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 Guided Imagery: Dynamics of Visualization and Imagery In Therapy 

Gradually, through a process of visualization and imagery, a bridge is built between conscious and unconscious processes, which includes cortical and subcortical processes, the conscious and "unconscious" portions of the brain. Evidence is mounting as to neurohumoral and biochemical mechanisms whereby this can take place.

No uniform terminology exists, but I want to distinguish between uisualization and imagery in the following way. Visualization is the consciously chosen, intentional instruction to the body. Imagery is the spontaneously occurring "answer," qualifier and modifier from the unconscious. Thus, a two-way communication is set up by the interplay of visualization and imagery.

The relationship between visualization and imagery can be thought of as a metaphor, as the relationship between a transmitter and a receiver. The visualization acts as a message to the unconscious, including the subcortical parts of the brain and particularly the limbic system, hypothalamus, and pituitary. The images are messages from the unconscious to consciousness, much as dreams are.

This is beautifully illustrated in the transcription of Garrett's abstract visualization. His consciously-chosen visualization was that he would destroy his tumor with lasers and torpedoes. During the course of making the tape, spontaneous imagery occurred when he suddenly proclaimed that another unidentified object was entering the solar system. He identified this as a spaceship containing creatures which could build another planetoid like the tumor he presently had. It was clear that this expressed his fear, perhaps entirely unconscious, that he might generate another tumor inside his brain. I recognized this from many other instances of working with visualizations and imagery, and when we were done with our taping session, I remarked to him that it must be scary to think that he could get another tumor. The relief that washed over his face on hearing this interpretation was clear evidence that something of considerable importance was being handled. This was an unconscious and quite possibly repressed fear that was very important for him to bring into consciousness and recognize that it could be managed by him in the same way that he was working on his other tumor.

Over a period of time, through an educative process, through asking the body what needs to be done, consulting the "inner physician," and through the psychotherapeutic processes, images are modified, if necessary, to become more productive of the results desired. This is the process of building a visualization, and usually, especially with adult patients, it is an ongoing process.

The rare but spectacular phenomenon of spontaneous remission of cancer patients persists in the annals of medicine, . . . a fascinating mystery, but at the same time a solid basis for hope in the future: if several hundred patients have succeeded in doing this sort of thing, eliminating vast numbers of malignant cells on their own, the possibility that medicine can learn to accomplish the same thing at will is surely within reach of imagining


(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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