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Emotion-Image Therapy

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Analysis and Implementation

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I express my profound gratitude to Tatiana Djarova for her help in editing this book and I am also grateful to Galina Anosova for helping me to make up the list of images.

Nikolay Linde


Therapy through emotions and images, or emotional image therapy (EIT), is a new and original method of psychodynamic direction in psychotherapy, which makes it possible to achieve quick and significant results in the field of psychosomatics and while dealing with emotional problems. The basic idea of this method is that any emotional state can be expressed through visual, audial or kinesthetic image and further inner work with this image which transforms negative emotional state into positive.

But for this transformation to be successful it is necessary to analyze psychological reasons of this undesirable emotional state. This method of therapy is oriented at discovering the primary reason of emerging psychological problems. On the basis of images, it is possible not only to analyze psychological problem but to correct it. Thus, we can combine analysis and impact. But we cannot correct undesirable emotional state by just mechanical influence on the image. Emotional and meaningful intersubjective [interpersonal] impact is aimed at changing chronically negative emotional state; the image is just a “leverage’ for this work. That is why at present I use another name for therapy through emotions and images: analytically effective therapy. The state is changed by resolving the initial psychodynamic conflict.

From theoretical point of view emotions are the expression of psychical energy of an individual aimed at some action, for example fear makes a person contract and anger — attack. “Trapped ‘or ‘stuck’ emotions don’t express themselves in actions but generate many negative consequences including psychosomatic symptoms and other chronic problems. We have created and systematized many methods of working with images including those that reveal the structure of psychological problem and those that help resolve it with the help of inner work.

This direction doesn’t contradict other directions of psychotherapy, but makes it possible to use theoretical and practical discoveries of various schools. Seemingly simple work with images is no more than the visible part of the ‘iceberg’ but the efficiency of this method is ensured by its “underwater part’. So, to properly use this method one must know the basics of psychoanalysis; transactional analysis of Eric Berne, gestalt therapy, body therapy of Wilhelm Reich, neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and other methods. But due to some new ideas our method proves to be more effective while dealing with some problems than previous methods.

An important part of our therapy is also life philosophy that we believe in and develop for many years and constantly verify in practice. This philosophy is partly reflected in philosopho – psychological essays, which I call sutras. They are published in a separate book “Psychological sutras. Psychology for real life’ [1].

The method of therapy through emotions and images emerged from my first attempts to find psychological impact on psychosomatic state by working with images. Such methods as relaxation, autogenic training, meditation, autosuggestion, affirmation existed in the past, and still exist. What I didn’t like about them was that the impact program was given a priori. I wanted to proceed from the actual state of the body, I wanted to find a way to understand why it felt that way. I invented meditations aimed at calling forth images reflecting different somatic or psychological state. For example, I asked to imagine how organs of our body look if you travel inside them as a tiny man; what light they radiate if you can imagine this light; what sound they produce if they could produce some sound; in what “mood” they are… Some abstract psychological ideas emerged to: how you can imagine your own “self”; how “meaning of life” looks; how to recover “lost” parts of your personality, etc. Doing these exercises, I got a pleasant feeling. Sometimes I felt that I am overfilled with energy. I felt like sharing my observations with other people.

It turned out that it was possible to correct some symptoms just by focusing one’s thoughts on the created image of this symptom. For instance, it was possible to listen to the imagined sound corresponding to the headache — and the sound changed for the better and the headache disappeared without any analysis of what caused it! One could mentally stretch or loosen the badly sounding string — the sound became better and the pain went away! It was possible to smell the imaginative smell of one’s heart pain — the smell disappeared and so did the pain! It was very interesting, it was like the old method “biofeedback’ [biological feedback], when the patient was taught to mentally control his or her physiological indications shown to him or her on the monitor’s screen. In our case, no computer was needed and the choice of states and images was unlimited, the correction could take place “in the field’. The correction came within just a few minutes, but the result stayed forever. That was wonderful!

I gave seminars, set up a study group. In the course of these studies, the main model of therapeutic work acquired its form. It turned out that it was not always possible to act in a simple way, especially, when we didn’t have a psychosomatic symptom but a psychological problem. I realized that the selection of a method of mental impact on the image is determined by the psychological cause of the problem. The image itself contains a lot of information about the problem, and can be a clue to discovering true reasons of suffering. The client often does not realize that he or she is telling about himself or herself through the image, but the doctor does realize it. Thus, it was necessary to complete our approach by adding to it the procedure of analysis of the problem. This resulted in the development of the primary problems models, see below.

