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Skeptical of Imagery for Healing? Try This!

For some people, imagery seems too intangible to work with at first, or they are skeptical that it could have any real effect on their health. If you feel this way, there are a number of effective ways to augment, or amplify the tangibility of your imagery.

Try drawing or writing about the images you want to evoke. What do you imagine healing would look like if you could witness it in your body? What will you be like if you fully recover? What will you be doing? What will you treasure even more? You might even paint or sculpt healing images—you could, say, make immune cells out of clay and make a model of them eating cancer cells.     

Consider creating a place for healing work in your home, your garden, or anywhere there is room to create what could be called sacred space. This could be an altar, a corner of a room, or anywhere you want to consecrate, perhaps by saying a prayer or affirmation, or using a ritual like burning a candle. People who have trouble with imagery often use affirmations of their healing — a statement that usually begins with the phrase “I am . . .,” “ I can . . .,” or “ I will…” — that you can repeat to yourself frequently to calm, stimulate, or remind you about what you want to keep in focus. A simple affirmation like “I am an incredible self-healer” or “ I will do whatever I can to help my healing” can be a helpful tool.     

You may want to experiment with music to help fuel your imagery. In the field called Guided Imagery in Music, pioneered by psychologist Helen Bonny, trained therapists use special selections of music to help people access certain emotions. Some music is soothing and relaxing, some is ethereal and inspirational, while other pieces are warlike and heroic. I like using nature sounds or the tonal, evocative music of composer Stephen Halpern, who has created some of the best healing and meditation music available (

Smell can also be a powerful activator of emotions and imagery, perhaps because the olfactory nerve goes directly back into the limbic, or emotional, brain. You might investigate the aromatherapy section of your health-food store to see what effects different aromas have; if you use any that feel especially healing along with your imagery, you may soon be able to use the aroma as a Pavlovian trigger for your body’s healing responses.      

 Another powerful way to express and augment your imagery is to combine it with movement that gets the body involved. Renowned dancer Anna Halprin has developed a method for this, which she calls “psychokinetic visualization.” If this is of interest to you, her remarkable book, Dance as a Healing Art (LifeRhythm), is a must-read.     

A general caution: If you find yourself spending more time and energy criticizing your poor art or imagery skills than creating images of healing, you are going in an unproductive direction. If you need to, work with a qualified imagery guide or psychotherapist to help you over the hump. (The Academy of Guided Imagery has certified more than 750 health professionals who can help you; visit for more information.)

Successful recovery from any serious illness or condition obviously depends on many factors, come of which are unknowable, some over which you have no control. The purpose of using your mind effectively is to increase the likelihood that you will recover successfully. So why not imagine exactly what you want to have happen, and let the chips (or genes) fall where they may? Let your unconscious, your spirit, your body knows what you want. And then get out of the way.