“My problem was severe pain in both forearms for over 3 years. Nothing helped, including physical therapy, splints, and opiate medications. I used a guided imagery CD, and the image that came for the pain was steel rods in my arms. The CD asked me what qualities the rods had and I noticed they were rigid, cold, hard, and unyielding. It made me think of my grandfather who I had cared for in his last years, who was just like that. The pain had started during that time.
With my imagination, I asked him why he was like that, something I was never able to do in life. In my mind he answered that he was brought up to be like that, but that he loved me very much and appreciated all the help and love I gave him. I imagined that we hugged and could feel warmth from him. I cried so much I thought my heart would break. The next morning when I woke up I had about a third of the pain I’d been having. I went to a grief counselor and had about six sessions, and continued to “talk” to my grandfather in my imagery. I now have no pain and am on no pain medications.” – Dorothy W., 48, Madison, WI.
Imagery is a flow of thoughts you can see, hear, feel, smell or taste. It is the expression of dreams and daydreams; memories and reminiscence; plans, projections and possibilities. It is the language of the arts, the emotions, and most important, of the deeper self. Everyone uses imagery.
When we worry, we’re using imagery unconsciously, and often to our own detriment. Imagining possible disasters, we react with physical and psychological distress all the time we are worrying. The excessive physical toll of habitual worry, with its accompanying “fight or flight” response, may lead to symptoms such as headaches, neck or back pain, or ulcers; to self-damaging behaviors like cigarette smoking, eating disorders, alcoholism, or drug abuse; or even leave us vulnerable to serious illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, and cancer.
The good news is that learning to use our imaginations consciously can be of great help in preventing or treating these symptoms and conditions. Using guided imagery, we can have positive effects on our heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestive function, sexual function and even our immune response.
“When I worry, I have trouble getting my mind off of it, even if it’s something I can’t do anything about. “Stopping” my mind is hard, but shifting my attention to imagining myself being in a beautiful, peaceful place is pretty easy, and after I do that for a few minutes, I feel much calmer and more myself. I can think more clearly again.” – Robert H., software engineer, 47, Burlingame, CA
“Guided imagery” describes a range of techniques from simple visualization and direct imagery-based suggestion, through metaphor and story-telling. Guided imagery can be used to help you learn relaxation, to relieve symptoms, to stimulate healing responses, and to help you tolerate medical procedures and treatments more easily. Using an interactive approach, guided imagery includes inner dialogues with our own imagination in order to discover the meaning of symptoms or illness, alleviate distress, and promote overall wellness.
Guided imagery processes include both active and receptive imagery. Active imagery communicates your conscious intentions, or requests, to your unconscious mind. It consists of imagining your desired goal as if it is already achieved while in a relaxed passive state of mind. Receptive imagery helps you to become aware of unconscious patterns, needs, and potential for change. Together, active and receptive imagery can help you create the healing imagery most appropriate and effective for you.
“When I was a twenty-seven year old junior executive I began having serious anxiety attacks at work. My doctor gave me a guided imagery CD, which helped me to relax and asked me to invite an image of my anxiety. To my surprise I saw a frenetic honeybee flying about in an agitated state. The bee was scattered and hectic, flying everywhere.
Then the CD directed me to invite an image of healing, and what came to my mind was a beautiful rose. I imagined holding the rose out to the bee, which came over and began drinking the nectar. As the bee took in this nourishment, it seemed to become more relaxed and content, as did I. I found I could remember and use this simple visual image to calm and center myself anytime I started to feel anxious and scattered.” – Matt, 34, San Carlos, CA
Imagery works through a two-way communication between the silent unconscious mind and the verbal conscious mind. It illuminates patterns that affect your health and guides you to focus energy that can change those patterns.
Using imagery, symptoms can be used to discover important needs that are not being met. Parts of ourselves that have been forgotten, unloved or neglected can come into view and be reclaimed. Emotions expressing themselves as physical symptoms can be understood, felt, and resolved, and the symptoms resolve as well.
Imagery is one of the most powerful, yet least utilized healing resources available in medicine. Other than nature, or God, the human imagination is the most powerful force on earth. It can shape our environment, and our inner environment, more powerfully than anything else we know, if we learn how to use it.
A great deal of medical research over the last 40 years shows that imagery has a powerful influence on health, healing and well-being. It can help with a very wide range of illnesses and is compatible with any system of medicine or healing.
Guided imagery is easy to learn, effective, safe, affordable and accessible. Programs and lessons are available in CD, MP3 and other formats. They can be used alone, in the comfort of your own home, anytime they are needed.
About the author: With over 35 years of experience in guided imagery for health, Dr. Martin Rossman is a nationally-recognized leader and innovator in the field of imagery for self-healing. The author of two classic books on guided imagery, he founded The Healing Mind in order to make high level instruction in guided imagery for self-healing affordable and accessible. The Healing Mind’s unique self-guided CD programs Anxiety Relief, Stress Relief, Guided Imagery for Self Healing (Book and CD Set), and 30 other guided imagery programs, along with research, commentary, and links can be found at www.thehealingmind.org