In 1994 I published a small textbook in which I pointed out main ideas, methods and stages of work. It was called in the old way “Meditation psychotherapy” [2]. Soon after that, I changed the title because the words therapy through emotions and images corresponded more adequately to the actual therapy process. I constantly worked with study groups this time including students, developed my theory, means and philosophy of the method.

The field of applying the method gradually broadened, I could easily rid a person from pain, allergy of phobia… Success turned my head a little, though at the beginning I most of my colleagues failed to adequately understand and accept my method. Some of my friends made use of my ideas, which I readily shared, for their own benefit, but I don’t take any offence as the main direction of the development of this method was still with me, and what they did just confirmed that I was right. Besides, in psychotherapy it is impossible to avoid borrowing. On my own part, I gained a lot by studying yoga, having lessons of gestalt therapy and body therapy by psychotherapists from Germany and Switzerland, seminars on NLP [neurolinguistics programming] by different professors, seminars on procedural therapy of Arnold Mindell. I also studied literature on psychoanalysis, symbol drama and other directions of psychotherapy.

I sought to teach students so that they could later use and develop this method and prove that it works not only when I use it. Now I have dozens of followers, and some experienced practical psychologists after having training prefer to use this method, though they know gestalt therapy, NLP, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, etc.

There appeared additional details to the method, but not all of them can be found in publications. The most detailed of them is the book “Emotional Image Therapy. Theory and Practice”. It was published in 2004 in The Moscow University for Humanities, its circulation was rather small [3]. But even in that book much was left out, for example the analytical aspect of the EIT was not fully explained. Various aspects of EIT have been covered in my other books [4,5], and in many of my articles, but only part of them are available in English [6—19]. Therefore, it was necessary to enlarge the book filling in the gaps and expanding the theoretical part, which is the goal of this new book. The method is still being developed; there will be many new things in the book.

This method is new and some of its parts are often misinterpreted. Some people think it enough to create an image and then manipulate it in any way, and everything will become fine. They think that this is my method, but this is not the case. It is necessary to master not only the method itself, but the way to use it.

Once a student I didn’t know came to me and said: “I treated my boyfriend using your method, he had a stomach-ache. His stomach-ache passed but his back started aching. How could it happen?”

— Tell me — I asked — what were the images?

— I don’t remember…

— And what methods of impact did you use?

— I don’t know…

— What problem did you reveal?

— [the look of not understanding] None…

— How can I tell you what you have done and why it happened? You should study first and only after that use the method…

It is not sufficient just to know EIT, our therapeutic work corresponds to all the requirements of any psychotherapeutic work. We face the same difficulties that all others face — resistance, transferring, projection, lack of trust, mental rigidity, prejudices etc. To be able to work in the line of EIT one must have at least basic knowledge of psychoanalysis, analytical psychology of Carl Jung, individual psychology of Alfred Adler, transactional analysis of Eric Berne, body therapy theory of Wilhelm Reich, gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, etc.

It is impossible to apply the method mechanically, as a set of technical tools. It is necessary to treat a client with empathy, model his problem on yourself, solve it as if it were yours, and only after that solve it for the client. It is necessary to get the client’s experience, solve your own problems in this way. It is necessary to have well thought over life philosophy, to have an open heart and to be able to clearly formulate moral principles.

Any form of psychotherapy is a subtle intellectual, emotional and spiritual activity. It is an elitist profession, but the demand for such professionals is great. The number and quality of such specialists should grow. I hope that my experience and many tangible successes in EIT may help to reach this goal.


Psychotherapy is treatment of soul and treatment by soul. This is what the famous Carl Jung said. But this brilliant definition is not sufficient to understand what a psychotherapist does. In our country, a psychotherapist is perceived either as a doctor writing out prescriptions or as a hypnotist filling his patients with what is necessary.

