Improve the Moment: Imagery

We have learned that there are four basic kinds of skills for learning to tolerate distress. These are:

  • Distraction
  • Self-soothing
  • Improving the Moment
  • Thinking of Pros and Cons

  • We have already talked about Distraction and Self-soothing. Now we are going to begin talking about some skills for Improving the Moment.

    At times when you can't or don't want to use distracting or self-soothing skills, when you are in a difficult time or a stressful situation, there are a number of skills you can use for improving the moment. These will reduce your distress, sometimes just for a short time (though you can always repeat them), and sometimes for longer. We can learn to make ourselves feel better. If we can't change the situation we are in, or the struggles we are having, we can change the way we feel. It takes some practice to learn these skills, so be gentle with yourselves.


    Using imagery, you can create a situation or a scene that is different from the one that you are now in. In a way, you can leave the situation. Envision in your mind a place that you would like to be - a safe place, a relaxing place, a beautiful place.  Focus on this place.  Relax, and let yourself feel that you are in this place. It usually helps to notice details of the place that you are in. See that safe place, maybe a room, that is fixed up just the way you want it. Or imagine that spot along the ocean, or being with a good, safe friend.

    Imagine things going well for you. Imagine that you know how to take care of the situation you are in. If you practice doing this, you will find that it begins to work for you. Things DO go better, and you CAN cope better. You can deal better with the crises in your life, if you practice feeling like you can take care of things.

    Create a safe, comfortable place for yourself. It will help if you do this in a quiet room or a quiet spot outdoors. Try to relax, and close your eyes if you feel safe. Settle into this comfortable, safe, beautiful place. Let your hurtful feelings drain or wash out of you, relieving you and making you more comfortable. Breathe slowly and gently as you do this.

    An image that I use is floating in Cape Cod Bay, with the sun shining and the waves gently bouncing me around.  This makes me feel very peaceful and safe. I try to feel the waves and see the sun and the sky as I am doing this.

    When I have a conflict with someone, I tell myself that I can handle it, that I can do a good job, keep my cool, and deal with the situation in a good way. I keep telling myself this, and imagining myself doing it. It helps me to handle the situation effectively.


    This week, try out Imagery as a way of improving the moment.

    Picture a place in your mind where you feel good and safe. Look at what is around you. This may be a cozy room, an outdoor spot, a place with a friend. When you feel distressed this week, picture this place. Hold on to the image. Feel yourself there, safe and comfortable. Stay there as long as you need to.

    How does it make you feel?

    How does it affect your feelings in the moment?

    If you are having a problem or conflict, picture yourself dealing with it effectively. Tell yourself that you can handle the situation.

    How does this affect how you actually handle the problem, or conflict?

    These skills need to practiced when you are not in a crisis, in order to be effective during a crisis. Try to practice for at least a few minutes each day.