The Power of Negative Visualisation

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Visualization has been given a lot of names over time.

It’s been sometimes colloquially referred to as mental imagery, seeing in the mind’s eye, hearing in the head and other such terms. It is a mental practice of imagining or meditating with a focus on detailed imagery.

The power of positive visualisation can refer to putting yourself in a situation where you are running a film in your mind about the best-case scenarios. This practice gives one a sense of confidence and a plan of action for what they intend achieving.

Ultimately, visualisation will make you feel prepared and in tune with your environment, including getting in sync with the people you’re interacting with. Visualisation can come with such a great value of preparation that when your goal is achieved, it leaves you with such feeling of competence that you’ve been doing this all your life. That is the power of visualisation.

While visualisations are generally positive, there is Negative Visualisation, which describes a situation whereby one imagines the worst-case scenario. It is an uncomfortable practice. By the way, who wants to imagine bad things happening to them? After all, we’ve been thought over time to dwell only on positive things. We have great bestsellers written on positive thinking only. So, you see, negative visualisation is not such a popular pursuit.

However, some benefits accrue to this undertaking. It allows you to build an appreciation for the things that you have, an appreciation for the circumstances and situation that you’re in, gratitude for health, and just how far you’ve come.

It is was an approach that ancient Stoics and philosophers used, that enabled them built a great appreciation for what they had. You can call it reverse engineering of positive visualisation, and you would not be wrong.

So, how we engage in negative visualisation? The following steps can help you.
  • Take a moment to sit. Be comfortable to go over situations that you currently have that you might have taken for granted. Visualise not having them in your life.
  • Imagine you’ve just lost a loved. A spouse may be – whose been supportive all these years.
  • Health is a big one – so, imagine you’re sick and not enjoying the best of health.
  • Imagine you not having the kind of opportunities that you currently enjoy – maybe surviving courtesy of a welfare program or having to depend on food stamps every day does the trick.
  • As an athlete, imagine having to retire at a young age as a result of a niggling knee injury when you have a lot of potentials ahead of you.

How did these thoughts make you feel? I guessed it jolted you back to reality and created an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the things you’ve taken for granted.

Planning for the worst-case scenario and visualising it starts to prepare you for the many surprise life offers. It pushes you into putting in place a plan and mapped-out strategies, in the event that your worst fears come to pass. So, while it is great running the best-case scenario in our minds, it is a lot more beneficial thinking about how everything can go south in a moment’s notice. Your fears will push you into building positive plans to deal with any eventualities.

I must have seen or read somewhere that “when you prepare for the worse, you’re in a better place to deal with a disaster, if and when it does arise”. This is especially true because our preparation for a worst-case scenario leaves us with a sense of preparation – a readiness for whatever may come in the future.

In a sporting context, negative visualisation has helped me prepare for games. Having thought about everything that could go wrong in a game, I’m able to change the way I prepare for such games – physically, mentally and otherwise.

It is not surprising that a lot of people don’t practice negative visualisations any more. We live in a fast-paced world where there is no time to pause and think. So, we tend to lose this sense of gratitude for what we have. Negative visualisation is an excellent route to regaining our gratitude.


Final Thoughts

Finally, just as the power of positive visualisation cannot be overstated, so is the power of negative visualisation. I do hope that this piece has given you a little bit of an insight into how you can use negative visualisation as a technique to build gratitude, prepare for the future and generally improve your life.