In contemporary terms psychology is a scientific and practical branch of psychology meant to help a suffering person solve his or her psychological problems in the course of specially organized professional communication. Some forms of psychotherapy, for instance, art therapy or body therapy don’t fully match this definition, but the basis of psychotherapy is invariably a conversation, a dialogue. Psychotherapy is conducted either individually or in a group. Most of the clients of a psychotherapist are mentally healthy.

Psychotherapeutic conversation is professional not just because it is conducted according to definite rules, but also because in the course of the conversation the doctor uses the great volume of his professional knowledge and methods aimed at helping the individual to solve his or her own problem. Those are analytical methods meant to discover true reasons of psychological problems. Or they may be teaching methods, meant to work out skills and abilities that could help deal with a problem situation. Or they may be methods encouraging the client to work on himself or herself. Or creating model methods which helps create a, so to speak, “laboratory” model of the problem in order to solve it. Or development methods, helping develop the client’s personality, to uplift it, if we may say so, so that as a result he or she could easily solve the problem himself. Or transformation methods, helping change emotions, behavior or way of thinking of the individual. And other methods…

Somehow or other, psychology can fulfill only two interconnected tasks — to help a client in self-knowledge and to help him in self-change. It cannot and must not fulfill any other tasks. A psychologist or a psychotherapist are only conductors or “stalkers” helping the individual travel around his/her own inner world. The main work is done by the one who came to get some help, and without his work on himself nothing can be done. Rare exceptions only prove the rule.

From that come important consequences. If the client thinks that his problem is caused not by himself but some outside forces, then we can’t help him. In other words, if a client thinks that he can’t control himself, can’t cognize himself and change his behavior, way of thinking, emotions and character then psychological therapy can’t be provided to him. In this case, he considers himself to be a victim of some independent from him outer forces so he can’t change anything.

If he believes that his problem is connected with malfunctioning of his brain, he should turn to psychoneurologists or psychiatrists. If he thinks that his problem is connected with some telepathic influence on him by aliens, the use against him of some psychotropic weapon, influence on him of an inner voice, which orders him to this or that, the influence of his neighbors who pull out his thoughts from his head, he should turn to above mentioned professionals. If he thinks that an evil curse was put on him, that he was bewitched or that an evil spirit got into him, he should go to a person with extrasensory perception, to church or to psychiatrists. If he believes that his problem is connected with some wrong or illegal actions of some people, he should go to the police, to a lower or city administration etc. If he thinks that his problem is caused by the lack of money, he must learn to earn it. And if he thinks that to resolve all his problems he must become the president, change all men [or all women], better the country, all people, the world, morality, in this case he should go to Father Frost, Gold Fish, God or well-known Pike.

If the client doesn’t understand that his problem is rooted in his own self, psychotherapist can’t help him. Psychotherapist will, anyway, try to patiently explain to the client what the problem is, but if the client doesn’t agree to take the responsibility for his problems, the work will fail.

Therapy through emotions and images is not outside the specter of psychotherapeutic directions, it is not magic or panacea from all diseases, it addresses inner forces of the person himself seeking to remove all barriers on the way of harmonization of inner psychic forces and programs. These aims are reached by impacting emotional states of the client through the work with inner that is imaginative images of those very states. The main methods are models, analysis and transformation. Transformation is made by the client himself, in the same way as he himself creates images of his states. The doctor helps him do it, revealing those emotional states which are clue elements for resolving the problems. He also helps produce images, analyze them, he gives his interpretation of the images, offers some ways how to influence them. He helps continue the process of transformation to ultimate completion, controls ecological purity of the result and fixing it in real life.

Different therapy directions work with images; they are first and foremost gestalt therapy and symbol drama. But it was Sigmund Freud who interpreted images in dreams [20], and Carl Jung applied the method of active imagination [21,22]. NLP, art-therapy and many other directions up to behavior therapy also use images [23,24]. Nevertheless, we claim that we have invented something new in this field. There is something similar in all directions of psychotherapy. They have more in common then different. But it is little things, small “details” that make up the style of each method, and the style determines how effective the method is for certain tasks, how easy it is for the doctor, and how simple and understandable it is for the client.

Therapy through emotions and defined as a new our country’s method [modality] of psychodynamic direction in psychotherapy.

