksheet that the first part is just the description, which is similar to what’s in the book. And if we come down here, we’ve got a few questions and I’ll just run through these cos the screen might be a little bit small to read.
So the first question is: Describe a situation where you currently use your imagination. So I’m just trying to help you kind of get clear about what it means to use your imagination rather than to use your rational thinking. So describe a situation where you use it. So I’ve just described one for myself, we’re going camping. And we start to get excited about some of the lovely things that you can do sitting in a tent watching a river. Both.
The next question is asking you to rate on a scale of nought to ten, how good are you at, How good are you at thinking imaginatively? So rate your own ability in this area because some people will think, oh, I’m highly imaginative. I’m highly creative and they’ll give themselves a 10 out of 10. That’s great. Some people may think, well, I don’t have an imagination. I’m going to give myself a one or two out of 10. I’m not here to judge or to criticise or to tell you how strongly you think this resource is for you, but be honest with yourself. Is it one of your stronger tools or is it one that could, you could do a little bit of work on to, to bring it up to speed as it were, because it’s like any of these tools, the more we use them, the more we actively engage them, the stronger they become and the more effective they become at being a useful tool in our life.
The next question is to describe a situation in which you would like to be more imaginative. And this might sound a strange thing to say, but let me give you some ideas for what this might mean. I’ll just switched back to me for a minute. I’ll put myself on the side and I’m going to talk for a little bit. This kind of situation, it can be any aspect of your life. So I know that I’ve put on weight over lockdown. I could sit down and creatively use my imagination to picture random things I could do to improve my diet and maybe to get a little fitter, to lose a bit of weight. It could be, it could start with shopping. It could start with changing where I shop or how I shop. Should we get one of those vegetable box deliveries? There’s all sorts of ways you could do it. Or should we get one of these Thermomix machines that helps you? It makes cooking very easy. There’s, this using your imagination is about allowing free reign to come up with ideas that maybe you would never have thought of in the past.
So, but you have to make time for it. You have to set it down and do it specifically.
Do you want to improve your fitness?
Do you want to take some different kinds of exercise?
What are some of the wilder things that you might do? Because we’re not being critical at this point, but just getting the imagination juices going.
Do you want to improve your work situation?
Do you want a better job or a different job?
Or do you want to share the emphasis of your work in some way?
Do you want to improve your relationships or maybe improve the number of connections you have with other people or the way that you connect with other people? You know, we’re all creatures of habit. When was the last time you reached out to someone and said, why don’t we meet up for a cup of coffee? Because after 18 months of being locked in a box, it’s nice to get out. And I’ve made a few arrangements to meet people I’ve not seen for a long, long time. I’m meeting someone next week, which will be a really nice thing to do. And it’s the sort of thing that I don’t do unless I make a positive commitment to saying, I need to reach out to a few more people.
How are you using your free time?
Are you watching too much screen time?
Are you watching too much TV or films or movies or Amazon prime or Netflix or any of those things?
Do you want to be creative about different ways that you could use your time?
There’s a million things that are interesting out there to do in the world. They don’t all require money.
Learning new skills.
What, how do you want to use whatever free time that you do have, do you want to get creative about brainstorming different ideas?
Maybe you have some creative endeavour, endeavour you want to do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take up watercolor painting or oil painting, or maybe writing that book that you’ve never got around to, or maybe making some music or performing some music.
It’s time to prioritise using this imaginative tool, to get busy with it and to see what it can come up with. Because if we stay within our comfort zone, then our world stays the size it is. And it’s only when we push the boundaries. And the best way I know to do that is to let our imagination run wild for a bit. It can run too wild and there may be a time to reign it in and get logical later, but that comes after the first process.
So, and then the final question, going back to the screen, is what could you do over the next few days to improve this? So obviously one of the things that you might choose to do would be to take up my suggestion of doing this vision board exercise and see what you come up with. Now. It doesn’t have to be a public board that everybody can see. You might, I know a friend who does this on a regular basis, but they do it in a little scrapbook. So it’s a probably, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it, but it’s probably A4 size and it’s private for them. They don’t want visitors to their house seeing it on the wall. It’s their own private vision board. So doing it in a scrapbook is a way of having a little bit of control over that. If you’re the other way inclined, you might want to post it on your fridge so that you can see it several times a day, every time you make a cup of tea and go for the pint of milk in the fridge, it really is up to you.
And I also want to suggest there are other mediums as well. You, I mentioned pictures because that works for me, that that medium works okay for me. But you might choose to make an audio version of a vision board, which might be just little sayings or snippets or things that you record, or maybe you narrate into your phone and you create an audio experience that you could sit down and listen to once a week, or once a day or whatever, just to remind you about the things that you want to manifest into your life. And you might do by writing, you might, you might be a writer and you might think, well, I’m just going to spend an hour writing down, whatever thoughts come into my head.
And I don’t know if you know the book by Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way. She recommends a procedure that she does every morning, which is, I think she calls morning pages where you just write whatever comes into your head. And for some period of time every day, and she finds, it’s a really good way of getting your creative juices going. And I have tried it but not for some years now, but if you haven’t heard of that, look up The Artist’s Way. I think it’s Julia Cameron.
