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Imagery

What is imagery?

The mind is a powerful healing tool. Using our imagination, we can visualize almost anything. Imagery (or visualization) is a therapeutic technique that has been used for centuries. By creating images in the mind, a person can reduce pain and other symptoms associated with his or her condition. The more specific the visualization, the more therapeutic it will likely be. Patients are taught to imagine sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or other sensations to create a kind of daydream that "removes" them from or gives them control over their present circumstances. 

Imagery usually involves a program with set objectives and goals. Patients are guided to visualize their goals and work toward them.

Two imagery techniques are widely used today:

  • Palming involves the visualization of color. The patient places his or her palms over the eyes and envisions the color associated with stress (usually the color red). Then, the patient changes the color he or she sees to a more relaxing color, such as blue. It is believed that changing colors in the mind induces relaxation.

  • Guided imagery involves envisioning a certain goal to help cope with health problems. Guided imagery is most often used as a relaxation technique that involves sitting or lying quietly and imagining yourself in a favorite peaceful setting (maybe a beach, meadow, or forest). Another example is the Simonton method--a method in which a cancer patient imagines Pac Men (from the old Pac Man video game) gobbling up bad cancer cells.

Studies have shown that imagery can help the mind and body relax. It can help in managing anxiety, stress, and depression; help reduce pain, lower blood pressure, and lessen nausea; and give people a better sense of control and well-being.