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 Guided Imagery: Dynamics of Visualization and Imagery In Therapy 

In starting out, it is important and necessary to analyze the individual's own conscious and unconscious imagery regarding what is presently occurring in their body. Recently there have been many attempts to create ready-made visualizations on video or audio cassettes. But I believe that "canned" imagery can only be of limited value, according to how well it matches the person's own unconscious belief and knowledge about what is actually happening inside his own body. An important part of self regulation is development of one's own individual visualization, using internal symbology which has deep unconscious meaning for the individual.

It is fascinating to see evidence of unconscious knowledge of the state of the body. Patients often have dreams about a condition long before symptoms have brought it to their conscious attention or before a diagnosis is made. Carl G. Jung was expert at translating the dream symbols into diagnoses, even when the imagery was obscure. A dream may speak organically both before and after the emergence of bodily disturbance. Dreams do not merely provide information about the psychological situation of the dreamer but may also disclose the presence of organic disorder and even denote its precise location. Two other researchers of psychotherapeutic work with cancer patients, Meredith Sabini and Valerie Hone Maffly, followed the dreams of cancer patients and observed how closely their dreams followed the course of their illness.

Although I occasionally use dreams of patients in my work, in general I prefer to use active imagination by means of guided imagery trips into the body and through drawings. The results of these exploration trips are sometimes immediately confirmed.

One of my patients, for example, injured his back and was in considerable pain. We made an appointment for him with an osteopath. Since the appointment was several hours away, and his discomfort was interfering with the other work we were doing, I decided to have him take a trip down his spine, with the intent of relaxing his paraspinal muscles, thereby increasing circulation and reducing pain. As he moved down his spine in his image, he got a clear mental picture of the third lumbar disk slipped out to the left, and this image was exactly confirmed later that afternoon by X-ray. This occurrence served as confirmation for him of the close connection between his mental and physical processes.

Another person, during a psychosynthesis class in which we were doing "Dialogue with the Body," received such a clear image of her pancreatic duct that she was able to go to an anatomy book and then to her doctor with this image and thus provide the clue that led to the correct diagnosis of a condition that had been defying identification for more than two years.

Garrett had two instances of seeing inside his body when he was completely relaxed. One was that first evening when, finding him tumor gone, he beheld instead that "funny little white thing." His second experience of this occurred when he was working with his pituitary, which, following radiation, no longer had the capacity to produce growth hormone. While deeply relaxed, he suddenly saw this gland as clearly as if he were looking with his eyes open.

Experiences of this kind are certainly interesting, and countless anecdotes of this sort abound. More often than not, there is no immediate confirmation of the anatomical accuracy of these investigative images. There can be little doubt, however, that they have symbolic meaning to the individual, and this is the basis on which we begin.

(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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