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 Guided Imagery: Meeting Your Inner Advisor 

I mentioned earlier that Dr. Irving Oyle first introduced me to the inner advisor technique. The first patient I remember him working with was a thirty-five-year-old jet-set entertainer named Eric who came to see Dr. OLE with an unusual ankle problem. Once a month over the previous nine months, his left ankle had become swollen and very painful for four days. He had consulted three orthopedic surgeons, all of whom confirmed the swelling and inflammation in his ankle, but none of whom could make a diagnosis. X-rays of the ankle and laboratory tests on the ankle joint fluid showed no abnormality. Anti-inflammatory medications and injections provided no relief.

Eric was a very successful but driven entertainer who worked constantly, commonly flying halfway around the world on tours and frequently jetting back and forth from coast to coast. He more than loved his work, he was addicted to it--he had little else in his life. He was always working or planning new work, never took vacations, and had no outside interests or relationships. His tension level was palpable at a distance. He was enormously angry with his ankle because it rendered him unable to work four days a month.

Eric's inner advisor came in the form of a cartoon-like devil prodding him in the ankle with a pitch-fork. It said there was more to life than work, and Eric had to begin experiencing his emotional side. To do that, he would have to start making room in his life for reflection, and his ankle was helping him do that. Eric was surprised at this message but felt it was "bullshit" and didn't see how it could be connected to his physical problem.

With Dr. Oyle's guidance, Eric struck a deal with his little devil, and agreed to take four days a month off to devote to rest, relaxation, and enjoyment. His inner advisor told him he would not have ankle pain again as long as he kept his bargain. For three months, Eric stuck to his agreement and had no pain or swelling. Feeling he was recovered, he skipped his days off the next month and the problem recurred with all its previous severity.

If you make a bargain with your advisor, make sure you keep it. Remember, you are dealing with a part of yourself here; you can't disrespect it without cost. Consider this a real relationship, and treat it with respect. Would you make an important business agreement and casually break it, or stand up a good friend for dinner? Why treat yourself with any less respect?

Robert, a fifty-two-year-old Jewish man with chronic abdominal pain and indigestion, had been diagnosed as having pancreatitis. His doctors had little to over him but had urged him to follow a low-fat diet, which he had trouble doing. He found an inner advisor who called himself "Moishe." Robert said he looked like a cross between his brother, Morris, and the biblical figure Moses. Moishe, like the doctors, told Robert that he would feel better and give his pancreas a chance to recover if he followed a strict low-fat diet. Robert followed Moishe's advice for several weeks and felt better than he had in years. He then went on a trip, visiting his family, and forgot about his diet. Soon after a meal at a Chinese restaurant he had a severe episode of abdominal pain and vomiting. He tried to get back in touch with his advisor but had no success.

When he next came to visit me, I guided him through a relaxation process and politely asked Moishe to come and talk with Robert again. Moishe appeared in his imagery, but stood with his head turned away and wouldn't say anything. Robert asked him why he was silent, and he replied, "I don't have time to waste if you're not going to be sincere about this, I am not going to talk to you." Robert apologized and committed himself again to working toward better health more conscientiously.

Today, two years later, Robert feels working with his inner advisor has been one of the most helpful things he has ever learned. Not only has Moishe helped Robert with his digestive problems, but he was also of great comfort during a very difficult six-month period in which Robert lost the two people closest to him. During that time, Moishe told Robert that he was only an intermediary figure who represented his connection with God. Robert said to me, "Why deal with a middle man?" and now, in his meditations, he feels a sense of inner connection to God. Sometimes he asks questions and receives answers; other times he just enjoys a deep sense of peacefulness.

If you make and keep your inner agreements, it's quite reasonable to ask for and receive some tangible evidence that what you are doing will pay off. If your advisor does have the ability to guide you toward healing, it should have the ability to let you know you are on the right path.

There may be times when your advisor may not be willing or able to give you immediate relief as a sign. If that's the case, ask it what needs to happen first before you can get some relief. This will often start you on the road that eventually leads to the relief you seek. Remember, testing is not the same as doubting. It's a request for evidence of fair value, and you must give fair value in return.

Should My Inner Advisor Appear in Any Particular Form?
Inner advisors often come as the classic "wise old man" or "wise old woman," but they come in many other forms as well. Sometimes they come in the form of a person you know, a friend or relative who has fulfilled this function for you in real life. These people may be living or dead, and it may be an emotional experience for you to encounter them in your inner world. Some people feel strange communicating with the figure of a deceased relative and wonder if this is really the spirit of the person they're talking with. If that's your belief, and you're comfortable with it, it can be a wonderful reconnection. Otherwise, it is enough to welcome it as a figure in your own mind that is wise and kind, and that has appeared in response to your request for help.

Advisors may also be animals or birds, plants, trees, even natural forces like the wind or the ocean. Sometimes people will encounter religious figures like Jesus, Moses, or Buddha, while others will find an angel, fairy, or leprechaun. Yoda from Star Wars often appeared as an advisor during the time the movie was playing, as did Obi Wan Kenobi. People sometimes encounter the advisor as a light or a translucent, ethereal spirit, and it's not uncommon to simply experience a sense of something calming, strong, and wise, without any visual image. Others communicate with an inner voice without any visual or feeling image.

