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Conquering the Inner Demon of Anxiety using Animals & Imagery

Conquering the Inner Demon of Anxiety using Animals & Imagery

In my journey to uncover the cause of my own tension I have uncovered at least three layers. First, when I began my private practice as a psychologist I felt insecure because I was taking a chance in resigning from a secure position, and I was not certain of future success. Success did arrive quickly and I believed that with such success the tension should fade. It did not.

The second realization came a couple of years later, while talking with another psychologist. I realized that I feared anger. In realizing this fear and recognizing that anger is often an integral part of psychotherapy, I began to use my anxiety during sessions as a signal indicating that anger needs to be dealt with in a direct manner.

My anxiety became a normal and appropriate ally in the face of anger. I felt that this approach greatly increased my effectiveness as a therapist and my life in general. But the anxiety in the morning continued. A third realization was the feeling of responsibility, being responsible to help the lives of others. I have struggled with that idea, and it has led to acceptance but no great change.

Facing the Tormentors of Dyslexia, Social Phobias, and Unathleticism*

As is apparent by my success, I have been a person who has always faced these tormentors. I was dyslexic but eventually earned my Ph.D. My social backwardness was outwardly overcome by becoming a successful psychologist. For about six months, a number of years ago, I worked in the complaint department of a large department store to overcome my fear of using the telephone. I never did become a successful athlete, but I overcompensated in other areas. On the surface, I should not have been troubled with this anxiety over the years.

The realization that my anxiety was caused by these deeper feelings of lack of trust and fear of being hurt by others was not enough to allow me to wake up in the morning feeling rested and quiet inside. From my experience in using hypnosis and mental imagery to help others with anxiety I do understand why. I know to change such subconscious beliefs takes “talking with” the subconscious mind through dreams or image work. I had changed my behavior through willpower, but in my imagination I was still the hurt and untrusting kid.

Animal Imagery & Therapy

Conquering the Inner Demon of Anxiety using Animals & ImageryIt so happened that on Thursday, June 14, I was to go to a four-day meeting of the Third World Conference on Imagery. On Sunday, I was to present a workshop on power struggles. This conference gave me the time off, a forum to work on this struggle within myself, and a place to share myself with a number of beautiful people at the conference who did not know what they were doing for me. Their ability to listen and, especially their humor, was what I needed. I spent a good hour or more each evening in my room meditating on these beliefs.

On Saturday afternoon I went to a workshop on animal imagery and met several animals with the help of Rene Pelley a-Kouri. I frequently use animals in therapy with others, but I use animals in a different manner. I found Rene’s model interesting. I use a model of the four directions of the medicine wheel to provide structure to the imagery of animals, while Rene used the seven chakras.

Chakra Imagery & Power Animals

Rene first asked me (and the whole group) to allow an animal to come out of my heart chakra. My image was slow to form, and only when drifting off into a deeper trance, in which I saw a modern ranch-style house with a sloping driveway and a new car in the driveway (no house, driveway, or car I have known) did my imagery become spontaneous. I was washing that car and a few feet away on a tall tree was a squirrel with its tail darting back and forth, asking me to follow it up the tree. I stood there wondering what the squirrel was all about.

The second image was from my third-eye chakra and again it was slow in coming. I waited to let go of control and that control was eased when I began to float through a black tunnel that opened onto a very green and bright meadow with trees and shrubs. In this meadow was a deer grazing contently and curiously watching me.

The third image was from the first chakra which is centered at the base of the spine. The image appeared quickly. I was astride a large wooly buffalo holding on to its neck and enjoying the warmth and softness of its fur as it grazed contently.

The fourth image was from the second chakra, just below my navel, repre-senting that emotional part of myself. I was sitting in an alley with my legs extended and apart, with a gray rat standing between my legs slightly beyond my feet. A few feet away, against the wall of a building, was a garbage can, new or clean in appearance. The rat was looking at me, and I knew it was asking me for permission to go rummage through the garbage can.

Keep Searching and the Answer Will Come

In driving home on Sunday, I found insight. In using the medicine wheel taxonomy, rodents are animals of the South, of trust, playfulness and innocence. The deer and buffalo are animals of the North, or animals of wisdom, understanding and spirituality.

In bringing the squirrel and rat together, it struck me that the rat was that garbage or distrusting part of me asking to let go. The squirrel was beckoning me to follow him up the tree of life, the path connecting Mother Earth and Father Sky, to rise above distrust. I told the rat it was free to go. The other images indicated that I felt secure and content in my spirituality, in my wisdom and understanding.

Only when I let go of trying too hard to understand did the feeling of these images register and make sense. My struggle with distrust was beginning to be over.

*subtitles added by InnerSelf

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bear & Company, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
©2011. www.innertraditions.com


This article was adapted with permission from Appendix B of the book:

The Power of Ecstatic Trance: Practices for Healing, Spiritual Growth, and Accessing the Universal Mind by Nicholas E. Brink.

The Power of Ecstatic Trance: Practices for Healing, Spiritual Growth, and Accessing the Universal Mind by Nicholas E. Brink A student of Felicitas Goodman and Belinda Gore, psychologist Nicholas Brink examines more than 20 traditional trance postures for divination, decision making, letting go of guilt and grief, healing of illness and emotional pain, spirit journeys, shape-shifting, interacting with animal spirits and the dead, and discovering past lives. Exploring the physiology and psychology of ecstatic journeying, he offers guidance for those with little or no experience as well as methods for longtime practitioners to deepen their practice and reclaim the extrasensory power of our ancient ancestors.

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.


About the Author

Nicholas E. Brink, author of: The Power of Ecstatic TranceNicholas E. Brink, Ph.D., is a psychologist who has maintained a private clinical practice since 1977. He is board certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology, on the board of directors of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and a past president of the American Association for the Study of Mental Imagery. A certified teacher of ecstatic trance with the Felicitas Goodman Institute, he lives in Coburn, Pennsylvania.

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