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

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Page 4

Step By Step Imagery

Studies indicate that imagery works best when it is used in conjunction with a relaxation technique. When your physical body is relaxed, you don't need to be in such conscious control of your mind, and you can give it the freedom to daydream. Meditation, progressive relaxation or yoga is the most common relaxation techniques used with imagery.

Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and sit comfortably in a chair. You can also use one of the yoga or meditation postures. Dim the lights, if you prefer. Close your eyes. Take in a few deep breaths. Picture yourself descending an imaginary staircase. With each step, notice that you feel more and more relaxed.

When you feel relaxed, imagine a favorite scene. It could be a beach, a mountain Slope or a particularly enjoyable moment with friends or family. Try to go into this scene each time you practice your imagery. If you can create a special, safe place where nothing can hurt you and you feel secure, it will make you more receptive to other images.

Once you feel comfortable in your favorite scene, gradually direct your mind toward the ailment you're concerned about. Use one of the images suggested by experts or allow your mind to create one of its own. Let the image become more vivid and in focus. Don't worry if it seems to fade in and out.

If several images come to mind, choose one and stick with it for that session.

On the other hand, if no images come to mind, try focusing on a different sensation. For instance, imagine hearing fish frying in a skillet or smelling wildflowers in a Meadow. If all else fails, think about how you feel at the moment. Angry? Frustrated? What color is that anger? What image is evoked? Use these feelings to forge images.

Each time you do this, imagine that your ailment is completely cured at the end of the session.

At the end of your session, take a few more deep breaths and picture yourself re-climbing the imaginary staircase and gradually becoming aware of your surroundings. Open your eyes, stretch, smile and go on with your day.

Imagery Techniques

Several different types of imagery are used depending on the application.

Most visualization techniques begin with relaxation, followed by summoning up a mental image. In one simple exercise known as painting, you close your eyes, cover them with your palms, and concentrate on the color black. Try to make the color fill your whole visual field, screening out any distracting images. To reduce stress, try concentrating first on a color you associate with tension, and then mentally replace it with one that you find soothing; for example the color red changing to blue. Or you may find it more relaxing to picture a peaceful natural scene, such as the unruffled surface of a pond, gently rolling hills, a serene waterfall, evening in a beach watching the sun set, etc.

In a technique called guided imagery, participants visualize a goal they want to achieve, then imagine themselves going through the process of achieving it. Severely ill patients, for example, are urged to picture their internal organs and imagine them free of disease, or to picture tumors shrinking, or invading microorganisms succumbing to aggressive immune cells.

We will look at the important ones here.

Guided Waking Imagery

In this technique, devised by the psychoanalyst Leuner, the patient it taught to visualize a standard series of scenes such as a meadow, a mountain, a house, and a swamp. Later, the patient's imaginings are examined for sources of conflict, irrational beliefs, and interpersonal problems.

Autogenic Abreactions

Here the patient is asked to assume an attitude of passive acceptance toward his mental experiences. In this condition, the patient is to verbalize, without restriction, all the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur to him. Strong affect, often with marked emotional and facial involvement is likely to emerge. The session continues until the effective discharge has run its course.

Covert Sensitization

This technique is based on the reinforcement paradigm. It postulates that imagery processes can be modified according to the same principles that govern the modification of overt, visible behavior. In covert sensitization, the patient first imagines engaging in some behavior he wishes to change, say, an addiction. This is quickly followed by the imagining of a highly unpleasant event. Thus, the addictive behavior becomes paired with a highly aversive event and therefore is less likely to occur in the future.

Covert Behavior Rehearsal

In this method, the individual systematically visualizes the desired correct coping behavior. This technique has seen much use in sports.

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