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Frequently Asked Questions about Imagery

Does everyone have the ability to use imagery?

Nearly everyone imagines, and if you imagine, you can use imagery for many purposes. Remember not to confuse “imagery” with “visualization”. Visualization is seeing pictures in your mind’s eye, and while people are largely visual animals, not everyone visualizes, and most people do not see images in the same way as they see the outside world. Yet almost everyone can imagine in their own way.

When people tell me they can’t visualize, I usually ask them if they can imagine a dragon, right there and then, without closing their eyes or going into a trance. They virtually always say yes, and if I ask them what color it is, what it’s doing, etc., they can tell me. I use that as an opportunity to encourage them to respect the way they imagine things, and learn to use it for good. Try it yourself now: Can you imagine a dragon? What color is it? How big is it? How far way from you is it? What color are its eyes? What’s it doing? What is its skin like? Congratulations — you can imagine a dragon! If you’d like to learn to use that good imagination for cultivating serenity, peacefulness, and well-being, click here to try our audio clips and scripts.

What is an ideal environment for imagery?

Ideally, you want a quiet, safe place so you can close your eyes, relax, and immerse yourself in your inner world of imagination. Once you feel comfortable using imagery, you can learn to let outside noises fade into the background since they are not important or threatening to you.

Being physically comfortable makes it easier to relax, and many people find imagery is easier to do if they recline, while others find it better to sit straight with feet on the floor or in a cross-legged position.

Having reduced lighting often is conducive to relaxation and imagery as well, but once you learn to do imagery, you’ll find it portable and easy to use in most environments.

Clearly, you do not want to be immersed in imagery while you are driving, operating dangerous or important equipment, or in an environment where you need to be paying attention to the outside world!

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Can I do guided imagery at work?

By “guided imagery” in this setting, we assume you mean listening to tapes, and that would depend on the amount of time you have for your own at work. Let your co-workers know not to disturb you for the time you will be relaxing or listening to your imagery tapes. If your workplace has a quiet place for such meditation, use that place. Some people listen to tapes in their cars during their breaks if they are comfortable and parked in a safe environment.

Some companies actively sponsor, or are open to sponsoring, a quiet place and time for people to do relaxation, meditation, or guided imagery, and may even be open to having groups listen to tapes if they promote stress reduction, well-being, or creativity. Talk to your Human Resources representative about this. The Academy for Guided Imagery has a three-tape stress management program designed for this and will be happy to talk to your Human Resources representative about its use.

Do I have to believe in imagery for it to work?

No more or less than you have to believe that thinking can be helpful in certain situations. You don’t have to “believe” in imagery in order to be able to worry yourself sick about something that hasn’t yet happened, and you don’t have to believe in it to relax while daydreaming of being in a beautiful, peaceful place. If you’ve ever had sexual fantasies that were arousing to you, you didn’t have to believe in imagery for that to happen. Imagery is a natural way we think — but as with other forms of thinking, you can learn to do it more skillfully and get more out of it.

Frequently Asked Questions about Imagery

Martin L. Rossman, MD

APA Reference
Rossman, M. (2020). Frequently Asked Questions about Imagery. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.