So that’s probably all I’m going to say about imagination at this stage. I’ll just check the comments on Facebook and see if there’s any anyone else here. Of course, as usual, Facebook. I’ve discovered what I’ve been doing wrong, incidentally on Facebook. It does a little thing above the very first post in the group. And it says new activity. And it took me a while to realise you can click on it and then say, no, recent posts is what I want to see. And then you get the most recent posts at the top. It’s taken me so long to learn that. I can be quite stupid sometimes, but that’s how things go. I’m not going to beat myself up about it because I know the dangers involved.
So the story today, I’ve chosen another story from Rob Parkinson’s excellent book, Transforming Tales: how stories can change people. And it really is a wonderful book and I’ve flipped through it, looking for something relevant. And the story I’ve come up with today is: The Talisman.
And if you watch these videos on a regular basis, you will know that I often share a story that you might choose to use in a therapeutic setting. I’m going to read this story because I, I’m not particularly familiar with it, but I really urge you if you like a story, to make it your own, to memorise the main key points and to give yourself freedom to elaborate, improvise, and tell it in a way that works for you, because that’s when the stories really come to life. But today I’m going to tell The Talisman from Rob Parkinson’s Transforming Tales.
So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Long ago and far away they lived a poor orphaned woodcutter’s daughter who reckoned she had the worst luck in all the world. She was so poor that that she could scarcely pay the rent on the little hovel in which she lived. She worked long hours for the local gentry for nothing much at all.
One day, a feeble old beggar came by and the woodcutter’s daughter shared what bread she had with him. And even let him sleep in the hovel. In the morning, as he left, the beggar who now looked much stronger said that he really was a magician. To repay the kindness he had been shown, he gave the girl a shiny ring, explaining that if she wanted it to sell it, it could be worth a lot of money, but if she kept it and wore it, it might be worth even more because this ring is nothing more or less than a talisman of luck.
Well, once the beggar magician had gone, the girl thought about how she could take the ring to town and sell it and get a bit of spare money for once in her life. Something stopped her, though she wasn’t sure quite what. She thought that perhaps she would hold onto the ring until she really needed money. She wasn’t sure she believed all that stuff about magic and talisman, not really.
But somehow her luck did change. It wasn’t that she suddenly found a golden fortune or anything of the sort. It all happened slowly. And I don’t know exactly how. Maybe she found a stray donkey wandering in the woods and used it to carry extra wood to sell at the market. Maybe she bought something at the market and managed to sell it again for more money than she’d paid for it. Maybe she took on an extra job here or there.
However it was, one way or another, she tested that Talisman ring, and soon found that she had a bit more money. So she started buying and selling this or that, just in a small way to begin with. Maybe it was wood and maybe it was donkeys and maybe cloth or fruit or perfume, but maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever it was. She did it well. She got some money and she used it to make more money. She used her wits and her luck. Slowly, slowly, she bought and sold more expensive things. Slowly, slowly, she made her fortune. All the time she kept that ring the beggar had given her.
Over the years, she came to trust it and the luck it had brought her. Even when it came to choosing a husband, allowing it to direct her to a man who was kind, but not foolishly so. Sharp, but not hard. Loving, but not too sentimental. Someone like herself in fact, because she remained underneath, always kind and generous just as she had been that day with the beggar.
Because of that, people liked and respected her despite her wealth. And they told the king what a good woman she was. Well, the king who, as it happened, was known as a wise ruler said that he would like to meet this merchant queen who’d made no secret of the fact that she was a humble woodcutter’s daughter. He called her to his court and asked her how she had made her fortune. And if perhaps she might like to become one of his advisers. This king liked to have honest people who had done well to give him their ideas on what he should do.
Now, the woodcutter’s daughter was indeed honest. That is why she told the king about the beggar man and the ring and how she’d made her fortune through a kind of magic that came from the talisman that she’d been given. Of course, the king asked to see that magic ring. Well, the woodcutter’s daughter held out her hand and the king looked at the ring.
And then he called the chief advisor. A man who’d been a jeweler and knew about all kinds of rings.
“What do you think of this?” the king asked.
“Worthless!” said the chief advisor. “Just brass or something of the sort.”
“You see”, said the king, “the worth isn’t really in the ring, it’s in you.”
And that is when she recognised the king as the beggar she had helped all those years ago.
So I hope you enjoyed the story today. I like that line when he says, “You see”, the king said, “The worth isn’t really in the ring, it’s in you.” It’s innate innit? So that’s about it from me today. How are you doing? Have you got any comments? Thank you from CG, a very quick ring and a gold ring, a diamond rings and money. And I can’t work out what that last one is. It looks like an axe. I’m not sure. Anyway, thank you for commenting CG. I really appreciate it.
Hope you enjoyed today’s presentation next week is a new topic and it’s our innate need for security. So I’ll be talking about security and as ever these videos, these topics are, they come in pairs. So there’ll be an introduction to the topic of security next week. And then the week after that, I’ll be working through the worksheet on security.
So hope to connect with you again this time next week at two o’clock for another Two o’clock Tuesday Topic. And until then, whatever you’re doing, don’t forget to keep breathing.
Please let me know what you think by commenting below! Thanks, Alec