As a child, I was always told I had a vivid imagination. I often wonder if that could have got me into even more trouble than it did as a younger man… Luckily, I found good ways of having my imagination stimulated (for the most part)…

So many areas of my work explore the imagination and it’s impact upon our lives… In a couple of my books I even talk about imagination as an incredibly hypnotic tool both conversationally and therapeutically.

This week I read an interesting piece of research cited at the British Psychological Society about OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) and hat I find refreshing about it is that it discusses the possibility that imagination can cause or maintain obsessive compulsions. That is, imagining bad results if certain rituals are not carried out…

I have worked with a great many people who have severe OCD — some of whom have been house bound because they imagine bad things happening if hey do not complete their psychological rituals before leaving the house… If you discuss it practically with them, they often even know how ridiculous it is, often admitting that they know they are imagining the bad circumstances… Yet the power of the imagination wins out.

Let me quote this piece of research at the BPS before I carry on:

Seventeen men and thirteen women with OCD were presented with the beginnings and endings of various feared scenarios. For example, they were to imagine being served a meal in a restaurant by a waitress who they knew had just visited the toilet. They were then to imagine waking up the next morning feeling ill. Their task was to fill in the middle part of the story. The participants were presented with stories that were more or less relevant to their particular variety of OCD (e.g. hoarding or contamination-based), as well as control stories that had positive endings.

The key prediction was that the ease with which the participants were able to fill in the missing gaps (as gauged by independent judges) would be linked with how likely they subsequently rated that scenario as being in real life, and therefore how worried they would be about it. However, this wasn’t found. Ease of imagination predicted subsequent worry, but not how likely the participants thought that scenario would be. Moreover, ease of imagination wasn’t linked with any cognitive features of OCD such as perfectionism.

However, not all the results were negative. Participants found it easier to imagine the scenarios that were more relevant to their particular form of OCD, and the participants with more vivid imaginations showed more OCD-related symptoms.

You see how imagination can exasperate?! I blogged about the power of imagination a wee while ago too.

Many other schools of psychology talk about thought processes, yet I tend to believe that our lives are much more led by what we imagine — which is more the domain of hypnosis than cognitive schools of thought.

This week and throughout this new month, in my ezine, I am tackling the issue of worry and it is amazing that when researched, how much you realise the simplest of things affect us so profoundly.  

Depression, anticipatory anxiety even the vivid uncontrolled imaginings of Post traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia all entail massive firing of uncontrolled and misused imagination. Dreams are processed through powerful imaginings. We don’t cognitively decide what to dream, we spontaneously imagine vivid dream narratives which sometimes can terrify us.

I bet you’ve woken from  dream before wondering if it really happened or not, haven’t you?

Learning to gain more control of our imaginations as well as our thoughts and actions (which can both spring from imagination) is, I think, an integral part to developing and overcoming psychological difficulties.

I read a fabulous quote at another blog earlier this week… As the esteemed Sufi poet Rumi said almost 800 years ago: “There is no cause for fear. It is imagination, blocking you as a wooden bolt holds the door. Burn that bar….”

And was it someone else who said there is nothing to fear but fear itself… I could go on, couldn’t I?