Thangka Deity Face

This is a healing mentor / role modeling visualization audio guided practice for clearing inner strife and building outer resiliency. This guided practice helps you to call on an idealized role model to support you when facing fears and challenges or simply to feel at rest and ease in your waking life.  At the beginning are basic breathing exercises to help settle the mind prior to partaking in the meditation. This meditation is roughly based on deity practice in the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric visualization tradition.  Please read about role modeling visualization in a recent 3 part series of posts on the subject.

Soundcloud link to audio, if you do not see the player.

 

Mount Kailash Yellow Tint

 

If you have not already, please read Part 1  and Part 2

How does the practice help?

By accessing a role model or healing mentor visually, you are able to personify the qualities you desire to possess. You may wish to ask yourself if you are currently satisfied with the way you see yourself. If you are unsatisfied with your current sense of self, you have motivation to proceed with the practice. Kohut, the developer of self psychology, points to a mistaken sense of self due to developmental issues during childhood where we are completely dependent upon an external figure to help us provide for our emotional and physical needs. He points out that our caretakers and role models are important to our expanded sense of self in that they teach us healthy interdependence, model emotional regulation, and meet our basic needs. According to Kohut an interdependent identity helps us maintain a stable sense of “self-esteem, forming and maintaining a stable system of goal-setting ideals and the ability to communicate feelings to significant others.” This should all take place in an environment where we are not isolated or rejected. This early structure helps one to be calm in times of stress and rebuild when faced with disappointment.

A calcified and isolative sense of self develops after one “focuses on deficiencies” and is “extremely vulnerable to criticism and failures” (Kohut 1971). A healthily role-modeled childhood gives one a sense of interdependence, rather than a small self hardened around narcissistic views. This healthy developmental environment, creates a more expansive self that includes dependence on others. As Kohut explains “significant others are experienced as non-autonomous components of the self”. This sense of self serves as an anchor in times of strife. Many of us face challenges presented by missed role-modeling opportunities in childhood. These practices may be pivotal to the re-parenting process.

It could be argued that the Buddhist doctrine of no self undermines the notion of a self at all. I interpret the Buddhist notion of no self as an expanded and interdependent self rather than a small and isolated one. This notion of “expanded self” dispenses with an attachment to Buddhist doctrine. This practice helps to build the ego strength necessary to interconnect and deal effectively with outer and inner strife.

James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, talks about entering into another “psychological dimension” by personifying or placing our experiences and notions into other beings and objects. This is the imagination at work and is important to the process of role-modeling visualization. When visualizing you are making the object real in terms of embodiment. This reality subsumes interdependence and an expanded self versus a small isolated ego-self. In role-modeling visualization practice this self embodies a tree of interdependence and support that we draw on, take into our body mind and use for healthy interactions with others. This is an integration of the idealized healing role model that shields us in order to do battle with rejection, disappointment and inner and outer strife.

Hillman sees that personification has fallen under the knife of science and scientific monotheism, been chopped to ribbons and thrown out entirely. This notion of science appears to be slowly reversing itself as neuro scientific research is beginning to understand the language of the nervous system. However, when we look for concrete facts and things we can be sure of, we are hearing the voice of a science that sees its notions as the only verifiable reality. It may have been valuable to head in this scientific direction as a reaction and balance to “whacko mysticism” or vague language that is narrow in its own way, but in so doing we’ve completely lost the reality of imagination. Not only that, we’ve lost the transformative and expansive power of the imagination.

From a neuroscience perspective, the brain “lights up” when imagining an activity in similar ways to when we are performing the activity. These role-modeling simulations have the potential to develop regions of the brain. These brain regions may be stimulated and brain development may occur as a result in the areas of bodily self-regulation and mapping our own and other’s inner states. The portions of the brain that deal with insight and narrative may develop in ways that allow us to transform and reinterpret our identity. Our attention regulation centers may see profound changes as a result of these types of practices. These are only some of the healing possibilities for role modeling visualization. I will be posting an audio guided practice next week. Please give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Resources

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.

  

Mount Kailash Red

 

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.

Resources

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.