“The motion of the mind is conveyed along a cloud of meaning. There is this paradox that we get to meaning only when we strip the meaning from symbols.”
~ David Berlinski


Imagery is like a window into your inner world. The language of the subconscious mind is images, which can arise from the subconscious itself or can be sent to it from external sources.

Below are oft-used symbols in guided imagery/visualization work:

Inner Guide is a figure who represents the wisdom within. One’s intuition, moments of sudden insight, revealing dreams, the small inner voice, all can function as the inner guide. The guide is a friendly, helpful, and loving ally who can assist you in better understanding of yourself. Examples of inner guide may be a wise family member, historical figure, teacher, movie character, nature, or symbolic spiritual image.

Inner Child is a presence that embodies childhood experiences (memories, emotions) and the remaining effects of that time in one’s life. The image of inner child can be one’s younger self that the older self can contact and communicate with in loving, accepting, nurturing, and understanding ways to heal the past wounds, such as resolve lingering conflicts or experience acceptance and forgiveness or look at an event from a different, more mature and compassionate perspective.

Light can originate from within or from an outside source like the sun. Its qualities are illuminating, gentle, soothing, cleansing, comforting, radiating, energizing, and healing. Although light is not as personal as one’s inner guide or antagonist, it is a basic, universal image that most people can immediately embrace with positive feelings. The light can be luminous white, calming blue, or whatever color that appeals to an individual, which generates these aforementioned feelings.

Special Place is a specific location that one imagines as beautiful, comforting, relaxing, secure, and safe. The place can be an actual, existing spot in the outside world that one has visited before and would like to be there again or simply one made up in the mind, a fantasy place, for example.

Antagonist (Resistance) within is something that stands in the way of achieving a certain goal or wish. It may manifest as unspoken, strongly held beliefs that oppose the desired goal. The inner antagonist sees the change as dangerous to the person because it is comfortable with what is familiar and known. Often, the presence of the antagonist or resistance is fear – fear of the unknowns or new changes. Thus, it’s important to face this antagonist and communicate with it to hear its side and to find ways to reduce its fears.

Archetypes and their symbols:

Air has qualities of action, spirit, power, fertility, and virility.
Symbols: winds, sky, breath, angels, and the thread

Fire has qualities of fertile, spiritual, creative, active, and virility. It gives light or destroys.
Symbols: sun, flames, light, blood, wine, sacrifice, thunder and lightning

Water has qualities of passivity, receptivity, the Abyss, femininity. It is masculine when combined with air.
Symbols: spirit, moon, river, woman, potentiality, formless, nymphs, fish, island, rain when combined with air.

Earth has qualities of Mother, feminine. It can be fertile or sterile, giving and heals or destroys and kills.
Symbols: woman, goddess, mother, forest, meadow, flowers, trees, and plants, stones, animals, minerals, and labyrinths.

Four above archetypes together:

Egg: primordial unity, potential
Ring: wholeness, completion
Circle: Perfect being in form, the completed journey

Other common symbols:

House: reflects the personality of the dreamer/inhabitant
Child: hope, new spiritual
Distant City: hope
Death: dark horse, serpents, old man waiting at the house

Source: Therapeutic Imagery Program – Cheryl O’Neil

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