As more and more studies show a proven effectiveness of guided imagery for a wide array of ailments, this once "alternative" medicine is becoming more mainstream. More and more doctors are teaching this method to patients suffering from pain relating to everything from cancer to a sprained ankle.
Theory and History
Guided imagery is one area of modern medicine where "mind over matter" may work. While countless studies have shown the effectiveness of this therapy, scientists, psychologists and doctors only can speculate as to why it works.
The common thought is that there is a link between sensory images in your brain and the way that your body actually works. This means that when you see, smell, hear, taste or feel something, even if it is imaginary, your body will try and reproduce those results.
The history of guided imagery dates back to ancient times. Its exact origins have not been traced, but evidence of its use has been found in ancient civilizations on every continent. Many of these ancient civilizations used guided imagery in healing ceremonies.
The modern use of guided imagery began in the early 1970s. Some of the key players include Irving Oyle, Carl and Stephanie Simonton, Robert Assagioli, Dr. Martin Rossman and Dr. David Bresler.
Drs. Rossman and Bresler began researching and perfecting this technique. Their research, along with that of others, led to the development of the Academy for Guided Imagery in 1989. The academy is dedicated to physician education and continued public awareness of guided imagery.
Guided imagery is something that anyone can learn to harness and use, but depending on the severity of your pain, it takes a various amount of practice to make it effective. With 15 to 20 minutes of practice per day, you should be able to learn this valuable tool.
Begin by finding a quiet place where you can relax. Close your eyes and take yourself into deep relaxation. One popular way of doing this is to visualize yourself walking up a staircase leading to a soothing place.
Once you feel completely relaxed, visualize the part of your body which is causing pain. Now slowly visualize the healing process.
When you see your ailment healed, think about being pain-free. Stay relaxed and focus on this feeling for a few moments, and then slowly bring yourself out of deep relaxation. Some people like to visualize themselves walking down the same staircase back into reality.
As an example, you may imagine the following if you suffer from chronic knee pain due to arthritis:
Bring yourself into deep relaxation and climb your staircase.
Focus your visualization intently on your knee, and gradually begin to visualize the inside of your knee with a depletion of cartilage.
Once you have the image, gradually begin to visualize the cartilage ballooning out and padding your knee. Try to think about the comfort associated with the extra padding.
At this point, you can either stay here and focus on the comfort feeling, or you can choose to visualize your knee bending, or maybe even riding a bike. Keep your focus on the comfort and lack of pain in your knee.
When you are ready, slowly bring yourself out of deep relaxation and climb back down the staircase. Then open your eyes.
Your session is now done.