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 Guided Imagery: Dynamics of Visualization and Imagery In Therapy 

The Essenes, early Christian mystics who are considered the progenitors of modern Freemasonry, were also healers of this order. According to Manly Palmer Hall, the name "Essene" is derived from an ancient Syrian word meaning "physician." The Essenes are believed to have held as their purposes of existence the healing of mind, soul, and body.

Visualization in Modern Cancer Therapy
Among the many modern uses of imagery in healing, both in psychotherapy and in physical medicine (Freud, Jung, Leuner, DeSoille, Assagioli, Wolpe, Lazarus, Jacobs, Schultz and Luthe, Green and Green, GerardI, the use of imagery and visualization in cancer therapy is a relative newcomer. Carl and Stephanie Simonton are pioneers in this field, and in their now well-known book, "Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and their Families," they describe how they decided to use visualization. They state:

From our study of biofeedback we learned that certain techniques were enabling people to influence their own internal body processes, such as heart rate and blood pressure. An important aspect of biofeedback, called visual imagery, was also a principal component of other techniques we had studied. The more we learned about the process, the more intrigued we became. Essentially, the visual imagery process involved a period of relaxation, during which the patient would mentally picture a desired goal or result. With the cancer patient, this would mean his attempting to visualize the cancer, the treatment destroying it and, most importantly, his body's natural defenses helping him recover. After discussions with two leading biofeedback researchers, Drs. Joe Kamiya and Elmer Green, of the Menninger Clinic, we decided to use visual imagery techniques with cancer patients.

The Simontons taught patients to visualize their cancer cells or tumors as accurately as possible. They taught them that cancer cells are weak and mixed up, disorganized, and instilled confidence that bodies could naturally and normally defend against cancer. They also explained the treatment and its desired outcome, and they taught patients to visualize it as powerful and effective, capable of producing a positive outcome. Most importantly, they encouraged patients to develop visualizations of their white blood cells as being numerous and powerful, attacking and destroying the cancer.

Jeanne Achterberg and G. Frank Lawlis developed a diagnostic test to evaluate the effectiveness of cancer patients' imagery as a means of assessing their prognosis. After a brief relaxation, patients were asked to image their cancer, their immune system, and their medical treatment, and to draw a picture of each of them. Patients were then interviewed in a structured interview. By these means, their unconscious imagery--their beliefs about their cancer and their ability to get well--were elicited.

They were able to isolate fourteen factors which seem to have high prognostic value, involving vividness, activity, and strength of the cancer cells; vividness, activity, and strength of the white blood cells; and the relative size and numbers of white cells as compared to cancer cells. Other important factors were vividness and strength of the medical treatment being received, the overall strength of the imagery, and the emotional investment of the patient.

With respect to the last of the fourteen factors, clinical judgment, they note several characteristics which seem to be predictors of positive health which could not be validated statistically since so few cases share commonalities. These include a continuity of symbolism, that is, symbols in context with each other and integrated into a single perception; those symbols that have a high degree of emotional value attached to them; and the degree to which the person appears to maintain the symbol as a continuous source of comfort or support, e.g., "My watchdogs are usually looking after me," or "My body warriors are at watch always. "

(Excerpted from Why Me? Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human Spirit, Stillpoint Publishing)
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 About The Author
Patricia Norris PhDPatricia Norris is Director of Clinical Psychoneuroimmunology at Life Sciences Institute of Mind-Body Health, Inc., with 25 years work in psychophysiology psychotherapy......more
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