Patricia is a 65 year old wise woman who was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer 15 years ago. She was already familiar with guided imagery as a vehicle for insight. She used it to ask her unconscious mind for an image that could help her through what she imagined would be a terrible ordeal. She saw herself on skis at the top of a very steep mountain. A lifelong skier, she immediately understood that she was about to push off on a run that would demand all her skill and determination. She also saw that while the effort would challenge her to the extreme, it was clearly possible for her to make it all the way through if she gave it her full attention and focus. She got the sense that when she did make it all the way down, she would be living life on a much deeper and more effective level than she ever had before.
This image was useful to her throughout many twists and turns of her journey with cancer, reminding her to stay focused on where she wanted to go and not let herself get lost in her fears. Patricia did “make it”, and she counts guided imagery as one of the tools that enabled her to do so.
When, like Patricia, you are diagnosed with cancer, you can find yourself over-whelmed with emotions at a time when you most need to keep your wits about you. While you are alive, you have hope, and you have options. You have will, imagination, and powerful natural healing abilities within you that you can stimulate by the way you use your mind.
What Is Guided Imagery?
Guided Imagery like the kind Patricia used trains your mind to listen to your body’s wisdom. "Imagery" is simply a flow of thoughts you can see, hear, feel, smell or taste. It is the expression of dreams and daydreams; memories and reminiscence; plans, projections and possibilities. It is the language of the arts, the emotions, and most important, of the deeper self.
"Guided imagery" is a process of being lead or "guided" to tune in to your own natural imagery, and to "listen" to the messages and meanings that imagery may reveal about what you need to heal. Guided imagery techniques range from simple visualization and direct imagery-based suggestion, to metaphor, dialogue and story-telling.
Why Use Guided Imagery to Fight Cancer?
The shock, disorientation and anxiety that often come with a serious cancer diagnosis can overwhelm one’s sense of confidence and make it hard for you to feel effective or powerful in a time when you may most need inner strength. Imagery can help you reconnect with your own resources and begin to use them effectively on your own behalf. Guided imagery CDs are easy to use, inexpensive, and have rapid psychological benefits.
Research at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh has shown this method to be extremely effective in helping people shift from one mood state to another. Learning to shift from helplessness to hopefulness at will is an empowering experience for anyone, especially for anyone feeling overwhelmed with the fear of cancer.
The benefits of imagery are tangible and physical - studies prove that patients who use guided imagery can experience an increase the numbers and aggressiveness of natural killer cells when practiced over time, a reduction in complications from surgery, relief from pain, and can experience a lessening of the adverse effects of chemotherapy.
How Guided Imagery Helps
When diagnosed with cancer, you may not only face an on-going threat to life and well-being, you often also face conflicting recommendations on the part of the best experts in the field and the resulting uncertainty as to the best course of treatment. One use of guided imagery CDs is to help you make good decisions about your treatment. For instance, by using guided imagery to help you imagine a wise and caring figure, called an “inner advisor” or “inner wisdom” that has your best interests at heart, you can make the best possible decisions in a time of stress.