We should recognize balanced combination of analytical research and corrective impact in one process of working with images of emotional states [“two in one”, so to speak] as a specific trait of EIT. Another characteristic trait of EIT is that the result is most often achieved there and now, at the same second when an adequate means curing the inner emotional conflict is used. It is determined by the fact that EIT is a causal psychotherapy that is it as aimed at finding the primary cause of the person’s problem and its correction by a pointed, ecologically pure and humane influence. This influence is executed by the client himself, but though it is the work with an image [or images], in actual fact it is his influence on his own emotions or parts of his personality.

Another characteristic feature of EIT is that all problems without any exceptions are considered through their psychosomatic expression. It means that we believe that all problems are rooted in emotional states, but these states can be understood only through bodily feelings. It is the body that expresses emotions; they don’t fly in the air. Our view is that the body is the center of identification, where chronic emotional states are fixed. Transformation of an emotion, regarded as psychosomatic state leads not only to obvious psychosomatic effect but to actual change of the personality which settles the problem at a deeper level than just behavior or intellect. Behavior and mentality change as if by themselves but in fact as a result of the change of deep emotional basis. The transformed emotion is also fixed in the body and then “by passing over in silence” determines new behavior, mentality, psychosomatic states, energy level and traits or character.

We will further describe characteristic features of EIT in greater detail. We will tell about theoretical background of EIT, methodological basis and techniques explaining their meaning in detail. We will explain how EIT differs from other psychotherapy modalities. We will also analyze imaginative exercises, which are used in EIT. There are a lot of examples from practice and they are very important. Many conclusions logically come from examples, but they must be made by the reader himself. Examples may give the impression that the therapy is executed during one session, but it is not true. The examples are given in such a way as to clearly show the possibilities of this or that methodology and causes of typical problems. It is necessary to study prolonged individual therapy; it has its own particulars, which are not covered in this book. Though even in this case every session is aimed at resolving some local problem, and all stages of problem solving make one line, which is determined by theoretical views of the doctor.

At the end of the book we give the list of most typical images, described in the book and their interpretation.

Chapter 1. Emotions and their importance

1. Emotion — criterion of correctness and successfulness

Whatever a man does he does it for some emotional state. He connects the result with the desirable emotion. It is this emotion that is the criterion of success. But we can ask: “And what if he does it for clear conscience? What does it have to do with emotion?”

Then tell me, what the state of clear conscience gives to a person? This state provides the feeling of wellbeing and dignity, calmness and being of one self. These emotions are very dear to a person, and the one who feels that way will not want to lose them. These emotions are extremely significant and the one who feels that way, will not want to lose them for some temporary benefit. If on the other hand a man feels that his conscience is not clear, he has unpleasant emotions of shame and guilt. He wouldn’t want to be feeling that way, so [normally] he would try to behave accordingly.

The same is true of any business. Whatever business you would try to consider, the ultimate goal for which you would do it, is emotion or emotional state. Certain emotional state is a final “bonus”. Though a person may think that he does it for some actual result, and not for some emotion. But if not for emotions, then the man doesn’t really want the result, he will not even try to achieve it. Let me give an example.

Example 1. “An unhappy rich man”

A successful rich man once asked me, why, though everything is all right with him, he doesn’t feel happy.

— I have — he says — everything. I have a family, children. I have an apartment — a usual one — 130 square meters. I don’t need much. Well, a nice car “Jaguar”. And I don’t need anything else. But for some reason I don’t feel happy. I am thinking all the time how to increase my wealth. I go jogging to keep fit, but my mind is always busy, thinking over something all the time. I am a member of five boards of directors, I have a boat in joint ownership, I have some land… I have to manage it all properly… My friend and I made a very big deal costing hundreds of millions of dollars. We did everything correctly and in keeping with the law, but as a result we both have the feeling of emptiness.

— And why are you trying so hard? You can live with no worry and enjoy life…

— No. I want to be the first!

— And for what?

— I don’t know. Just want and that’s all!

— Well, imagine that you have achieved everything and are standing on the first step of the pedestal. What have you got out of it?

— I don’t know. I think people must love me…

— Well, and who will love you for that?

— Indeed. People will envy me will even hate me…

— Then for what? Do you think somebody may give you a medal? Make up an image of the one who will give you a medal. Just the first thing that comes to your mind…

— [After thinking a little and then looking at me slyly] What? I can’t believe it, is it really my mother?

