Friday, March 19, 2010

Picture this!

You are watching a scary movie that you've seen a million times before, and when the music gets creepy and the circumstances get hairy, your heart starts racing, your breathing becomes a shallow pant and the muscles in your neck tense up. This is even though you know nothing bad is going to happen and everything will turn out OK.

These bodily reactions are produced by make believe images and sounds, not real life situations. You can put the same happenings to work for you by creating pictures in your mind with "creative visualization."

The thoughts, words and images that run through your mind have very real physiological consequences for your body. Your brain sends the same messages to the central nervous system whether something is being imagined or actually experienced. So be very careful what you think! Seriously, consciously being aware of and controlling your thoughts is a huge way we can change our realities. Magic!

I have used visualization daily for two years in my recovery from a brain injury, and it has been miraculous. It has been amazing to me that everything I have visualized has eventually come true. Not quick enough for me most of the time, but better late than never.

At first, I imagined the messages in my brain traveling along lines like an old telephone switchboard because connectivity and getting signals across the hippocampus was an issue for me. My grandmother used to be a switch board operator at a hotel so it worked for me and was comforting at the same time.

The images just naturally evolved as my healing progressed. I have imagined my brain like the old, card catalogue file that used to be used at the library - remember those? Now, I have graduated to picturing it as Google.

My mother has breast cancer. After her first round of chemo two weeks ago, her white blood cell count fell so low she was "isolated." She has been doing visualizations to bring up her white blood cell count. She has been using the mental pictures of a field of daisies bursting with blooms, snowflakes piling up, and white beans - don't know how that one works. Her white blood cell count before this last treatment was higher than even before she started chemo. It really works! Now she is visualizing something to do with glue to hopefully keep from losing her hair. Let you know how that one goes.

Visualization can be used for anything. It is a recognized mind-body therapy that is effective with any health concern especially stress related ones (aren't they all, basically?) It has also been shown to be extremely powerful in improving performance, changing behavior, or influencing an outcome. Although, I don't know that it is a good use of time to sit around and see yourself winning the lottery.

In her book Creative Visualization, Shakti Gawain offers the following guidelines:

1. Set a goal - decide something specific you would like to have, work toward, realize or create.
2. Create a clear idea or mental picture or feeling - This should be in present tense. Think of the situation already existing.
3. Focus on it frequently - Bring your idea to mind often in quiet meditation or casually through out your day. Make it part of your reality in a light, relaxed way.
4. Give it positive energy - Think about your goal in a positive, encouraging way. See yourself receiving it or achieving it. Feel it.

When you cut your finger, you do not have to tell your body, step-by-step, the specific details of how to heal the wound, thank goodness. If you are like me, you don't even know these. It just does it. It already has the natural wisdom and power. Creative visualization consciously directs these innate forces. Ready, set, pretend!


  1. Hi Debbie,

    I loved this post -- and I used visualization often, daily. Also, I quite enjoy Shakti Gawain's book and have read it several times.

    Thanks for this article. I once used visualization to prepare for races having been a marathoner and triathlete, but now that my MS has progressed and I can no longer race, I use visualization for another purpose, to heal my brain.

    I love your blog -- thanks for all the work you do here. We appreciate you! : )

  2. Lori,

    Thanks for breaking your silence with the kind words! I am honored! Keep visualizing. It is certainly a way to increase the mind/body connection and to focus and direct your body's energy and innate wisdom. It may not be able to "cure" the MS, but I know it keeps it from being worse faster. You are an inspiration.