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Mind Your Head Brain Training Book by Sue Stebbins and Carla Clark
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Page 3

Two cases are quoted below from literature on the effectiveness of imagery.

A Walk on the Beach: Heidi, thirty-five, was scheduled for a round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. The treatment was to take place on Friday and she and her husband had tickets to fly to Hawaii on Saturday for a week's vacation.

As is routine, she was called into the treatment center for a blood check on the Monday before to make sure her white cell count had recovered enough from the previous treatment to allow her to qualify for the next one. To her shock, she was told that her white count was only about half what it should be and she would probably have to forego her vacation.

For four days she practiced imagery intensively several times a day, concentrating on raising her white count. She used images of the bone marrow releasing a steady, strong flow of white cells into her bloodstream and spreading throughout her body. She also imagined directing her breath into the bone marrow and thereby nourishing the stem cells (that produce the white cells) so that they could grow and release more white cells.

On that Friday, she went in for another blood test. Her white count had more than doubled. She was able to have the treatment and the next day was able to walk on the beach with her husband.

The Vital Fluid: Carol Anne was scheduled to undergo a complicated abdominal surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Her surgeon told her that patients undergoing this procedure typically lose ten to eleven units of blood.

For several days prior to the surgery, Carol Anne practiced a form of imagery in which she pictured her body going through the surgery without losing any blood, the tissues knitting back together smoothly, no complications, and a speedy recovery. She also imagined the look on the surgeon's face when he realized that no blood had been lost.

The day after the surgery, the surgeon came into her room and congratulated her on how well she had come through the ordeal. To his amazement, she had required only one unit of blood. When she told him of her preparations, he smiled and walked out shaking his head.

Studies On The Effectiveness of Imagery Is Continuing

Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, are funding the following investigations involving imagery:

  • James Halper of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City is conducting a controlled study of the benefits of guided imagery for patients with asthma.
  • Mary Jasnoski of George Washington University, Washington, D.C., is examining the effects of imagery on the immune system, with potential implications for use in cancer and AIDS.
  • Blair Justice of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston was funded to conduct a controlled study examining the effects of a group imagery/ relaxation process on immune function and quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Learning the Basics of Imagery

Virtually everyone can successfully use imagery. It's a question of patience and persistence. It's just like learning to play a music instrument or learning to fly an airplane. You put in the time, you put in the discipline, you will be able to do it. It is the same with imagery. Practice, practice and practice. You will be able to do it.

How much time it will take before you begin to see results depends on the severity of your ailment, the vividness of your imagery and your own determination. A person who has a sprained ankle, for example, may get pain relief in just one five-minute imagery session, while it may take weeks for a person who has severe burns to notice any significant pain reduction. For almost any chronic ailment, it's going to take a lot more time for imagery to work.

Most proponents suggest practicing your imagery for 15 to 20 minutes a day initially to ensure that you're learning to do it properly. But as you become more skilled and comfortable with the technique, you'll be able to do it for just a few minutes at a time as needed throughout the day.

The most effective images are the ones that have some meaning to you. When battling tumors, people might imagine that their healthy cells are plump, juicy berries, while their cancerous cells are dried, shriveled pieces of fruit. They might picture their immune system as birds that fly in and pick up and carry away the raisin-like cancer cells, while the rest of the cells flourish. Another common image is that the immune system cells are like silver bullets coming in and annihilating the tumor cells.

Other experts recommend actually personifying your condition and "reasoning" with it. This way you also have a chance to learn from your condition. If you're plagued by headaches, for example, you might imagine your headache as a gremlin tightening a vice across your temples. Ask the gremlin why he's there and what you can do to make him loosen his grip. He might "tell" you that you have had too little sleep, too much junk food, or not enough rest and time away from work. Take his advice, and there is a good chance your headaches will subside, experts say.

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