By Adam Zwig, PhD
We often get stuck in a problem and cycle around it for extended periods. Wouldn’t it be great if you could untie the knot and go free? Here’s a way to begin to do this.
Think of a problem you feel stuck in. Is it a mood or state of mind you can’t shake? A relationship conflict? An inner critic? A work issue? Whatever it is, put your awareness onto it, and review your experience.
Now, ask yourself the following question: “If I was totally free — a completely free spirit, able to be any way I want — what would I do in this situation?”
In order to answer this, temporarily put your problem aside, and explore this free part of yourself.
Make sure to focus on your inner freedom, not on something external like money that you imagine will somehow magically make you into a free spirit. Money can give you a certain kind of practical freedom but it won't help you truly solve a difficult personal issue.
Begin by visualizing yourself with no constraints whatsoever. Don’t worry if your vision looks too far out, unrealistic, or impractical. Just imagine what you’d be like as a totally free, powerful individual.
Would you be bold and fearless? Spiritual and detached? Quirky and antisocial? How would you look? What clothes would you wear? How would you behave? How would you relate to people, and to the world? Spend some time enjoying your vision of the free “you."
Next, feel into the experience. Imagine feeling totally unconstrained and completely uninhibited. Go deeply into the feeling. Amplify it by making it stronger, more intense, more all-emcompassing.
Now, feel into how your free self would move. How would you walk? What kind of posture would you have? What kind of gestures would you make? Get up and move, walk, jump, dance, or just stand still like your free self would. Embody the experience.
Next, make your mind like your free self. What would your mind be like? Calm and centered? Thoughtful? Creative? Decisive? Think like your free self would.
Now, imagine how your free self would speak. What would you voice sound like? Would it be low or high pitched? How fast or slow would you talk? How loudly or quietly? What kind of energy would your voice express. Experiment with speaking this way.
Okay, put together all these experiences and imagine you are this free spirit. Take a minute or two to have fun with it.
Now, let’s apply your free self to what’s bothering you. How does your free spirit relate to the thing that's keeping you stuck? What new attitude and energy does it bring to the situation? What new ideas and solutions does it come up with? Can you take a new action you may have never considered?
If you can’t make a change right away, or if there are practical considerations in play, use the attitude of freedom to begin to transform the situation. Go as far as your free self will take you today. Take a baby step toward solving the problem. Believe in this more enlightened, free part of your consciousness. It’s the way to liberation.
Here are some questions:
1. Do you usually have access to this free part of yourself? If not, what stops you from being this way? What’s the obstacle?
2. How does your free self respond to this obstacle?
3. How can you bring this free way of being into your inner life, your relationships, your work, and your spirituality?
4. Do your heroes / heroines embody this free way of being? If so, this may be why you’re attracted to them.
Great work! You’ve just learned how to access your inner freedom, and apply it to an issue that’s been keeping you stuck. You did this by visualizing, feeling, moving, thinking, and speaking as your free self, applying this experience to your problem, and contemplating ways you can implement this new way of being into your life.
Here are some of my clients’ experiences:
1. A twenty-two year-old man plagued by other peoples’ opinions of him imagined himself as a free spirit who didn’t care about what people thought. We explored his vision of freedom, and he suddenly had a whole new self awareness and perspective on life. As soon as he detached from others’ opinions he was able acknowledge his true feelings about who he did and didn’t want to be friends with, how he wanted to behave in social situations, and even what kind of work he was attracted to. Over time he was able to integrate this new awareness into his life.
2. A fifty-one year-old, overworked, stressed out businessman imagined himself as a free-spirited artist. We explored his vision, and he discovered a new way of being in the world. He wasn’t about to quit his high paying job at a finance company, but he began living his life in a more fun, artistic way. He cut down on his work hours, took up painting, went on family trips to wine vineyards, and developed a more relaxed attitude toward life.
3. A twenty-four year-old woman who was afraid to stand up for herself in her relationships imagined herself as being totally weird, quirky, and able to say whatever she felt. In her imagination she talked to people when she wanted to and stopped talking to them as soon as she felt she was done. If she got into a conflict with someone she didn’t react from fear but rather from what she truly felt. We explored her feeling of what this would be like and she had an ecstatic experience of freedom. We had to work on her fear of people thinking she’s a "crazy woman,” but after she got through that she began follow her unique, self-directed way of being in relationships.
Dr. Zwig—psychotherapist, singer-songwriter, educator, and author holds a PhD in clinical psychology, is an internationally renowned workshop leader and lecturer, and has had 9 Top Ten hit singles on the U.S Adult Contemporary charts. He has been featured in Billboard, Huffington Post, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Forbes, Gibson, and many other publications, and has over 75 million views on YouTube. Dr Zwig has released 7 albums and his songs can regularly be heard on NBC, Fox, and Fuel TV. His forthcoming book, Music in the Mayhem: Tales of Total Transformation from a Rock n Roll Psychotherapist, arrives soon.
DISCLAIMER: The content contained herein is for inspirational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. Nowhere in this Exercise does Dr. Zwig diagnose or treat a viewer with any kind of psychological, mental, emotional or physical disorder as might be diagnosed and treated by a personal psychologist or other professional advisor. The content is not intended to be a substitute for working with a therapist but is for the purpose of educating the viewer about new approaches to working on personal problems. Viewers should use this Exercise at their own risk, with the understanding that Dr. Zwig is not liable for its impact or effect on its users. Viewing this Exercise does not form a practitioner/client relationship between the viewer and Dr. Zwig. Dr. Zwig is not responsible for any action taken by a viewer based upon any information in this Exercise. Never disregard professional medical advice or stop taking psychiatric medication based on something you have read in this Exercise without a doctor’s supervision and ongoing therapeutic support. Dr. Zwig is an educator, author, and life coach in the U.S., and a psychotherapist in Switzerland. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology. He is also a rock n roll musician.