— Of course, mother! She used to tell you: “Be patient, sonny. Try hard, sonny.” She herself was a workaholic, a foremost person in industry. It turns out that you are working not for yourself but for your mother. Though she loves you in any case… But she didn’t teach you to be happy, she taught you to be hardworking and persistent!

Commentary. The businessman wanted to feel happy getting his mother’s approval, but he didn’t realize that. His mother’s approval, when he followed her advice, gave him the feeling of wellbeing, self-accepting and “clear conscience”. But if he got some pleasure for himself, his personal happiness, it was as if he was idle and became “bad” at once. He tortured himself seeking values of hard labor and achievements that his mother approved, though his real mother would in every case have approved of him. He was guided by the desire to get the approval and the fear to get disapproval. But from his own point of view he didn’t apply enough efforts, so he exhausted himself by hard work but failed to get the desirable happiness.

Thus, people are guided by feelings, even though they don’t notice that.

However, few people would agree to get “pure” positive emotion, not supported by actual results, as, for example, drug addicts. Most people try to achieve real results, the result that would give the feeling of profound satisfaction and even, as many people hope, the feeling of happiness. It is the real result and not an illusion of it, that gives the feeling of solidity and confidence, that gives fool value to other emotions, connected with this result. Unfortunately, people often deceive themselves, and when they achieve their real goals, they don’t feel happy, sometimes they don’t even feel delighted. Why it happens is a long story. But the fact is that personal emotional reaction determines the significance of the result for this person. For example, when a child cries bitterly because his balloon has flown away, the adult may not be very upset, but somewhat disturbed because he is not sure how to console the child, how to explain to him that what happened is a trifle.

2. Emotion as the main goal

But some things that people deal with are meant in fact for the only purpose to feel certain emotion; in this case emotions are both the goal and the result of some kind of activities. It is for this that fans come to the stadium, people listen to music, some people gamble, go in for extreme kinds of sports, meet with friends, mark holidays, let off fireworks, dance and sing and, why not, make love. Some psychologists think that orgasm is not an emotion, but what is it then? Emotions themselves are important, they give us something, and it is also important. And it is clear that positive emotions give us health, fill us with energy. Negative emotions tell badly on how we feel, on our health, deprive us of our strength.

When a person is incapable of feeling pleased, of feeling positive emotions, we call it apathy, nothing matters for him. If he not only wants nothing, but is constantly in low spirits, feels dysphoria, then we can speak of depression. In other cases, a person is worried all the time. He feels guilty, sorrowful. Then the goal is to get rid of those unpleasant feelings.

There is always room for improvement. Everybody seeks to have good feelings, positive emotions which make the basis for adequate reactions, clear thinking, ability to be creative. In soviet culture this optimal emotional state is Called happiness, in Hinduism — Samadhi, in Buddhism — enlightening [purity in spirit], in Christian tradition it is divine grace. Happiness is the feeling of absolute psychological freedom which can be defined as the feeling of limitless opportunities. In this state a person gets so much energy that he feels as if he were overfilled with it and, because of that, with good feelings. Whatever he does, it is easy and not tiring. The surrounding reality is perceived as comfortable and safe, other people don’t arouse the feeling of threat, he thinks about them with warm and friendly feelings. This is how a person in love feels, when he knows that he is loved too, and then love and joy overfill him.

Happiness is a man’s natural state. He can get to this state when all the obstacles to feeling happy are removed. These obstacles are numerous negative emotions, taboos and tensions. Taboos and tensions in their turn can be fixed as chronic emotions, and a part of them can be positive. The paradox is that to be happy it is necessary just to get back to you true self, to stop suppressing and distorting your nature.

3. The way you feel is also an emotion

People care a lot about how they feel, but they don’t consider it to be an emotion, they consider it to be the consequence of the state of their health. But even when feeling well or feeling bad is the result of good health or illness, a person feels it as any other emotion. This emotion actually expresses or reflects good or bad state of the body, and it can cause some changes in the body, for example, the secretion of adrenalin or other hormones. It is the so called autonomous nervous system that runs the whole inner “chemistry’ of the body. It is not subjected to conscious management, but is by emotions that it is governed by. If a person chronically has certain emotional states, the impact of these emotions can lead to some psychosomatic disease.

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