The Visioning® Process: Turning Dreams into Reality
Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., A.T.R.
Turning dreams into reality is child’s play if you know the secret. And what is the secret? It’s simple. Enter that child-like and naturally creative place in your heart and mind. The place where you daydream. The zone where you go when you are at your most creative. Find a quiet space and time for yourself and go there equipped with scissors, glue, paper and old magazines. Sounds like kindergarten stuff, doesn’t it? But it truly begins there. Where we all began. As open, imaginative and adventurous children wanting to explore all the possibilities life has to offer.
Although I am an Expressive Arts Therapist helping people heal through spontaneous art expression (drawing, painting, clay, movement, sound, journal writing), much of my work with clients and corporations has involved the application of the Visioning® process. This process grew out of three careers: first as an artist/designer, then as a child development specialist and finally as an art therapist specializing in Creative Journal therapy.
What I learned about making dreams come true came from talking with other designers and from my own experience as a designer. It also came from observing young children in Montessori schools and Head Start programs I directed. It was not until I became an art therapist and began working with individuals and families that I began applying design principles to the task of designing one’s life.
As an art therapist, I guided clients to explore their inner life (feelings, thoughts, wishes) through spontaneous art expression. This required no talent or training in the arts. The finished product was not the goal. We were going for insight, not performance. We were using art as a portal into the unconscious; very much the way dreams are used. In fact, I often describe art therapy as “having a dream on paper.” The advantage is that the client and therapist can look at the art work together, while dreamwork requires that the client recall her dreams. Many can’t. So allowing one’s inner world to unfold with paint, crayons, clay, movement, journal writing is a powerful way to access one’s inner world.
I noticed that many clients lacked a dream. The spark had gone out and they had little enthusiasm (from the Greek words for “God in us”). They had lost their childlike ability to use imagination and to “wish on a star.” Their lives were burdened by adulthood worries, fears, regrets. The more unhappy the client, the deeper the inner child was buried. I realized early on that I needed to revive the child within for healing to happen. This was long before the term “inner child work” had been coined. We are talking about the mid 70s here. I was teaching early education classes at a local college at the time and parenting two daughters while building my art therapy practice. The needs of children were always in the back of my mind. I also knew that staying stuck in the past was a dead end road. So as a therapist I concentrated on the inner child as it lives and breathes today: the physical, emotional, creative, intuitive and spiritual self. Nurturing and protecting that inner child turned out to be the road to mental health and to creativity.
Guiding clients through this inner child work (which I later documented in my book, Recovery of Your Inner Child) led me more and more to the healing power of the creative process. I began introducing collage work with clients and with groups. I guided them into their heart’s desires and encouraged them to picture what they wanted. Instead of focusing on what was wrong in their lives, on what was NOT working, I appealed to their imaginations. Drawing on my first career as a designer, I began asking the question: “How do you want your life to be? What is your deepest heart’s desire?” All we needed was scissors and glue, large sheets of paper and old magazines.
Soon I saw faces lighting up, eyes shining, and attitudes shifting as if by magic. Allowing themselves to find their true wishes and dreams, enabled these individuals to fly into their imaginations. As they created magazine photo collages which illustrated their heart’s desires, a sense of playfulness returned which had been buried for years. Many people remarked how much fun it was and that it was so much more powerful than visualization techniques they had learned or read about. Some people couldn’t see mental pictures, so visualizing their wishes had never worked. I pointed out to them that designers and architects don’t sit around visualizing. When they get an idea, they get busy and create something physical right away: a sketch, a rendering, a 3-d model, blueprint. They think with their hands. Designers and architects are the people who created the man-made world around us. Why not learn from them?
So I examined the steps that designers use and broke it down into ten: starting with finding one’s hearts desire and ending with celebrations when the dream becomes reality. However, we bumped into inner obstacles along the way. The self-criticism we’d been dealing with in therapy reared it’s ugly head almost form the start. While collecting magazine photos or while making the collage or after finishing it, a voice inevitably came in saying things like: “This is stupid. This will never happen. What a waste of time. Who do you think you are? Getting a little grandiose, aren’t you?” Or an “art critic” would pop up and trash the collage on esthetic terms. “This is ugly. You have no talent. What are you trying to do here? Don’t you have something more important to do?”
Either way, the individual would start to lose heart. So I introduced my method of inner dialoguing for dealing with these “kill joy” voices in our own heads. I asked the individual to write out what that inner critic was saying by using the dominant hand (the one we normally write with). Then with the non-dominant hand, to answer back as if it were the voice of a rebellious or bratty child. It worked like a charm in breaking the spell of self-doubt and judgment. I also advised looking at the collage every day and finding a support system for fostering the dream: people who would encourage or even offer resources of one kind or another.
