when heart and mind communicate, everything is possible
by Demetra Monocrusso
© Content may be republished only under certain terms and conditions. Read them here.
Albert Einstein had said that imagination is more important than knowledge and that if logic can take you from point A to point B, then imagination can take you anywhere and everywhere. As a matter of fact, great innovators, those who changed the world either in the field of philosophy or even in the field of technology, were primarily visionaries. They are people who create a reality in their minds, have faith in it and eventually implement it and turn it into a reality that is indisputable by anyone. From the invention of the wheel to electricity, the internet and smartphones, everything has been created because someone created them first in their imagination. This is most likely what Albert Einstein referred to when he said that imagination is even more important than knowledge.
To take this one step further, we find that the power of imagination was used by great civilizations in ancient times as a means of reflection, understanding life, even as a therapeutic practice. However, our modern culture is also based on imagination. Starting from the goals we set every year, the dreams we have for the future to the way we view ourselves, we all rely on our amazing power of imagination.
Much research and many studies have shown that the world and our life is very much determined by our perception. Our perception can be totally subjective and it can change. If, for example, we view ourselves as being unsuccessful, it is much more likely that we will experience failures down the road. Whereas, if we were to change our way of thinking, then our experiences also change.
Imagery is a method that focuses precisely on our power of imagination in order to achieve a series of changes both physiologically, in our body, and in our lives. Having studied for a number of years at the American Institute for Imagery, based in New York, Mrs. Demetra Monocrusso is now organizing a three-hour imagery workshop.
Below is her interview where she answers questions raised by Georgia Christou on behalf of Enallaktiki Drasi.
Could you tell as a little about what imagery is and why it’s called that?
Simply put, imagery is the mental function by which we depict what is happening within us and outside us in the form of images. Our most well-known cognitive function is logic. In our everyday life, we communicate with each other and we perceive what we call objective reality through logic and discursive thinking. Imagery is our non-logical function which we use to communicate with our inner, subjective reality. It is the true, subjective image we have of ourselves today, of what happens in our life, regardless of what is considered to be an objective reality.
So, is it basically the use of our imagination for a specific purpose;
Exactly. We use our imagination in imagery in a conscious manner to know ourselves, to have self-awareness, to restore balance, to self-heal, and to gain inner autonomy and wholeness.
What is the difference between imagery and creative visualization?
The difference lies in the duration of the exercise, the manner in which it is carried out and the way it works.
Each imagery exercise lasts between 30-60 seconds. It’s duration is brief because we aim to “jolt” ourselves out of our habitual manner of thinking, to bypass logical interference so that we may be in the position to spontaneously receive the image of the situation we are dealing with and of the possibilities that are immediately available to us to overcome any difficulties. The whole process resembles fireworks. It takes only a single match to ignite them and with one micro-dose, we obtain a vast range of information.
Although there is a brief guided instruction in the beginning of the exercise, the information that the person who does the exercise receives comes from within himself and concerns his own personal situation, regardless of whether he does the exercise in a group setting or in a private setting.
Is there any scientific basis to Imagery? Have there been clinical trials and research?
In the 20th century, many psychotherapeutic techniques have emerged that have incorporated imagery as a psychotherapeutic tool. Just to name a few, are: “Active Imagination” by Dr. Carl Jung, “Guided Waking Dream” by Dr. Robert Desoille and “Guided Affective Imagery” by Dr. Hanscarl Leuner.
Towards the end of the 20th century, radiotherapy oncologist Dr. Carl Simonton and his wife, psychologist, Stephanie Simonton, presented clinical trials that showed the increased survival of cancer patients who practiced metal imagery to improve their immune system. Later, psychologists Jeanne Achterberg and Frank Lawlis conducted clinical studies and research on the effectiveness of various types of imagery exercises to treat cancer. The positive results of these clinical studies established the acceptance of a strong body and mind connection, namely the association of imagery with the immune system (Gruzelier 2002).
