"Most of the books being written in this culture on how to visualize, image, and pray are being written by extroverts," Dossey said when I interviewed him. "If you're someone who is introverted by nature, and you don't feel that comfortable telling God how to fix a problem, you've got a lot of scientific data on your side. There are people who, when they're sick, would just as soon commit to the Absolute, and go up like a jungle cat, crawl into a cave, and wait to see what happens. On the other hand, if you are someone who really needs to be aggressive, specific and energetic, you've got data on your side too. Both approaches are successful."
In determining which approach to pursue, there is an additional factor I think is worth considering. It may well be that not all people think alike. The developers of Neurolinguistic Programming hold that most people are primarily visual in their thought patterns, while others are mainly auditory, and still others orient their awareness most easily through the kinesthetic sense (touch). This theory makes a great deal of sense to me, since I am someone who is less visually oriented than most.
For those who do function primarily in a visual mode, specific directed visualization is made to order. But a substantial number of people, perhaps because they are in the auditory or kinesthetic minorities, find it more difficult to visualize specifically. For them, attempts to perform detailed visualizations can prove a source of great frustration.
Worst of all, if they are unaware that the non-directed method exists, and assume that specific visualization is the only game in town, they may decide to opt out of the process altogether, at potentially great cost to their health. Just as left-handed people should not be forced to become right-handed for the convenience of others, I feel that auditory, kinesthetic, and introverted people should be informed of alternatives to assertive, sight-oriented visualization methods.
Edgar Cayce on Visualization
The Edgar Cayce readings address the directed vs. non-directed question numerous times. Cayce recommended the use of specific visualization for one reason only-physical healing for oneself. He also frequently recommended healing prayer for others, seeing it as an act of value and service, but he emphasized that healing prayer for others should be done only in a non-directed fashion.
Cayce's stance is consistent with the work of Simonton and Epstein. It is not in agreement, however, with methods in many of the popular books on visualization and affirmations, in which readers are advised to use these methods not only for healing themselves, but for visualizing everything from buying a fancy car to finding a spouse. The Cayce readings consider this to be a form of idolatry.
This is a highly charged, controversial topic in some circles, and this book is not the place to air out the debate in detail. I just wish to make it clear that while I recommend visualization exercises for self-healing purposes, I am not endorsing adaptations of the technique for less high-minded purposes.
Healing From a Distance: A Scientific Study on Healing Prayer
It will come as a surprise to many that a randomized, double-blind study, published in a mainstream medical journal, demonstrated that prayer had a profound, statistically significant healing effect on hospitalized heart patients. I first learned about this study at a talk by Larry Dossey. Here is Dossey's description, from his book Meaning and Medicine: