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Exercise: Creating a Life Space Map

To visualize is to form a visual mental image of something. Visualizations can be constructed from memories, observations, immediate thought and feeling processes. Mapping is the activity of materializing visual images - that is, turning mental images into drawings, maps, graphs, designs, symbols etc. Maps do not just represent reality; they are tools for constructing reality. 


Learning outcomes

At the end of the exercise participants will:

  • Understand the concept of visualizing

  • Have learned to visualize and map his/her future

  • Have learned to develop a visualization map of what he/she considers to be important and  personally meaningful and to place different factors into association with each other.


About the exercise

In SocioDynamic Counselling the processes of visualizing and mapping are regarded as essential cultural tools for communicating.  Mapping is such a fundamental activity that we might refer to the human being as homo cartographicus.  In SocioDynamic Counselling, mapping is used to further the learning and communication of both counsellors (in training) and help-seekers (who are trying to construct better pathways in life).


Speaking-listening, writing-reading, and visualizing are the three principal means of making meaning, communicating, and constructing cultural sense. To watch mapping occur is an opportunity to observe the magic of a human mind mediating its objects of consciousness.

Maps do not just represent reality; they are tools for constructing reality.

Instructions: Creating a Life Space Map


While practically anything can be mapped, we have chosen an example dealing with the subject "mapping your future."


The mapping activity should be approached as a cooperative process. The counsellor contributes the structure of the map by asking meaning-generating questions. A "meaning-generating" question is one that invites the participant to supply information about the life space that is personally meaningful. The individual being guided fills in the content of his or her own life space through answering the questions. The process should be flexible, and the person should be encouraged to draw, use symbols, images, metaphors, icons, or write words or short sentences.

Using colored pens also allows the person to indicate his or her experience by choosing colors.


The basic strategy is to develop a visualization map of what the person considers to be important and personally meaningful, and to place different factors into association with each other. The guide can support the mapping process by supplying good questions, humour, a creative, open attitude, and by assisting when the person wants assistance.


The counsellor or teacher guides the individual or group with the following instructions: "Draw a large circle and place yourself in the enclosed space somewhere. This is your personal world."


Then the guide asks questions such as the following:

  1. Some people imagine that they will have several futures, others imagine only one.
    What do you imagine (dream about) as the future you would like to have?

  2. Somewhere in your life space (or personal world), draw or write a little bit about your future or futures.
    If you have more than one future in mind, which seems most appealing to you?

  3. Who are the important people in your life who might help you make progress toward the future you are imagining?
    Place them somewhere in the circle.

  4. What are some important stepping stones toward your future?
    Place them in the circle.

  5. What do you think might prevent you from moving toward your future?
    Indicate this in your personal world.

  6. How will your life be if you get to the future you want?
    Can you indicate this in your life space?

  7. Are there things which you must do or learn to do if you are to move in the direction of your future?
    Indicate this in your life space.


In conclusion, then, it is worth emphasizing that all mapping activities proceed together with dialogue. Each supports the other.


Mapping brings the three modes of meaning communication - namely, Speaking, Writing and Visualization - into meaning construction for both the help-seeker and the helper.


Through life space mapping the helper is able to enter into the life space of the other and understand the meaningful life experiences and factors of the other's personal world.


Mapping can assist both guide and help-seeker to visualize a complex situation and to see how different elements of the life space are patterned. It brings clarity and a temporary structure to the problem or decision situation.


It is an excellent example of learning and problem-solving through guided participation.



Map made by help-seeker during counselling session


Map made by counsellor-in-training

To ask: What kind of career

is best for me,

is to ask:  How should I

live my life? 

R.Vance Peavy, 2002

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