Use this guided imagery or visualization to create a safe place. You may create this on your own or ask your therapist or a friend to read it to you. If you tend to dissociate when you do a relaxation exercise, you might want to ask for your therapist's help. Either way, I suggest the following process:
- Read through the script and decide if it sounds okay to you.
- Make a recording of the script. (It is much easier to relax if you are listening to your voice or the voice of a safe friend rather than trying to remember what was written.)
- As you record, remember to slow down and lower your natural speaking voice. Leave pauses at the ends of phrases and sentences. Leave longer pauses where you are imagining doing something, such as standing under a waterfall. Talk in as soothing a voice as you have, as though you are calming and soothing a little child. If you want background music in the recording, choose something that is very soothing and won't change beat, tempo, or pitch. Be sure that the music won't stop in the middle of the recording.
- It will take about 20 minutes to record the imagery. Turn off the phone and be sure that you have a safe and quiet place to record. Remember: speak slowly and pause frequently, at least at the end of each phrase.
- After you have recorded the imagery, practice the visualization several times, until the pattern becomes clear in your mind and your body responds automatically. If, at any time, you feel unsafe, open your eyes, stop the imagery, and reground yourself in today. Get up and do a nurturing activity. Call someone on the telephone and tell them what is happening. You are safe and you have control today.
- After you have practiced the visualization, you can follow the abbreviated version when you are feeling the need to go into safety. Sit or lie down in your usual position for the visualization. Allow your body and mind to remember what to do. Begin to breathe as you do in your safe place, and take yourself to your safe place.
Imagery for Creating a Safe Place
Allow yourself to be in a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting up. If you're sitting up, place a pillow behind your back, and allow your neck and your back to be nicely supported, not leaning back too much if you have difficulty staying awake. Remember that if you feel afraid at any time, just open your eyes and ground yourself in today. You are safe and you are in control today.
Begin to take a couple of long, deep breaths all the way down into your diaphragm. [Inhale.] Hold it, and as you exhale, let go of the tension. [Exhale] Letting go.... Take another deep breath all the way in. [Inhale.] Allow all the tension to move into your lungs, and then let it go, [Exhale.] just begin to let go.... And if you're still feeling tense, repeat that process a few times as you begin to let go, begin to relax.... Create a silent and healing space around you.... Focus only on your quiet breathing and the sound of my voice. . . allow yourself to begin to let go, to create a healing time, a time of peace and safety.... I'm going to count from seven to one. And with each descending number, you'll find yourself becoming more and more relaxed. Relax your body, relax your mind, focus only on your breathing and the sound of my voice and letting go. Seven.... Relax your feet and ankles. Allow your feet and ankles to become very relaxed. Wiggle your toes to let the tension out.... Allow this relaxation to drift up into your calves and your knees, relaxing those muscles in your legs, even relaxing the bones.... Allow the relaxation to drift up into your thighs, relaxing those muscles in your thighs. And gently relax your hips and your pelvic area. Relax your lower abdomen all the way to your navel.... Relax your lower back. Six.... Let the relaxation gently drift. Let it drift up into your solar plexus area and into your chest and your lungs, just letting go.... Let the relaxation surround your heart and your lungs, and relax. Notice how gentle and quiet your breathing is becoming.... Let the relaxation drift around to your back. Relax each bone in your back, and all the muscles and all the nerves, as the relaxation fills your shoulders now, gently spilling over your shoulders and down to your elbows.... Relax your forearms and your wrists.... Relax the palms of your hands and your fingers. Five.... Relax your neck, all that tension that holds your shoulders up, tight, around your ears. Let your shoulders drop now, and let the tension go.... Allow the relaxation to drift up the back of your scalp and into your head.... Each breath allows you to become more and more relaxed. Let the relaxation drift into your eyes, and your nose, and your cheeks.... Your mouth becomes so relaxed, your tongue relaxes enough to drop away from the roof of your mouth. Your jaw drops just a little.... You're so relaxed. And going deeper, you relax. Four.... Three.... More and more relaxed.... And two.... Scan your body for any remaining pockets of tension. And let go.... And one.... You find yourself in a safe place outdoors. Perhaps it's not a place you've ever seen before except in the beauty of your own mind. You see a place outdoors that is beautifully safe.... Allow the images to come.... For in this place of safety, only you are allowed. In this place of safety, no one can come without your invitation. In