The implementation of imagery has been extended to a wider number of diseases in clinical trials performed by Irving Oyle D.O., who adapted the “Inner Advisor” method in his clinical practice, as well as by Martin Rossman, M.D. and David Bresler, Ph.D., who introduced the implementation of “Interactive Guided Imagery”. In fact, in his book “Guided Imagery for Self-Healing,” Dr. Martin Rossman states, “The evidence is so strong that if imagery was a drug, physicians would prescribe imagery to improve the immune system without the fear of side effects.” (Rossman 2000, p. 227).
Many other clinical trials and empirical studies have been carried out, but I will end with two significant and recent ones by Assistant Professor Ulas Kaplan of James Madison University and Dr. Gerald Epstein, MD, psychiatrist and founder of the American Institute for Mental Imagery.
- In 2012, they studied the application of imagery to monitor heart rate variability. Results showed that the application of imagery significantly increased the rate of heart coherence. (Imagination, Cognition and Personality, Vol. 31 (4) 297-312, 2011-2012 ).
- They conducted another study in 2014 with the purpose of presenting a qualitative approach to changes in daily well-being, as a function of imagery practice. Results of the imagery group far surpassed results obtained from the other two groups, affirmations coming in a distant second, while the group doing nothing other than ordinary thinking showed no effect at all. An additional discovery was that levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, found in sputum were reduced during the imagery process, but this was not the case for the affirmation or thinking groups. (Imagination, Cognition and Personality, Vol. 34(1) 73-96, 2014-2015).
The workshop you are holding is called “Heart-Intelligence”. How does this modality work therapeutically ?
To begin with, the nature of the “Heart Intelligence” workshop is educational and its material is in accordance with the American Institute for Imagery of New York. It aims to provide participants with the opportunity to have a first-hand experience of the beneficial effects imagery can have on their physiology and to be taught the basic principles of the application of imagery, which they may then be able to continue on their own.
Conscious application of imagery is a purely experiential process, as it involves the senses. One persons sees, another hears, another smells and another tastes. It’s also possible that an individual does not experience menal imagery through his 5 senses and simply perceives. He just knows. Therefore, during the imagery exercise, we have an experience.
It has been observed that, when we respond to an experience, the natural synthesis of our brain changes. By exploring and changing the experience we create new neural networks and beneficially rewire our brains bringing about positive changes in our physiology.
Now, in ancient times, imagery was known as the Sacred Language, the Intelligence of the Spirit and the Intelligence of the Heart. It unites power and love. Power is the ability to participate knowingly in the change you wish to see through awareness and by feeling the freedom to act upon your intentions. Love and power together bring about increased awareness and connection with our inner wisdom, which is the foundation and fundamental first step towards healing. Although not yet widely accepted by modern Western medicine, many studies have established the power that our mind exercises on our body, in the birth and in the healing of an illness. Love is often thought to be an insignificant therapeutic tool in dealing with life’s problems. Yet, research shows it makes muscles stronger, the heart healthier, and the brain work more effectively; it clearly improves relationships and reaches out through the non-local mind to affect countless numbers of others about us.
Apart from its therapeutic application, are there other areas in which Imagery can be applied?
In addition to the mental health area, its popular application is in the area of sports for performance optimization by sport champions and Olympic Athletes.
Other areas I know of, mainly abroad, are:
- life coaching, to meet personal and professional objectives. With imagery we can work on improving self-esteem, relationships, finding new partners, creating a new career path and much more.
- in executive coaching for improving and finding new strategies, enhancing leadership skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, as well as for developing teamwork and optimizing performance in the work-place.
- in arts, such as painting, music, dance, expressive arts, as well as writing to enhance creativity
- in education, to optimize school performance and overcome learning difficulties.
How can imagery help in our relationships?
Here, I will refer to the motto that Enallaktiki Drasi has adopted: Be the Change you Want to See in the World. The application of imagery enables us to be in the position to not only understand ourselves, but to also understand others. This comes about without guilt, without blame and without analysis. The nature of the exercise is revelatory and assists us in obtaining awareness of the abilities and limitations of ourselves and of the other person in the relationship. Hence, we learn to stop trying to change the other person and the relationship and, instead see with clarity what we are experiencing, what our expectations are and what steps we can take to bring about the change we want to see.
