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G
uided Imagery
 

What is Imagery, and How Does it Work?

© Martin L. Rossman MD

Alice told her inner advisor her concerns about her family being scared if she asked for help. Her advisor answered, "They are already scared. They will feel better if they are included in your trials and have an opportunity to be supportive and show their love for you." She realized at once that this was true. She imagined asking her husband John for help. She laughed, as in her mind's eye she saw him taking out his appointment book and thumbing through it. She asked him (still in imagery), "Do you have time?" and he looked at her over his half-glasses and said, "We'll make time." When she came out of the imagery her pain was substantially relieved, with "just enough left to remind me that I actually need to talk with John about this in real life."

Like Alice, we all may hold back emotions because of conflicts between our thoughts and feelings. This inner division has been recognized in the oldest stories of humanity. That it may on one level represent a disagreement between the two hemispheres is a new, potentially helpful way to understand this situation. As Dr. Joseph Bogen, of the California Institute of Technology, the neurosurgeon who helped reveal the dual nature of the hemispheres, has said, "Having two brains has allowed man to be the most creative animal on earth, since we have two chances to solve any given problem. At the same time it creates an unprecedented opportunity for inner conflict."

When there is inner conflict, the body is the battleground. It may pay dearly for prolonged, serious struggle. Bringing the conflicting sides, whether sides of the brain or sides of the argument, to the bargaining table may be the beginning of healing. The goal, after all, is not to become a "left-brain" or "right-brain" person, but a "whole-brain" person.

In any successful arbitration, both sides must have the opportunity to express themselves, to state their grievances, their desires, their needs, and what they can offer in the interest of peace. If they speak different languages, there must be an impartial translator willing to listen and speak for both sides, or the two must attempt to learn each other's languages. This is why imagery is important--it is a major language of the right brain.

Most of us understand and use left-brain language and logic every day. We are relatively familiar with our conscious needs and desires. Imagery gives the silent right brain a chance to bring its needs to light and to contribute its special qualities to the healing process.

Frankly, calling verbal or logical thinking "left-brained," and symbolic, imaginal thinking "right-brained" is an oversimplification, but it is a useful model for thinking about some uses of imagery. Imagery allows you to communicate with your own silent mind in its native tongue. Imagery is a rich, symbolic, and highly personal language, and the more time you spend observing and interacting with your own image-making brain, the more quickly and effectively you will use it to improve your health.

If you are ill, you have undoubtedly thought long and hard about why you fell ill and what you need to do to get better. If your illness is chronic, or severe, you have probably consulted many doctors, whose highly educated, logical analyses may have led to a diagnosis. Yet the diagnosis may not have led to a cure, or even relief. If good "left-brained" thinking has come to nought, why not get a "second opinion" from your other brain? After all, who is likely to know more about your body, your feelings, and your life?

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About The Author
Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant, Dr. Rossman founded The Healing Mind in order to raise awareness about the power of high quality mind/body self-care tools in self-healing and in the health professions. A graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School in 1969, he has had a long-standing interest in the......more
 
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