While preliminary studies have demonstrated that imagery can be an effective part of treatment in a wide variety of illnesses, I am reluctant to offer a list of diseases that can be treated with imagery. Imagery can be helpful in so many ways that it is more accurate to think of it as a way of treating people than as a way of treating illnesses.
Imagery can help you, whether you have simple tension headaches or a life-threatening disease. Through imagery, you can learn to relax and be more comfortable in any situation, whether you are ill or well, you may be able to reduce, modify, or eliminate pain or other symptoms. You can increase or decrease blood flow, muscle tension, or modulate your immune system response. You can use imagery to help determine if your lifestyle or habits have contributed to your illness and to see what changes you can make to support your recovery. Imagery can help you tap inner strengths and find hope, courage, patience, perseverance, love, and other qualities that can help you cope with, transcend, or recover from almost any illness.
There are, of course, certain symptoms and illnesses that seem to be more readily responsive to imagery than others. Conditions that are caused by or aggravated by stress often respond very well to imagery techniques. These include such common problems as headaches, neck pain, back pain, “nervous stomach,” spastic colon, allergies, heart palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, and anxiety. Other major heath problems including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological illnesses are often complicated by or themselves cause stress, anxiety, and depression. The emotional aspects of any illness can often be helped through imagery, and relieving the emotional distress may in turn encourage physical healing.
Good medical care for any of the serious problems mentioned above is essential and perfectly compatible with imagery. If you choose to have therapeutic treatments of any kind, acknowledge them as your allies in healing and include them in your imagery. If you are taking an antibiotic or chemotherapy, imagine the medicines coursing through your tissues, finding and eliminating the bacteria or tumor cells you are fighting. If you have surgery, imagine the operation going smoothly and successfully, and your recovery being rapid and complete.
Mental imagery is the native language of the unconscious mind, a language that both mind and body use and respond to as they work towards health and healing. Spending a little time to learn to work with this language can bring big benefits in your healing journey.