I would like to add that morphology (face-reading) is also highly useful in order to find a new partner, to improve an existing relationship and even to hire the appropriate person for a specific role in our business. This is applied only in imagery coaching sessions.
Could you explain what we will learn in Imagery classes;
Imagery classes help you develop clarity, since information on yourself, on the relationship you have with yourself and with your environment is revealed to you.
You learn to understand the language of imagery and the messages that the images contain, without logical analysis, interpretations and decoding of symbols.
You strengthen faith in yourself, as you cultivate the ability to receive your own answers and you become the authority of yourself.
Because self-understanding arises without blame, guilt and analysis, you become motivated to apply your voluntary will to practically bring about change.
You learn to discern between a real emergency and what could be a habitual emergency state. You learn to restore balance immediately wherever you are and through whatever you are experiencing in the moment.
You learn to find a way out of a dilemma and improve your decision making skills. At the same time, you learn to become flexible and detached from expectations, in view of all that you encounter in your path.
You practice and learn how to create your own imagery exercises whenever you need them.
You experience the difference between being incomplete and being whole, regardless of what is happening around you.
I would like to express some doubts that I have: I feel that if our imagination has such power, many people would have been destroyed or would have obtained everything they have dreamed of in their life. Why should someone pay a fee in order to learn how to manage their mental images?
I would like to make a distinction here. In the modern West, the view is that imagination involves the formation of a mental image that is neither true nor realistic, and that it is unrelated to the present moment. It is often confused with the concept of fantasy. Fantasy, indeed, is neither true, nor realistic because it removes you from the present moment. The unconscious application of imagination is degraded into fantasy. Fantasy is mechanical, limited to space and time (past and future), self-centered since it aims to satisfy personal desires, regardless of whether they benefit others (even yourself), and it can become a compulsive habit.
On the other hand, the conscious application of imagery sets into operation the process of pure imagination in which we transcend the limits of the rational mind, we shift beyond the limits of time and space, and we spontaneously receive non-self-centered information that not only reveals, in a matter of minutes, the true perception we have of ourselves and of the experiences we are having, but also the new possibilities that are readily available to us in order to take a more beneficial direction in our life.
With the application of pure imagination, you are not deluded. You do not expect the shining knight to arrive on his white horse and sweep you away into eternal happiness, nor do you expect to find the mysterious female who will eternally submit to your every whim. You do not pursue to become a leader of others when you haven’t been trained to lead yourself, nor do you expect others to ignore you because you imagine (fantasize) that you are unworthy of their attention.
Having said that, as my profession entails working with young children, it saddens me to see a child hold a negative image, through stress, weakness and fear, of the experience she is having. If children were taught how to consciously apply their creative imagination, not only would their psychology be balanced, but their learning progress would also be outstanding.
During one of my lessons, a student was experiencing difficulty in remembering a basic element which she has been taught many times and which she has practiced many times. I gave her the “Be a Tree” imagery exercise in which she sees her feet growing roots that go deep into the ground and reach the center of the earth, her torso grows stronger and taller and her head reaches the stratosphere which is clear and blue. This exercise lasted less than a minute. As soon as she opened her eyes, I repeated the question and, to her surprise, she immediately answered correctly. She told me that, since then, she has been using this exercise at school and in her rhythmic gymnastics training, where she is a champion athlete in her category.
Would this student have been able to remove herself from her difficulty so quickly and easily without being instructed how to do so?
Another example is that of a 50 year old individual with whom I had a private imagery coaching session. He stated that he hadn’t spoken to his brother for over 2 years. The reason was that his brother had acted in a way that was in breach of his own principles, although the action seemed to have no immediate effect on his life. Their relationship had been interrupted. Instead of going into a dialogue and analytical discussion on the topic of principles and relationships, I asked him whether he’d like to do a imagery exercise and explore the situation together and he accepted.
