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Guiding a Path Through the Pain: A Script on Mental Health

May 2, 2012

The following script is written for people who want to help a friend or whoever get through something tough. Most of us are not counselors and let’s face it, we usually do more damage than good with our advise-giving. What we can do, however, is try to reduce the other person’s very real anxiety.

The following script is meant to be a guide for this purpose.

Guided Visualizations have a somewhat hokey reputation in the US. They are connected to new-age, meditative cultures and vague notions of zen. But actually, they can be helpful and anyone can do them.

You don’t need to go out and buy a $20 CD filled with ocean sounds. You need a rough script, the ability to speak clearly and slowly and some practice. It’s not hard to train yourself to read out a guided visualization script.

Here is one attempt at such a script that I have used, that has worked, which I felt the need to document and share. (You can even write one of your own! Do share if you do.)

Guided Visualization Script for Anxiety and Depression

[Note: It is important to keep your voice calm, soft and gentle. Be as relaxed as possible. Feel free to elaborate on the basic structure given below. If boundaries and context allows, ask to hold their hand. Sit across from them, holding their hand. It is better if touch is limited to hand-holding alone so that the person can concentrate better. However use your judgement, and if hugging helps (and you are willing), hugging helps. You can read out this script over the phone also.

Remember — and this is important — do not become frustrated or anger at the person if they do not respond. There are no guarantees and it is certainly not the person’s fault if some script you read on some blog does not help them. This technique is limited (and strengthened) by the fact that it requires an acute degree of concentration, which may not be available to the person suffering. I say, strengthened because, sometimes concentrating on something random is usefully distracting.

It’s okay if the other person falls asleep. Let them. Don’t be obnoxious and wake them up.

It’s okay if the other person gets bored and wants you to stop. Stop. You gave it a try. It’s not meant to work all the time.

I believe there is minimal risk in this technique — however, use your judgement. If you feel it’s harmful, don’t use it.]

Okay, here we go. [Read the italics given below in a slow, clear and relaxed voice.]

Relax. Close your eyes. I want you to feel your body.

[Arms and Legs]: Feel your legs and feel your arms. How do they feel? Do they feel tired? Strained? Can you feel any pain there?

I want to see yourself plucking that pain like a splinter and removing it from your legs, from your arms. [Pause]…Have you plucked it? Hold it up. Hold up the splinter. Watch yourself…hold up the splinters from your legs, from your arms.

Now take a bag and watch yourself put those splinters inside the bag. [Pause]. Have you put it inside? [Pause]. Now tie the bag up. Watch yourself tie the bag inside your mind. [Pause]. Place the bag to the side.

[Stomach]: Feel your stomach. How does it feel? Are there knots there? Does it hurt?

Now slowly… watch yourself do it… remove those stones from your stomach. Remove them as many times as you need. And put it inside a second bag. [Pause]. Are the stones small? Big? Grey? Brown? See them in your hands. How many are there? Watch as you put each one inside a bag.

Have you put it inside? [Pause]. Now tie the bag up. Watch yourself tie the bag inside your mind. [Pause]. Place the bag to the side.

[Head]: Feel your head. How does it feel? Is it in pain? Does it feel tight and tense?

Now slowly… watch yourself… cut that tight rope pulling your head. Snip it away with some scissors. Watch yourself do it. [Pause]. Have you done it? Do you see the strings falling down around you? [Pause]. Now gather them up, and stuff in in another bag. Watch yourself inside your mind. Watch you put the strings inside a bag.

Have you put it inside? [Pause]. Now tie the bag up. Watch yourself tie the bag inside your mind. [Pause]. Place the bag to the side.

[Heart]: Feel your heart. Does it ache? Is it in pain? How does your heart feel?

Okay. Now take your heart and squeeze your heart. Can you feel your blood being squeezed? Does it feel like a poison that has infected your heart? [Pause]. Now slowly, watch yourself.. squeeze that poison from your heart. [Pause]. Let it drip inside another bag. Watch yourself inside your mind. Watch yourself squeeze your heart, and drip the liquid that comes out inside another bag. [Pause].

Have you put it inside? [Pause]. It’s okay if there is still some left in your heart. It’s okay. Now tie the bag up. Watch yourself tie the bag inside your mind. [Pause]. Place the bag to the side.

Now let’s count all your bags. There are four. Even if you don’t have any pain in some of these smaller bags, you still have four bags. [Pause]. Now let’s do one thing. Let’s gather up these small bags one by one, and put it inside one big bag. Put each bag inside one at a time. One. [Pause]. Two. [Pause]. Three. [Pause]. Four. [Pause].

Have you put it inside? [Pause]. Now tie the big bag up. Tie it tightly. [Pause]. Have you tied it?

Now you are walking down a road. You are carrying this big bag. [Pause]. You are walking…walking…Can you feel the weight of your bag? [Pause]. It’s very heavy. The bag is weighing heavily on your shoulders. You can feel it. [Pause]. But you keep walking, anyway. Eventually, you start dragging your bag behind you. It’s getting heavier…and heavier… Can you feel it? You keep dragging and dragging…. it’s so heavy…

Stop.

Do one thing.

Leave the bag behind. [Pause]. Throw it to the side.

Watch yourself in your mind throw the big bag to the side. Did you do it?

Now walk. You are feeling lighter. So much lighter. Now run. [Pause]. Keep running. Now fly. [Pause].

You are so light… Feel yourself flying…

[Image from Daughter of the Diaspora]

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