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 Guided Imagery: Dynamics of Visualization and Imagery In Therapy 

This internal experience of constancy, of perfect functioning, is a very important one. When Garrett was dictating his own story to me, I was very impressed by the way in which he told of the surveillance of his body by his white cells. He described how they checked "each quadrant" of his brain, making sure all areas were free of cancer cells or other troublesome invaders, and then he said "and this is the visualization I may do for the rest of my life." He paused for a moment and then he said thoughtfully, ". . . or, it may change some, who knows?" The depth of wisdom in this is amazing, both in terms of the matter-of-factness with which he contemplated visualizing for the rest of his life and in terms of his recognition of the natural evolution of images.

Another child I worked with, a delightful five-year-old boy from another city, also had had a brain tumor. After hearing Garrett's tape and having as clear a description as possible, in terms he could understand, of what his immune system "inside his skin" could do for him, John drew a picture of himself and his white cells. He had decided that his white cells would be "The Incredible Hulk," and in his picture, he had a simple orange stick-figure person in the middle of the sheet and two green stick-figures, one on each side, each with an arm sticking straight out over the orange figure. He explained, ". . . these Incredible Hulks are my white cells. They have their arms around me."

Toward A Deeper Understanding of Visualization and Imagery
Since the imagery a person holds of the disease process or of the healing process can affect the outcome of the illness to any extent, the question can be asked, how is the imagery related to the condition of the body? Does the imagery precede the condition, influencing or even causing it? Or does it simply reflect the condition as it exists? And if so, why is it so much a predictor of outcome, regardless of or separate from severity of disease? Asking questions like these is like asking the famous old question, which came first the chicken or the egg? The point of the question is, of course, to point out that they do not come separately; every chicken contains eggs, and every egg contains a chicken. They are both a part of a process of being and becoming. This is exactly the relationship between body imagery and the condition of the body. Carl and Stephanie Simonton were impressed by this relationship evidenced by biofeedback. In their book, Getting Well Again, they write,

Elmer and Alyce Green . . . believe that biofeedback techniques have clearly demonstrated the principle that, "Every change in the physiological state is accompanied by an appropriate change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, and conversely, every change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physiological state." In other words, mind, body, and emotions are a unitary system--affect one and you affect the others.

In our work with cancer patients, biofeedback plays an immensely important role, not only for all of its good effects on reducing stress, pain, anxiety, and fear, but especially because it provides indispensable experiential evidence of mind controlling body, of visualizations influencing physical processes. It is not a question of believing that mind can affect healing, but of knowing from the inside that this is true.

(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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