this place of safety, you are always at peace.... Allow the images to come.... Notice the color of the sky at your favorite time of day. And in this place, at this most perfect time of day, at the season and the temperature that you like on your skin, allow your senses to become more and more alive. Look around at the surroundings and allow yourself to see; if not with your eyes, then sense with your heart.... Each time you come to your safe place, you may develop it and allow it to become more and more beautiful. Allow yourself to see what is here today.... Notice the color of the trees or flowers or grass, or perhaps sand or water. Let the colors and textures come alive for you in this beautiful and safe place.... Listen to the sounds of safety.... Perhaps you hear birds or splashing or the sound of wind in the trees or the grass.... Allow yourself to create a place of safety and peace that is always yours, always safe.... And breathe in the safety. And breathe out the fear. And breathe in the safety. And breathe out the fear.... As you breathe in, you can even smell the smells of safety.... Perhaps salty air, or the sweet smell of a flower.... Breathe in the smells of your safe place. It's so safe here that you can even taste it as you lick your lips. Let yourself bask in the safety and the peace.... Allow yourself to walk around, to be in this place, to notice more and more, to create more and more in this place.... Perhaps you would like to build a shelter of some kind, a cottage, a cave, a tent, a tree house. And if it's already there, you may add to it.... Plant flowers, adding a splash of color. Add special places or rooms to your safe place.... Create anything that you would like. [Long pause.] Create special places for special kinds of feelings that need to be healed, special places to wash away fear and pain.... Create a waterfall or a pool of healing water. Stand under the waterfall to wash away the fear.... Let the healing waters wash away what you'd like to be finished with. Each time you come to the waterfall or the healing pool of water, you can wash away more and more of the past.... Each time you come, you are cleansed and rejuvenated, the shame is washed away. Wash away the pain. Wash all of it away, as you are ready. [Long pause.] When you are finished, step out of the water and you will find a robe or a towel to dry and warm yourself.
Now allow yourself to continue walking around your safe place.... You find a place for a healing garden, a place that is just for your healing. You can plant anything you would like.... You can plant wishes and dreams for the future. You can plant seeds of your healing. And you can weed out what you want to be finished with. Take some time to work with your garden now. [Long pause.]
And now, find your favorite place in all of safety. Walk around until you find just the right place. [Long pause.] Sit down, and get comfortable.... Breathe in the safety and the peace. Breathe out the fear.... Breathe in the safety and peace. Breathe out the fear.... Breathe in the safety and peace. Breathe out the fear.... And just be in this place as you breathe and heal.... Stay in this place as long as you would like.... And when you are ready, simply count yourself out by counting from one to five. When you reach the number five, your eyes will open. And you will be awake and alert, and feeling safe and at peace. One.... Two.... Three. Take a deep breath.... Four.... And five.
Short Version of the Guided Imagery
Begin to breathe in the safety and peace. Breathe out the fear. And breathe in the safety and peace. And breathe out the fear. Each time you breathe in, relax your body. And each time you exhale, let go of tension. Breathe in relaxation. Breathe out tension. With each breath, count from five to one.... If you need more than that, begin at seven or ten, counting to one.... Make each breath a number. Each exhale letting go. As you are counting, as you are breathing, allow the image of safety to fill your mind.... You are there, in safety, in peace. No one can be there with you without your permission. Focus only on breathing, on counting, on imagining your safe place once again. Allow your vision to come alive as you breathe. Remember and focus on all the images in your safe place.... Breathe in the peace and the safety. Breathe out the fear. Allow your senses to come alive again in this place. Remember how it looks. Remember all the detail -- the color of the sky, the grass or trees or sand or water.... Remember your place of safety and how very beautiful it is.... As you continue breathing in safety and breathing out fear, remember the sounds of your safe place.... Remember how beautiful it smells.... Remember the sights -- glance around at your house or structure of safe shelter, and see your waterfall or pool of healing water.... And over there, see your garden.... And remember, remember the beauty and the peace and the safety.... Sit as long as you need to, breathing in safety and peace. Breathing out fear, as long as you need to.... Do whatever else you need to do in your place of safety. Spend as long as you like.... And when you are ready, simply count yourself out by counting from one to five. And as you leave the place of safety, bring with you the knowing that you are safe, you are at peace, and everything is going to be all right.