What To Do When You Are Hitting the Wall—

Ready for a Jump-Step Forward?

"Shift-It" with Transformative ReVisioning


Oliver Markley, Ph.D.


      When we are hitting the wall at work or at home, what is to do?  In such times it can feel almost impossible to break free from the imprisoning grip of whatever it is that “has” us.

      Some people seek to escape through drink, drugs or denial, only to come back to a situation that has usually become worse than before. Some try harder, feeling even more intensely up against it, until it is either solved or they drop. A wiser approach is to “reframe” the situation, as in the old cliché about “turning a lemon into lemonade,” by transforming the threatening problem into an inviting opportunity. The trick is in being able to do this when needed.

      Even if your life is relatively free from overwhelming problems, you might like an inspiring new vision to challenge you in taking a transformative “jump-step” forward to what ever would be most fitting for the next phase of your life trajectory.

      Whether “hitting the wall” or not, Transformative ReVisioning is an exceptionally swift and powerful way for a “jump-step” forward to emerge. It is an inquiry process that does indeed turn perception of a threatening problem into an inviting opportunity. But the really unique thing about this method is the ease with which it draws upon the inner-most reaches of consciousness as a source of creative wisdom having extraordinarily practical usefulness in what is sometimes called the “real” world of hard knocks.


 The First Application of Transformative ReVisioning: A Case Study

      “Micki” was a teacher of special education for the gifted and talented in a well- known wealthy blue-collar suburb of Houston . She had a problem: Every Monday, after lunch, her schedule required her to teach an experiential learning session in the class-room of an elderly school teacher [we’ll call her Hanna], who seemed to go out of her way to belittle and to thwart what Micki was trying to do for the kids in Hanna’s class. Little did Micki know that she was about to become the first recipient of a new visionary process for dealing with seemingly intractable problems, one that would enable her to ascend to a “higher octave” of relationship with her “problem person,” Hanna.

     Micki told me about the problem on a Sunday evening after we finished doing our preparation for the Sunday School class we would be co-teaching for adolescents the following week. Saying to me, “You have all these visionary consciousness tools you have been investigating,” Micki then asked, “Do you have anything in your tool kit that could help me? I’m desperate!”

    I told her I had just finished designing a new visioning tool she might like to try. She agreed, and once into it, after describing feelings about the problem situation, Micki was able to intuitively visualize a symbolically accurate image for the way she saw the problem person: she saw a prickly porcupine. After answering a series of exploratory questions about the image and what it meant to her, she followed my suggestion to invite the energy of her Higher Self/Soul/Holy Spirit/God (whatever term she felt most comfortable with) to transform the symbol of the problem into the highest level appropriate now ! As she watched it happen, the first image of the prickly porcupine magically transformed into a cuddly teddy bear. After answering a second set of exploratory questions about the image, she agreed to invite the new image to enter—first into her physical body (paying attention to all subtle sensations that occurred), then into her mind, heart and soul as an integrative flow of “new imprinting.”

    After we finished the process, Micki immediately asked “What was that all about? How will it help the situation?” I intuitively responded, “Micki, don’t even think about it. Just wait and see what happens.”

    Monday evening, after returning from work, Micki called me and said: “You won’t believe what happened today. Toward the end of lunch time, I was walking toward the class we talked about, dreading what would be waiting for me. But when I walked by the teacher’s lunch room, Hanna called out to me, saying, “Hi, Micki. Why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee with me before class. And when I sat down, her whole attitude had changed. She was actually friendly to me!”


Transformative ReVisioning When Hitting the Wall

   Since that first application almost two decades ago, I have guided this process for both individuals and groups in many different settings, and it still amazes me that only rarely does a person doing this process not get a transformed image that proves to be insightfully useful—even for people who say that they “can’t visualize.” This is especially true for people who feel like they are stuck, “hitting the wall,” so to speak, unable to move forward, or even to strategically retreat. This seems to be a situation in which Transformative ReVisioning is extraordinarily well-suited—as an additional example may illustrate.

    Roger, a young colleague of mine newly working as a marketing consultant, came to me with for help dealing with feelings of panic he was experiencing as he prepared to “cold-call” a potential client—someone who, although a friend, was highly placed in the organization and especially important to favorably impress regarding the services Roger wanted to offer. 

    As in the case study with Micki, recounted above, I asked Roger to let an image emerge that symbolized his inwardly-held picture of what he felt up against. His image was a large bed of nails and spikes , ready to impale him if he clutched and screwed up in the phone call. After exploring the various meanings that this image had for him, I asked Roger to “invite the energy of his Divine Soul or Higher Self to flow on, around and through the image of nails and spikes, and to transform it into the highest level appropriate for him now,” and to simply watch as it happens.

    Roger soon began laughing, and telling me how the image turned into a bouncing basketball , which for him symbolized a playful game, done interactively with others. As things turned out, this metaphor turned out to be quite meaningful to Roger on two levels: first, it released him from his deep fear of painfully screwing up; but it also turned out to be a prophetic image of the playfully interactive—although also seriously productive—relationship that emerged between Roger and his client after the call was successfully made.

     By way of conclusion, it should be emphasized that Transformative ReVisioning is but one of many useful techniques for reframing troubling situations into inviting opportunities. But I know of none that so quickly and easily draws on the hidden reserves of wisdom and consciousness that—though called by many different names—are available in all of us. And although the results of Transformative ReVisioning frequently seem almost like magic, the insights it produces must still be courageously applied in the “real world of hard knocks,” where things frequently don’t go as we might wish. By experiencing “the hit as a gift—which the Transformative ReVisioning process helps one to do—we are naturally led to deeper levels of understanding and higher levels of mastery in this awesome journey called life.


Origin and Strategic Importance of This and Related Visioning Processes

   The Transformative Re-Visioning process was first envisioned for use in futures research at the Management and Social Systems Group of Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), and later developed for use in my Visionary Futures course in the graduate program in Studies of the Future at the University of Houston-Clear Lake where I discovered that I needed a powerful but safe method for "self therapy" for students who became depressed as a result of repeated envisioning of alternative futures involving societal disruption and unsustainability.

   At both SRI and UHCL, I investigated all manner of processes through which to instigate, amplify and make use of intuition as a practical method for research into possible, probable and preferable futures, and for applying this knowledge in strategic planning and development of organizational effectiveness. A technical report of the best of these is included as a chapter in the Creative Education Foundation’s (1992) Source Book for Creative Problem-Solving—A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes, edited by Sidney J. Parnes. Entitled “Using Depth Intuition Methods in Creative Problem Solving and Strategic Innovation,” it was first published in The Journal of Creative Behavior. In addition to Transformative ReVisioning, three other core practices to come from this research are Journey Inward to Source, Inner Vision Quest, and Mental Time Travel.  

   The strategic importance of these processes lies in the way they invoke transcendental sources of intuitive wisdom that exist in the hidden reserves of all of us, thereby leading to wiser futures than otherwise are likely.