Aidan Martin, a student social worker, shares some of his techniques of visualisation
Hi! I am an Independent Practice Teacher, and for many years now I have been coordinating and facilitating a monthly group supervision session for my social work students. This is based on the premise that they would benefit from having the cross-sector and cross-setting experiences and knowledge that I am exposed to by working in so many inspiring settings and with so many varied University routes. Over the last few years this has been with the support and involvement of some Independent Practice Teacher colleagues, Don Sinclair and Shirley Cusack. This has allowed the number of students and diversity of experiences shared to grow.
Sadly, our last student group was scheduled to take place the week that all of the University placements were suspended. This was in light of government guidance with regard to mitigation of COVID-19; unprecedented measures and unprecedented times.
One of my students had prepared an input for this group session on visualisation techniques, as our previous group had focused on professional resilience and a focus on the importance of self-care seemed welcome and timely (even then). After his placement was suspended, this student and I talked about his planned presentation, and I suggested that what he had prepared might be even more important to share now that things had taken such a dramatic and worrying turn. He was very quick to agree, and has put together a document based on the themes, concepts and references that he had wanted to share with the other students. I was so moved by it when I read it that I asked him if he would mind me circulating it more widely with the Learning Network West IPTs (and now even more widely via ScOPT), and he said he was very happy for this to be shared with anyone as if it helps anyone at all then “job done” in his words.
Jessica Proctor, Independent Practice Teacher
Credit to: Aidan Martin, MSc Social Work Year 1, Glasgow Caledonian University
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today” – Malcolm X
Hello everyone. In these challenging and unprecedented times I am going to share with you some of the techniques of visualisation I have been using for many years. I had hoped to present this at our group supervision in a very different format. Now more than ever, we need hope and positivity. Some of these concepts may seem ‘airy fairy’ to some people, but I have seen many hardened drug addicts turn their life around using techniques like this, including myself. Furthermore, I have seen people help turn the lives of others around by also using these techniques.
The Law of Attraction
- I first discovered this concept in a book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
- The Law of Attraction claims we project an image out into the universe and the universe sends it back to us
- According to this belief, if we constantly envision failure, that is what we will attract to our lives
- If we expect to succeed, we plant the image in our mind and work towards it
- If we truly believe in our positive image, no matter what it is, then the universe works with us to make it happen
- Connor McGregor used these techniques, whilst he was an unknown mixed-martial-arts fighter living on welfare in Dublin, to envision himself as a future UFC champion.
- So according to this belief, the universe wants you to succeed. The only person who can stand in your way is yourself
- Every day I envision the day that the news headline reveals ‘Cure for Coronavirus discovered’. I believe It WILL happen.
- Vision boards come from the same concepts as The Law of Attraction.
- This is where you put the dreams or goals that you have on to a board so you can look at them every day and visualise them.
- The key is to write these goals down to show you have already achieved them, even before the event has happened.
- I will use my social work master’s degree as an example. I do not write down that I want a degree, I need a degree, or I will work hard to obtain a degree. I do not ask or pray for the degree. On my board it states I HAVE a master’s degree in social work.
- If a worry ever comes into my mind about obtaining it, even during these crazy times, I am reminded every day that I believe that I already have the degree. Now I can focus purely on my work and what I need to do, as I know my degree is waiting for me to arrive.
- I have used this concept over the years during many of the most challenging times of my life. As a using addict, when I used to struggle to get a day clean, I wrote down ‘I am multiple years clean’. That moment arrived.
- When my son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2016 I wrote down that he was cured. That moment arrived too.
- In fact when he was diagnosed I was halfway through my undergraduate (in year 3). I thought about quitting my course at first, but I knew that this was not the answer. So instead I created a picture so strong in my mind I felt it in my soul.
- I visualised myself at graduation day with a 2:1 qualification, a healthy son and a baby daughter with my fiancée and mother by my side. This was before my partner and I had started to try for another baby.
- In 2017 I graduated with a 2:1, my son was healthy, my daughter was 3 weeks old and my fiancée and mother were by my side.
- Another concept to keep in mind is this. What is your WHY?
- Sometimes it is important to focus on WHY you are doing rather than WHAT you are doing.
- When Uni life gets tough I remember my WHY. I want to work with addicts/offenders and give back to my community.
- Life is too short not to understand what your WHY is. Steve Jobs would remind himself every day that one day he would die. This was not to be morbid, but to stay focused and never give up on his dreams and beliefs.
