Help! I Can’t Visualise

Many of the self-help materials available today for relaxation, meditation, and self-hypnosis require the ability to be able to visualise. Not everyone is able to do this easily. I’ve had clients tell me that they can’t visualise effectively because they simply have difficulty ‘seeing things’ in their mind’s eye. This is usually because they’ve made the common assumption that visualisation is much like seeing with their eyes open, i.e. with great detail and in vivid colour. Although some people seem to have a special ability to conjure vivid movie-like images at will, these people are in the minority. While the majority of us mere mortals are unable to visualise with that degree of acuity, the truth of the matter is that with a little practice, anyone can learn to visualise successfully.


It’s a fact that we all dream, whether we remember it or not, and within our dreams we are able to create great detail. This shows that, to varying degrees, we all have the ability to visualise. The reason that we’re able to recognise photographs of family and friends is because we already have an internal visual picture that we compare the photographs with. By the same token, if someone were to ask you to describe your living room in great detail, you’d be able to because you already have an inner visual representation of that room, and can see it in your mind as you describe it.


It’s not unusual for us to have a preference for how we internally process sensory information. It may be that visualisation isn’t our dominant method of recall. For example, some of us when asked to visualise walking on a beach on a sunny day will first of all imagine the warmth of the sun on our skin, or a balmy breeze on our face (kinaesthetic). Some of us might hear the gentle sounds of the waves or the cry of seagulls overhead (auditory). Although one sense may predominate, we all utilise a mixture of visual, kinaesthetic, and auditory senses when creating mental imagery.


The good news is that there are ways to significantly improve your ability to visualise effectively. All of them, of course, require a little practice. One important key is to learn how to begin to pay attention to your environment and to the people and things you interact with on a daily basis. In this way, you’re able to grow in your ability to effectively visualise the experiences of life with eyes shut. This practice is commonly referred to as ‘mindfulness’ or ‘being in the moment’. Mindfulness is the first step to being able to fully immerse yourself into an experience through visualisation.


A good exercise to sharpen your visual senses is to look around and take note of your immediate surroundings for a few moments, and then with eyes closed, imagine that you can see the same scene through your closed eyelids. Perhaps you could even move your head to ‘look’ in the directions you know the various objects are located. Once you can ‘see’ various things, you might want to take it one step further and imagine that you can reach out and pick up one of the objects, feeling its weight and noticing its texture. As in all exercises of this kind, one of the keys is not to try too hard. So just relax and notice what you’re experiencing. If you approach these exercises in a relaxed manner you’ll find that your chances of success will be greatly increased. As you practise these principles, you’ll soon find yourself visualising far more easily.

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