It worked. Dreams started coming true. People’s collages began to manifest in their everyday lives. One woman got the ideal job in exactly the kind of environment she pictured. Another woman manifested a new car against all odds. A man found the woman of his dreams and asked her to marry him. Another man increased his income dramatically based on his collage images. I came to call the process Visioning® and wrote my book of the same name as a guide for readers. The book also documents many success stories. All kinds of dreams have come true: weight loss, adopting a child, creating a business, planning a wedding, finding a home, and more.
Manifesting my own home is a perfect example of how Visioning® works. My experience parallels that of many students, clients and the many corporate employees I’ve worked with as a consultant. First, I titled my collage: The Year Ahead. I call this the Focus Phrase. It is the “hook” upon which picture selections are made. Do the photo or words from the magazine illustrate the focus phrase or not? If it does, it’s in. If not, it’s out.
Then I began searching for images and phrases in magazines. I kept asking myself, “What do I want to manifest in the coming year.” I really didn’t have anything in mind when I started out. Only a question. Many of the photos in my pile were from architectural publications. Without really planning it, I began selecting photos of houses and coastlines, much like the area of the California central coast south of Big Sur where I’d been vacationing frequently for several years. Before long I had three sheets of 18 X 24 inch poster board covered with photos of living rooms with views of forests, a gothic ceilinged studio, a cozy bedroom and luxurious bathroom with jacuzzi situated beneath a large window. There were also photos of a rugged coastline with a spiral stairway leading down to a beach.
Now it’s important to point out that at the time I made this collage, buying a home and moving from Los Angeles to a remote coastline was highly unlikely. I didn’t have the money to buy a home, my father was ill with cancer and I was responsible for his health care, and most of my income was tied to Los Angeles. I was working as a consultant weekly at Walt Disney Imagineering and conducting workshops in southern California. So my “inner critic” had lots of fuel. Before I even glued the pictures down, it started rattling off (in my head) all the reasons mentioned above why I could not have the house in the collage in the type of location shown there. Everyone has this inner voice that tries to rob us of our dreams. I am no different. And I deal with it the same way I teach others to. Inner dialogues between both hands written in a journal. Let the critic speak on paper and then answer it back. Get tough and do not give in to its chatter. Because that’s all it is.
The next step was to complete the collage and hang it up in a place where I could look at it every day. I chose the large walk-in closet in the bedroom of my apartment. I could see the collage when I woke up, when I went to sleep, when I got dressed and whenever I got anything out of the closet. In other words, I reinforced the image many times each day. I hung it up in August. By the following February I was in escrow on a house that resembles my collage right down to the details of French doors looking out to a forest, the gothic-ceilinged studio and a pink jacuzzi under a stained glass window. Of course, the minute I walked into the house, I knew I was “home,” so I bought it.
Now you are wondering, I thought she said buying such a house was out of the question? I did say that. And that was true at the time I made the collage. But in the meantime, everything in my life had changed. That’s the secret. When you really believe in your dream, when you reinforce it daily, when you really want it with all your heart, guess what happens? The universe or God or your higher power or whatever you call it, moves things around and gives you what you want. My father passed away four months after I made the collage, leaving me enough money for a down payment on a house. My Disney work started to fade and I was getting invitations from all over the US to lead workshops. I was also collecting royalties on several books and one of them was becoming a bestseller. I can collect royalties anywhere. So, within six months, all the obstacles to my leaving Los Angeles and having my dream house had mysteriously vanished. With no effort on my part.
This is the key. You don’t start worrying about how the dream will manifest. That’s none of your business. Your job is to dream, to get really clear about what you want, to reinforce it daily, to deal with the inner doubts, and then allow it to happen in its own way. That last one is tough. Most people want to start strategizing, planning, MAKING it happen. Big mistake. I have seen over and over, in my own life and the lives of my clients, that you don’t MAKE it happen. I didn’t go out looking for houses right after making the collage. I didn’t open a bank account to save up for my dream house. Instead, I let it happen. When you do that, the path becomes so much more creative and surprising than you could have ever imagined.
Several months after creating the collage, I was working on a book in the town where I now live, the place I pictured in my collage. This area is noted for its pine trees on the ocean and its rugged coastline. I had been vacationing here for several years and had decided to rendezvous with a co-author from Oregon so we could work in person on our project for a week. Mid-week, we both got tired of writing. She took off for the beach and I decided to look at some houses just for fun, so I called a realtor. I had no intention of buying a house that day. In fact I had looked at many homes in this area on previous vacations and considered it a fun pass time. That was all. But the fifth house I was shown was THE ONE. No mistaking it. This is what I had asked for. It was the house in my collage. And here I am today, writing this from my office looking out over the pine trees to the sea. Dreams DO come true. But you have to have the dream first. Nurture it, believe in it and in yourself. Follow the Visioning® process into the life of your dreams. As Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”