- Listen to YouTube clips of Eric Thomas and/or Les Brown discussing reasons WHY we do something.
- You don’t need to be religious to have faith in something greater working in your life. If you can identify your WHY keep moving towards it, one step at a time.
- I am very open about being in recovery from substance abuse. It is the foundation for my entire life and I still go to meetings today. I will do so for the rest of my life. I wanted to share with you some of the concepts that work for me and other recovering addicts; these can work for anyone, especially as things stand right now in the world.
- Just for Today- this is about keeping things in the day and is a very useful tool. If a recovering addict or someone trying to get clean thinks about never using drugs again, it can overwhelm them and is potential for a relapse. However, if we always focus on just being clean for today, then the pressure is lifted. I have used this technique as a student when my workload feels overwhelming. Instead I tackle what I can get done today. Just like with getting clean from drugs, one day turns into one year and so forth. So if we think of this coronavirus in scary terms, such as thinking ‘Oh my God, 18 months until we get a vaccine’, then we are going to freak out. Instead, think about trying to apply some positivity into today.
- Unity – this involves I can’t, but WE can approach. Recovering addicts help each other to stay clean. That’s how it works for me. So now during this pandemic, we need to rely on our fellow human beings, and that we need to support one another in whatever way we can. We need one another more than ever.
- Service – A massive part of recovery is what we call service. This means to give back, serve others, be selfless, be humble and have gratitude. In a meeting this can be as simple as making people a cup of tea. The idea is that addiction is a selfish disease and in recovery we need to do something for other people. I cannot underestimate the importance of this for keeping me clean. Again, today more than ever, we all need to be of service to others. So whether it is buying into positivity instead of panic, taking items to someone’s doorstep if they are stuck, or texting/emailing/phoning someone to let them hear your voice, get out of your own head for a while and do something selfless for someone else. You will be amazed at the self-healing value of this.
- Gratitude List – it is easy in times like this to be pessimistic. A good idea is to write down everything that you feel grateful for in life. This brings perspective. For example, I am grateful for technology today, as it is allowing me to connect to other people in a meaningful way. I am grateful for an app called Zoom, because now my recovery meetings are all online during this period. I am grateful I have access to food, medicine, shelter and safety during this crisis. I am grateful for the love of my family and the ability to love them back, so we can sustain each other through the hard times.
- Higher Power –you do not need to be religious for this concept to work. It is about the belief that there is a higher power in life, and it is there for you to tap into any time you want. That can be a religious or non-religious God, or it can be the universe, meditation or anything at all. In recovery we have people who are atheists or agnostics and their version of God as a higher power is Group of Druggies that helps them to stay clean. This is not a derogatory term by the way. It is something that addicts say in the meetings quite often in an endearing way.
The point is, there is something more powerful than this virus. Please tap into whatever works for you. That is not intended to be a deluded concept. People are suffering, people are dying and I am aware that this is serious. But as the Dalai Lama says, each individual action adds up collectively and the more of us who tap into whatever sources of positivity that we can, the more we win this battle. This is a battle of attitudes. Jordan Peterson says something similar when he claims that we can either be a person who pushes the world closer to hell, or closer to heaven. In other words, we can use our strengths in a negative way, or we can use them in a positive way, no matter what challenges we are facing.
- At the root of all these techniques is refusal to live in fear or to allow it to dictate our lives. Again that does not mean to live recklessly or to ignore advice about things such as social distancing. As a recovering addict I don’t spend time in the company of people using drugs, for example. But the point is, we cannot allow ourselves to stop living or to give up on our dreams, even in times of great hardship. We must find a way to fight back when times are hard. I believe that this fight begins with an attitude not to give up.
I believe this quote by Nelson Mandela sums up what I am trying to say. Please forgive the gendered nature of the quote. I feel it is a powerful message for anyone –
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” - Nelson Mandela.
Allan Watts clip
- I have listened to this clip by Allan Watts repeatedly throughout the years, during many times when I questioned my path. I highly recommend listening to it.
At the end of every recovery meeting we stand in a circle (for unity as no addict need ever feel alone again), hold hands and say the serenity prayer. Again, you do not need to be religious to say this prayer or to believe in any kind of God or higher power. I think now more than ever this prayer even as a form of meditation is so important. Things are happening that we cannot control. However, we can control how we respond.
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen”
- I highly recommend tapping into the many motivational clips on YouTube for Les Brown and Eric Thomas