The Color Wheel by Daniel Ryan
The Color Wheel: Self-care Through Imagination
A Self-care Practice for Adults, Kids, and Families
The following article references the audio recording, “Three Deep Breaths”, and lays out the steps of the self-care practice “The Color Wheel”.
Of the near-decade, I’ve been offering meditation, hypnosis, and regression therapy in private practice, there are a handful of tools I return to again and again. Usually, because they’re effective and productive, but not just because of that. One such tool - The Color Wheel, is beautiful for a handful of reasons. Primary among them, using it we do not have to engage the story. We can break out of the looping thoughts in the mind. The steps of The Color Wheel (as laid out below) walk the individual through a process of calmly observing emotions, turning them into colors, and engaging with the colors. 9 out of 10 times in my office and with the groups I work with, a noticeable positive shift is observed. To be clear - this is not a cure for severe pain or chronic anything. And during that 1 out of 10 times, there’s usually some deeper intervention necessary. But, this particular sequence of prompts and questions has been consistently useful across innumerable sessions and contexts in my career. I offer it to you with the utmost confidence. You might consider it an imagination game with a set structure and a generous intention.
Please read through the steps before practicing - to have a sense of the progression in full before starting. You may also listen to the accompanying recording first.
The Color Wheel
1. Find a quiet place to sit if possible, this can also be done eyes open in public. Make yourself comfortable.
2. Notice any uncomfortable feeling in the body (slight pain, discomfort, or tension) and observe it calmly. Identify the area of the body that it rests in.
3. Resting with that area and ask "If that feeling were a color, what color would it be?”
4. Listening for the answer. Trusting it.
5. Asking "And what color would feel better?”
6. Listening for the answer. Trusting it.
7. Then imagining the new color flooding that area of the body, seeing and feeling it move through. Flooding up and down, right and left, back and front. Seeing the old color expelled you’re your system. The imagination is the principal instrument of the exercise, enjoy and play with it. Let the new color flood the body.
8. Finishing up. Check-in, does it feel different now? How so? If it were on a 10-point scale where was it before? Where is it now?
Repeat if desired. If there's no change, that is usually indicative of different or deeper work necessary. I was first taught this exercise by my friend and mentor, Melissa Tiers. It is based in hypnotherapy and uses the imagination and neuroplasticity to rapidly shift and clear minor somatic or emotional pain, discomfort, or tension. It is suggested for experimentation within your self-care rituals and meditations.
Introducing Kids to Emotional Intelligence Now
Offering hypnosis and hypnotherapy to kids and families, I’m explaining away the baggage and bad PR around the subject relatively often. With adults, we usually discuss it for a few minutes before dialing down into what hypnotherapy truly is. With kids, all we need to say is "pretend". Generally, it’s best to work with the whole family when it’s possible. Another difference in sessions with adults; progressive relaxation, meditation, and calm are at the heart of the practical portion of our time together. With kids, we can’t expect them to sit still for that long. The sessions are more active, playful, and energized. The first tools I reach for are The Color Wheel and Three Deep Breaths.
The Color Wheel is a way of processing our emotions from a distance by turning them into colors. It’s a motion the imagination of a child can easily
make, especially with the gentle guidance of a parent or loved one. It uses the brain’s natural propensity for association and disassociation in productive ways. I teach it to as many members of the family as possible - as early in the process as possible. We’ll do it countless times in the first session so that by the end of it, the kid is walking the parents and I through it. It becomes a piece of the foundation of the work we do together as we come back to it during subsequent sessions. And it gives the kid a tool, hopefully, the whole family.
The second is Three Deep Breaths. The recipe for this one is in the name. Teach your child (yourself, your inner child, your parents…) to begin with three deep breaths whenever you notice in your body tightness, soreness, anxiety, anything uncomfortable really. Again - the breaths themselves will not actively solve our problems - but the brain loves oxygen. With a calm and oxygenated body, we are better equipped to access the decision-making necessary to take the actions to solve our problems. With enough air in our lungs and consistent deep, cleansing breaths, generally speaking, our nervous system does everything better. Both exercises are recommended at any time, but especially before sleep and when you wake up.
Teaching your child to take three deep breaths can act as a lead to meditation, prayer, reflection, contemplative practices, and breathwork later in life. I know because that kid is me. Anxious while starting school in kindergarten, my father (a lifelong meditator and a hypnotherapist himself) told me to take three deep breaths before going inside. I remember doing it decades later. I stepped up in my Velcro sneakers, took three deep breaths, asked myself if it worked, and before I knew I was inside with the other kids.
What Good Has Happened That Otherwise Would Not Have?
In combination with The Color Wheel and Three Deep Breaths, I’m asking this question. Mindful of minimizing this moment we’re in, my intent is quite the opposite. To remind myself of the gravity, where my attention is most productive, and to keep things simple. I have people in my life who are sick, I know people who are healthy, and I know people somewhere in between too. I also know as a hypnotist, that an emotional and fearful brain is generally more
reactive and more highly suggestible. Sources, not just moments, but sources of relaxation, fun, rest, activity, joy… they’ve never been more important.
I live in Brooklyn in New York City, the current epicenter of the global pandemic. When I leave my home to get groceries or walk my dog, it is not illness or chaos that I immediately notice, but an undeniable peace that would’ve seemed impossible a few weeks ago. There are no car horns honking in my neighborhood now. They’re so few that when they do happen I hear again how unnecessary the sound really is. I hear birds and when I do see people interact, they’re usually helping each other. If I didn’t know there was a pandemic, I would think the city’s become a dream-like version of itself which values more than anything else, its' health and wellbeing.
Learn more about Daniel Ryan here