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Creative Visualization and Guided Imagery in Medicine

Imagery can be a key factor in dealing with either a simple tension headache, or a life-threatening disease. It is a proven method for pain relief, for helping people tolerate medical procedures and treatments and reducing side effects, and for stimulating healing responses in the body. Our bodies react to thoughts and images.

What is Imagery? It's simply a flow of thoughts that one can see, hear, feel, smell, or taste in ones imagination. Imagery is a symbolic and highly personalized form of language which may or may not represent external reality, but it will always represent internal reality.

Imagery is one of the quickest and most direct ways of becoming aware of emotions and their effects on our health, both positive and negative. As an example, of how our bodies react to our thoughts, try this simple test:  Relax for a moment right now. Allow the muscles in your neck and shoulder area to completely relax. The only sound you may be hearing right now is the hum of your computer, and maybe your favorite music softly playing in the background. Imagine that you're on a tropical island, enjoying the day.  As you sit back, sipping on a cool drink and watching the sun set, you start to notice the various colors being cast on the horizon. Pay attention to your body right now and notice how it feels as you relax your muscles, calm your thoughts and enjoy a peaceful moment.

Now imagine the high-pitched, shrilling sound of fingernails scratching across a chalkboard! What happened has you imagined hearing that sound? Did you break out in chills at the very thought of it, or shudder? Did you feel your facial muscles, neck and shoulders tense? Most people do - and much more easily than if you simply tell them to tense up.

The fact that imagery directly affects physiology is one of the three main characteristics of imagery that lend it great value in medicine and healing. The other two are that it has an intimate relationship with our emotions, which are often at the root of many common health conditions, and it provides insight and perspective into health (through the mental processes of association and synthesis).

Perhaps the most common human experience of imagery is worrying. Most people worry some of the time and some people worry all of the time. Then there are those who worry constantly, even to the point of worrying themselves sick. The imagination runs wild with visual images of such things as auto accidents when a loved one is late arriving home from the office, or school. In this case, the body is not reacting to external events but to thoughts or images about these events, even though you may not be consciously aware of it.

According to Martin L. Rossman, M.D., co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery, "If you are a good worrier and especially if you ever worry yourself sick, you may be an especially good candidate for leaning how to positively affect your health with imagery, as the internal process involved in worrying yourself sick and imagining yourself well are quite similar."

Emotions are a normal, healthy response to life. Failure to acknowledge and express important emotions, however, can be an important factor in illness, and is unfortunately all too common. When emotions are suppressed they find their own route of expression, be it indirectly in the form of physical pain and illness, or by destructive behavior.

Books by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
Guided Imagery for Self-Healing : 
An Essential Resource for Anyone Seeking Wellness

Related suggested reading:
Creative Visualization : 
Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life

by Shakti Gawain




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