The power of playing make believe or, put another way, visualisation...
Posted on 29th March 2023 at 07:17
Whether on their own or in a group, small children are masters of playing make believe – also known as visualisation. Like all the best games, no expensive equipment or props are needed. Let alone any complicated or lengthy preparations. Simply a willingness to let their imagination run wild and enjoy the experience.
But, all too soon, make believe – visualisation – is consigned to the side lines as children are told to “grow up”. And while it might not seem like it at the time, a key skill is lost before we’ve ever had the chance to fully develop it. Or appreciate just how powerful it is. Not only in terms of all the fun it involves – who didn’t like playing make believe when they were a child? – but its ability to transform our lives in an instant. If this sounds like a slight case of overkill – or over hyping (!) – bear with us, as usual, it’ll all make sense in the minute. Yes, it will!
If you’ve dipped a toe in the “self help” or “personal development” waters, you’ll have heard a lot about the power of visualisation. It’s often described in hushed tones as THE WAY to create anything you desire – large or small – and followed by a set of rather complicated instructions about how to do it properly. Not surprisingly, this tends to overwhelm many people, bringing them to a grinding halt before they’re hardly started. Sadly, a very simple – and natural – process becomes anything but.
However, it doesn’t stop there. What many people don’t seem to appreciate is that visualisation is simply a tool, nothing more. And, like all tools, there are many different ways in which it can be used. In other words, there’s no single “right” way to use this tool. What works for one person won’t automatically work for everyone else and vice versa. So, insisting that it has to be done in ONE particular way – and ONLY in that particular way – is never going to generate consistent and good results.
Which brings us on to the other thing most people seem to overlook. At the end of the day, how the tool is used really doesn’t matter, ONLY the end result. So, rather than being the most important thing, visualisation is simply a means to an end NOT the end in itself.
So, what is visualisation really all about?
If you think back to playing make believe as a child, it was all about opening up and exploring as many different possibilities as possible. And, most importantly, having fun in the process. It didn’t matter how realistic or feasible the many different possibilities were, it was all about conjuring up – and enjoying – as many new and exciting scenarios and ideas as we could. One led to another or took us off in a completely new or unforeseen direction. We never quite knew what was going to come next, which made the whole process so exhilarating and fun.
And that’s the reason why visualisation is so powerful. It takes us away from the “known” into the “unknown”. Unchartered territory, if you like. Opens up our minds to a myriad of other possibilities, allowing the creative juices to flow. Which is where the magic happens. Why? Because as soon as we open up to other possibilities being possible, it opens us up to ALL the possibilities, not just the one(s) we’re focusing on.
Visualisation is never about replacing one “it’s bound to happen” scenario with another. It’s about letting our creative juices flow and allowing the possibility of other outcomes. And once we do this, even a bit, then the flood gates are opened to many other possibilities as well, whether we’ve considered them before or not.
But it doesn’t stop there. Visualisation produces a flow – or flood (!) – of positive energy straight into whatever we’re focusing on. And that’s where its real power comes from. The energy it helps create, rather than the tool we use to do it.
Which brings us to the vexed question of “how”. How to visualise. The – not very helpful answer – is whatever works for you.
If you find it easy to conjure up mental pictures, then simply imagine the end result you desire in as many different ways as possible. Enjoy them in as much glorious technicolour and detail as you can conjure up. Enjoy the positive feelings and emotions this creates. Have fun with it!
But what if this approach doesn’t work for you?
Well, how about playing with a visional board? Think of those art projects at school, where you created a collage of pictures, bits and pieces and anything else relating to whatever it was. The key is that it generates all those lovely positive feelings for you. Have fun with it, play with it, really enjoy the whole process.
And a little trick to help the process along is to treat it as an ongoing project, rather than one that’s once and for all. Visualisation is about making the positive end result we desire our dominant and consistent thought. Enjoy tinkering with it or, perhaps, going for more wholesale changes. It really doesn’t matter, it’s just about using it to focus consistently on the desired end result AND having fun in the process.
Or how about writing – in as much detail as you can – about what you desire? Perhaps on scraps of paper or in a journal.
Perhaps drawing, painting or doing some other piece of creative work ticks all the boxes for you.
And here's one you may not have thought about before, sound – songs, music or spoken words. Using these to help create a “picture” of what you desire to get all that positive energy and emotions flowing.
Then there are all the other sensations associated with it. The touch or smell of it.
Perhaps a combination of these works best for you. That’s great, just do whatever feels fun for you!
We’ll say it again, it really doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you can imagine – and we’re using the word “imagine” in its broadest sense (!) – the end result in many different ways and in glorious detail. Letting all that lovely positive energy flow. And, with it being such fun to do, keeping your focus on what you desire becomes an easy and natural thing to do.
Before we finish for today, here’s one more little tip to help the process along. It’s often said that visualisation should be done every day – or several times a day (!) – for specific lengths of time. Now, the question is, does that make it sound like fun?!? No, not in the least!
So, again, it’s about tailoring the tool for you so it’s fun and easy to do.
If, for you, that’s doing it several times a day for a few minutes, then great. If longer periods of time work better for you, perhaps once a day or every few days, then do that. So long as your focus remains on the positive end result you desire AND the positive feelings remain with you in the meantime, then that’s all you need to do. If you notice that the positive feelings are starting to slip, then take a look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Make some “tweaks” – or more wholesale changes – to bring back those positive feelings.
Which brings us back to where we started. The power and fun of playing make believe…
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
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