Dr. David Bresler, head of the Bresler Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, frequently uses the inner advisor technique with people in chronic pain. His approach is somewhat different than mine, though the results seem quite similar. He guides people to relax in an imaginary quiet place, then asks them to get an image for a friendly creature that can act as their advisor. Many of his patients will get animal advisors such as Bambi the deer, or Chuckle the chipmunk. Dr. Bresler and I have compared notes at length and agree that people seem to be able to receive the same kind of information from the animal figures as from any other inner Images of wisdom.

I explained this alternative once to a psychologist who had consulted me but was reluctant to get an inner advisor. As I described the cute little animal advisors many people created, he laughed and said he could see an image of a lion, looking at him and licking his chops. "Screw all those chipmunks," said the lion. "I'm here and I'm important." From this he understood that this inner part of himself was powerful and needed to be approached with respect.

Don't have expectations of any kind; they can stand in the way of your benefiting from the experience. If you are expecting a transcendent experience and a frog jumps into view, you might not recognize it as a potential inner advisor. The opposite may be equally true. Once, when Dr. Bresler and I were teaching a workshop for health professionals, we led the group through the guided imagery experience of meeting with an inner advisor. Afterward, one woman looked enormously frustrated. She was upset because all she ever experienced when she looked for an advisor was a "beautiful bright light that fills my whole body." We asked her how it felt to imagine herself filled with this light, and she said it was wonderful--it felt healing and energizing. But she was disappointed. She had been expecting a chipmunk!

The best way to work with this and any other imagery experience is just to let the figures be whatever they are. Welcome the advisor that comes and get to know it as it is. One advisor is no better than another, and there is no best way for them to communicate. People have learned profound lessons from gremlins named "Jack" and rabbits named "Thumper," as well as from more classical wisdom figures. Some advisors talk, others communicate their messages through their expressions or actions or by changing their forms completely. Sometimes people just "get the message" with-out really knowing how. A psychologist at one of our workshops wrote, "I don't see an advisor, and I don't hear anything, but I do know what is being communicated. " This is the essence of the inner dialogue, whether with an advisor or with other techniques you'll learn later.

It may take time to get to know your inner friend, to understand how it communicates, where it comes from, what it represents, and how best to make use of it. It's like a real relationship; treat it with respect, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how useful it can be.

How Do I Meet My Inner Advisor?
Meeting your inner advisor is simple. The first step is to let yourself relax and go to your special inner place. When you're comfortable, quiet, and relaxed there, allow an image to appear for your inner advisor. Accept whatever image comes--whether it is familiar or not. Take some time to observe it carefully, and invite it to become comfortable with you, just as if it were real. After all, it is a real imaginary figure! Ask your advisor its name, and let it have a voice to answer you. You may hear the name in your mind or you may just understand its name let yourself "play along" and accept whatever name comes to mind. It's important not to edit or second-guess the imagery at this stage. Take some time to become comfortable in the presence of your inner advisor, and as you grow more familiar with it, notice if it seems to be wise and kind. Notice how you feel in its presence. If it feels comfortable to you, ask your advisor if it would be willing to help you, and let it respond. If it is willing, tell it about your problem or illness and ask if it can tell you what you need to know or do to get better. Let it answer you and stay open and receptive to the answers that come.

Use the following script the same way you have used the previous ones. This exploration will take twenty-five to thirty minutes of uninterrupted time.

SCRIPT: Meeting Your Inner Advisor
Begin to relax by taking a comfortable position, loosening any restricting clothing, and making arrangements for thirty minutes of unrestricted time . . . take a few deep breaths and begin to let go of tension as you release each breath . . . allow yourself a few minutes to relax more deeply, allowing your body to let go and your mind to become quiet and still....

Imagine yourself descending the ten stairs that take you deeper to your quiet inner place . . . 10 . . . 9 . . . deeper and more relaxed . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . easily and naturally . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . deeper and more comfortably relaxed . . . 4 . . . your mind quiet and still, but alert . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . deeper and more comfortably at ease ... and 1....

As you relax more deeply, imagine yourself in that special place of beauty and serenity you found as you did the previous imagery exercises . . . take a few minutes to experience the peacefulness and tranquillity you find in this place....

When you are ready, invite your inner advisor to join you in this special place . . . just allow an image to form that represents your inner advisor, a wise, kind figure who knows you well . . . let it appear in any way that comes and accept it as it is for now . . . it may come in many forms--a wise old man or woman, a friendly animal or bird, a ball of light, a friend or relative, a religious figure. You may not have a visual image at all, but a sense of peacefulness and kindness instead....

(Excerpted from Guided Imagery for Self-Healing ISBN: 091581188X)
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 About The Author
Martin Rossman MDPhysician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant, Dr. Rossman founded The Healing Mind in order to raise awareness about the power of high quality mind/body......more
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