REBT: Imagery and Behavioral Techniques

Using these strategies can help you work on the feelings and behaviors that stem from irrational beliefs.

Imagery techniques

Time projection: Visualize the catastrophic event and then imagine your feelings a week after this event, or even a month, six months or two years later. This will help you understand that your life will continue even after the feared event.

The “Blow-up” technique: Imagine a feared event and blow it out of proportion until you are amused by it. Being able to laugh at your fear will help you control it.

Behavioral techniques

Exposure: This involves entering feared situations you normally avoid. This “exposure” is deliberate, planned, and carried out using cognitive techniques and other coping skills. The objective is to: (1) test the validity of your fears; (2) de-horrify them by seeing that a catastrophe does not occur; (3) develop confidence in your ability to cope by successfully managing your reactions; and (4) increase tolerance for discomfort by progressively discovering that it is bearable.

Paradoxical behavior: Deliberately behave in a way contradictory to your normal tendency. Practice the behavior until you gradually internalize this new habit. Maybe you typically would stay in bed and rest the day before a big event; avoid this when the next big event comes along.

Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique focuses on tensing and relaxing various muscle groups in your body. It helps you understand and appreciate the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. Begin by tensing your toe muscles for about 5 seconds and then relaxing them for 30 seconds. Follow this with other muscles all the way to your head. Alternatively, you can begin with the head and move down to the toes.

Deep breathing: Sit in a relaxed position and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Make sure your diaphragm — not the chest — is inflating with air. Let the breath out through your mouth. Repeat six to 10 times per minute. Do this for 10 minutes each day or whenever you feel negative thinking coming on.

Visualization: Visual imagery can reduce the sensation of pain. Imagine yourself at the ocean. Think about the sand between your toes, feel the breeze on your face. With your eyes closed, concentrate on slowing and deepening your breathing. Once you have finished the exercise, aim to focus on the present and think positive thoughts.

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