The Importance of Our Imagination
Everything that we manifest in the world we first have to imagine, whether that's having dinner with a friend, starting a new job or painting a picture. This doesn't mean that we know in advance exactly how these things will turn out, but it is a vital part of this process of bringing something into actuality. Imagining isn't some extra activity on top of dealing with the 'real world' and it isn't just reserved for artistic activity. Imagination is central to living our lives.
When I was young, I liked to spend a lot of time on my own reading and doing creative projects, getting lost in my inner-worlds and the imaginary spaces I was reading about. For quite some time, as an adult, I viewed this activity as an escape. I told myself that it was a coping strategy to deal with the world that I was growing up in - a complex world that, as a child, I was not yet ready to handle. I did acknowledged, however, how rich and sustaining this 'coping strategy' was.
In recent years, looking back over my life from a different perspective, I realised how limited that assessment was and how little credit I was giving to myself as a child and as a teenager. Yes, it was an escape and a coping strategy, but it was much more than that. One of the things I was doing was developing my facility and skill in this area. I was setting the groundwork to make it possible for me to live a fulfilling life as an adult, who was capable of exploring and expressing myself and able to find ways of doing that in relation to others. As a therapist and as an artist, imagination is key for me.
I have a vivid memory of receiving some handmade Christmas presents from my mum when I was little. This was unusual, as we would normally only receive bought presents. I was captivated, filled with wonder, taken by the idea that someone could create something like this. The physical world suddenly seemed more malleable to me. You could shape it in accordance to your will and imagination. Although I didn't have the language or concepts to express what I was experiencing, something in me was responding with fascination and delight.
In my late teens, I discovered the writings of Angela Carter and I felt like I'd struck gold. Here was someone showing me that you could take the imaginary - fantasy - seriously. Fantasy didn't have to be something peripheral and cordoned off from the 'real'. Carter really understood how it is central to how we deal with and conceive of the world that we live in.
It's well known that children can use fairy-tales, stories and other imaginative activities to handle their emotional life in a safe way. Using our imagination to work on emotional issues and finding solutions to problems continues into adulthood. Engagement with the arts, in whatever form and whether we're creating or experiencing, is an important avenue to facilitate this: watching a film that moves us and brings us to a better understanding of our self and the world; finding creative ways to overcome obstacles when making something, an approach that we can apply in other areas of our life. Another important avenue is daydreaming. With daydreaming, we can rehearse future confrontations, express ourselves in ways that we might not want to in actual everyday situations and play with the possible.
Through our imagination we can connect with and communicate with our wider consciousness and beyond. This is particularly apparent through night dreams, visualisation and meditation. Imagination doesn't just have to be about images, we can use all of our senses when engaged with it. When this happens, it can become very vivid for us. In fact, Lazaris describes it as a sense in itself that together with an (inner) sense of balance forms a bridge to access a further five senses. These extra senses help us to perceive the intangible aspects of our existence, just as we use the five familiar senses to perceive the physical world. Our intuition relies upon all twelve senses.
The more that we develop our imagination, allowing it to expand and become powerful, the bigger range of possibilities become available to us. With that bigger range of possibilities, there is so much more that we can potentially manifest in the world.
Leigh Osborne, Copyright August 2017