Role Modeling Imagery Practice Part 2

Posted May 25, 2015
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Role Modeling Imagery Practice Part 2 of 3

If you have not already, please read Part 1


How do you choose a role model?

There is a potential challenge for non-Buddhists when choosing a mentor.  In Tibetan Buddhism, a practitioner imagines a deity or teacher (guru) they are attracted to in some way. The deity may be chosen for their qualities of wrathfulness, semi-wrathfulness or peacefulness.  The Buddhist practitioner may be attracted to the color of the deity or sound of the mantra used in the practice. In some instances the Buddhist teacher chooses a practice or practices based on the individual student’s challenges and capacities.  It is helpful in the secular world for the practitioner to initially identify the qualities they desire to possess.  As the practitioner of the visualization one must ask,  “How do I wish to be in the world?”  This helps prioritizing qualities that will help you face whatever issues and struggles you are facing.  For example, if you wish to deal with stressors and triggering situations in a calm manner you would need to visualize a role model that embodies this quality.

It is advisable not to use someone with whom you have a complicated relationship, such as an immediate family member.  It is appropriate to enlist the image of a treasured mentor, teacher, philosopher, super hero, writer or religious icon. For example, if when you were in the first grade you had a teacher who really believed in you and said words of encouragement that stuck with you, this teacher may be an appropriate role model for you.  The risk of identifying someone that you have too close a personal relationship with is that they may let you down or you may have periods where you lose faith in their efficacy.  In some cases it may be best to use a fictionalized character, or if creativity allows, an entirely imagined super hero being. The point is to imagine an idealized parent figure to lend support during the reparenting process.  The reparenting process involves you seeing the deficits of your own upbringing and temporarily using the role model as your parental support figure. I imagine artists and poets from different communities taking on the task of creating super heroes, poetic recitations and practices for role modeling practice.  

Next >> read how the practice helps.


Sustainable Happiness: The Mind Science of Well-Being, Altruism, and Inspiration – Joe Loizzo

Re-Visioning Psychology – James Hillman

Self-object Needs in Kohut’s Self-Psychology. Psychoanalytic Psychology – Banai, E., Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. (2006)

Additional resources:

C.G. Jung

Lee, D. (2005). “The Perfect Nurturer” in Gilbert, P. (Ed.) Compassion Conceptualizations, Research and Use in Psychotherapy, New York: Routledge.

Coates, S. W. (1998). Having a mind of one’s own and holding the other in mind: Discussion of “Mentalization and the changing aims of child psychoanalysis” by Peter Fonagy and Mary Target.



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Role Modeling Imagery Practice by Christine Heinisch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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About the Author

Chris Heinisch is a counselor and psychotherapist in Tucson, Arizona. She integrates the practices and wisdom of Eastern traditions (primarily Buddhist) with Western Psychology. She is currently studying Contemplative Psychotherapy at the Nalanda Institute in NYC. Please visit her website at for more information.





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