By Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, LIMHP
As we continue to work towards the journey of holistic health and well-being encompassing the mind, body and spirit, let’s look at the process of visualization or guided imagery. I had the wonderful experience of attending a workshop by Belleruth Naparstek several years ago. Belleruth has developed many CD’s and tapes of guided imagery that focus on specific areas such as healing cancer, diabetes, stress, sleep disorders, and many others through our imagination and thought. She found as a psychotherapist that her clients worked through their issues and healed much faster when using imagery. She has recently published her fourth book regarding healing trauma through guided imagery.
When talking about imagery, we are talking about any perception that comes through the senses, not just visualization. Many people are not visual in their guided imagery. You can be doing imagery when you recall the fresh fall air as the leaves are turning colors, the sound of someone’s voice that is dear to you, or the smell of your mother as she read you a story when you were a child. It is merely thought. The body responds as if these images are real. Our senses go there, so we go there, and our bodies go there. Our bodies don’t discriminate between real and imagined. Research has shown that with the sensory images, your physiological state, emotions and moods, as well as your blood chemistry are recreated back into your body as if it were the real event.
Studies have been done using imagery to increase the number of white blood cells, to elevate levels of immunoglobulin A (indication of heightened immune function), or to prevent allergic reactions.
Ellen Curran wrote Guided Imagery for Healing Children and Teens. She became interested in guided imagery when her child had a chronic illness. They began to use guided imagery to help her child learn to relax when she was anxious or in pain or having difficulty falling asleep. As her child needed more medical treatments, they took it another step further and used guided imagery to imagine her body healing (with blue whales swimming in the fluid catching the sick cells) as she was given intravenous infusions that took 6 hours per day. Her daughter did much better as they worked with this and it empowered her daughter to handle her illness through positive guided imagery. It allowed an integration of mind/body healing rather than just treating symptoms related to the disease.
This can take us back to one of my previous articles when I talked about the power of thought and what we think making a difference in how we feel. We all have times when our thoughts go to fear and we imagine the worst. The good news is that we can also, then, transform those thoughts into imagery of good things happening. We can start with learning how to relax our bodies.
In our busy world, we are all overwhelmed with stress from our busy lifestyles. We now know that stress depresses our immune system and can cause illness. We can start with simple practices such as deep breathing or a head-to-toe relaxation practice. A relaxed state brings about an altered state that gives you a sense of being alert, focused, energized, and highly sensitive. As we learn to relax we can move into guided imagery to further our mind/body connection, bringing about a way to promote your own wellness through self-healing.
Use guided imagery for• relaxing and reducing stress• reducing anxiety• relieving pain and symptoms• preparing for surgery• minimizing side effects• dealing with chronic illness• addressing emotional expression• healing trauma• enhancing coping skills• empowering yourself to deal with a difficult situation• imagining yourself being successful and reaching goals• quieting yourself to listen within
And now…take a deep breath….relax your body…..allow yourself to quiet your mind…begin to feel calm….breathe out the stresses of the day….breathe in calm…peace…and relaxation…..
http://www.healthjourneys.com/what_is_guided_imagery.aspWatson Pfeifer, J. (2005) Guided Imagery, Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (4)
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