During the exercise, he saw his brother’s form and between him and his brother was a grey mist. He described his brother standing with bent shoulders, pale and exhausted. I asked him if he would like to remove the mist to which he responded affirmatively. I instructed him to use any tool he would like to dissolve the mist. He chose to call the clear, fresh winds from the mountains. When he dissolved the mist, he described his brother standing tall, his expression was bright and happy and his arms extended towards him. I asked him if he’d like to embrace his brother, which he did. When he opened his eyes, I asked what he discovered in this experience. His response was “Until now, I wasn’t aware of how my perception and convictions, how the way I see others have such an impact on them! All this time, I had thought that I was only affecting myself!”.
This awareness would not have been obtained so quickly and directly without any instruction and guidance. The beauty of this imagery exercise is that the revelation came organically, from within, without my dictation and without my interference as to what he should understand or do.
Fortunately, the teaching of imagery has prevailed throughout the ages from various sources, one of which is the American Institute for Mental Imagery. Its founder, Dr. Gerald Epstein, MD had devoted more than 40 years of his life to imagery research and education. He helped thousands of people around the world and has generously provided a wealth of bibliography on imagery. It is thanks to his guidance and education that the Apollo Gateway of Imagery was founded in Greece, the land were Asclepius, the son of Apollo, healed people through imagery and dream incubation.
Therefore, as in everything we are unaware of, a guidance is needed in the beginning until the person is able to have faith in himself and in his ability to consciously create his own imagery and transform his life.
Last, another very important reason why a imagery educator is necessary is that the educator has to ensure that the person does not leave the workshop or the session with a damaging image in his mind. That is why these educators are frequently called “technicians of the sacred”. Their role is to accompany the person during the imagery journey, keep the journey safe and ensure that the process is completed with a beneficial outcome.
Suggestions, positive affirmations and visionary exercises are widespread practices but my feeling is that there is probably more to it than just imagining a situation in order to realize it. Does Imagery offer an extra tool that helps the individual focus more effectively on what he wants?
Indeed. One key is to be able to set the intention correctly. Many times, we believe we are setting a pure intention, but what we are really doing is expecting the outcome. Expecting the outcome inevitably entails the desire for a positive result (placebo) and the subconscious fear or worry about a negative result (nocebo). During the imagery classes, you learn to concentrate without effort, to avoid investing energy in the outcome and instead, devote yourself, for at least one minute daily, to the process of creating and invoking what you intend. True, beneficial creation transcends the limitation of the “placebo-nocebo” duality and that is where the magic lies. In this way, you develop detachment, since you are not divided between dual situations and you strengthen your faith in yourself, which keeps you whole, balanced and autonomous.
The other key is to learn the language of images. Do you clearly understand what is being revealed to you or do you tend to interpret what you see according to your convictions and to your current perception of things? Do you understand how to correct the image from the intelligence of your heart or are attempting to correct it based on your logical way of thinking? By practicing imagery under guidance, you learn to allow the image to speak to you without your intervention. With continuous practice, you will be in the position to create your own images, determine your life direction and see yourself and the world with fresh, insightful eyes.
First published in Greek in the online magazine Enallakti Drasi.
Professional Coach and Mental Imagery Clinician
All services provided by Demetra Monocrusso are in alignment and in accordance with the wholistic model of health taught by the American Institute for Mental Imagery of New York which is chartered by the New York State Regents to train clinicians in the GEMS integrative healing system.
They have been personally endorsed and approved by the founder and director of the institute Dr. Gerald N. Epstein, MD, an internationally renowned psychiatrist and one of the foremost practitioners of integrative healthcare for healing and transformation.
Copyright 2021-2022 | Demetra Monocrusso | All Rights Reserved
Demetra is not a medical professional and none of her advice should ever be taken in the place of medical advice. The information provided is purely for educational purposes. Individuals must use their own discretion, judgment and commonsense at all times and should not break any local, national or international laws. Under no circumstances will Demetra be held liable or responsible for any direct, indirect, incidental, punitive, special or consequential damages arising out of the use of, or inability to use, the information he shares. If you have a medical condition or health concern, always consult your doctor.