imagery as the language of the heart
by Demetra Monocrusso
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Nowadays we see the increased use of Imagery as an effective therapeutic practice by psychotherapists, mental health counselors, doctors, nurses, reflexologists, but also as a practice of transforming limiting belief patterns, of empowerment and autonomy by life coaches and professional coaches, sports coaches, educators and artists.
Imagery is a process that employs our power of imagination, which is inherent in all human beings, in order to obtain a holistic view of our life as we experience it now, to detect the limiting factor that organizes it and that has led to an illness and/or any challenges that arise and immediately trigger the process of reversing or bringing about the change we need. However, there is a clear distinction between imagination and fantasy.
Fantasy is a process in which we invent images deliberately in order to satisfy an expectation. It employees our linear cerebral intelligence and it essentially serves as an escape from the current reality we are experiencing.
Imagination is a process by which we tap into our intelligence of the heart and in which we practice concentration without effort, putting forth an intention without expectation. This differentiates Imagery from visualizations that are practiced in other guided techniques.
What also differentiates Imagery from other modalities is that during the Imagery process, the person is able to simultaneously experience and observe the situation at hand, thus bringing unity in body and in mind. Contrary to being advised by external authorities, the person is able to arrive to the realization of his/her limitation. This engages his/her participation and empowers voluntary commitment to change. The person simultaneously learns how to arrive to the “antitode”, “cure” and essentially to the revelation of how to move forward, thus immediately triggering a voluntary process of change.
Imagery is basically a language that is common in all of us, but which most people have not been trained to perceive and understand. Its application is based on the model of phenomenology and on the concept that our thoughts, ideas and beliefs are imprinted in our mind in the form of images, through our senses and emotions. These images depict how we perceive the world within and around us. By transforming the images, we transform our perception.
According to the Cartesian approach of the French philosopher René Descartes, emotions and senses taint the way we perceive the world and they move us away from its true meaning. The world around us has a definite and definitive significance that we, as living beings, distort through our feelings, beliefs and our senses. For example, the Cartesian approach defines time only as a period measured in hours, minutes and seconds.
The 20th century German philosopher, Edmund Husserl, presented the theory of Phenomenology, according to which, the way in which we perceive the world through our senses, feelings and consciousness, is what determines its significance.
What defines time for us is the way we experience it and its significance changes accordingly. How we experience time does not reflect these seconds, minutes and hours; it reflects our awareness of time. When we are having fun, we say that time passes quickly. If not, we say it passes slowly. We use expressions such as “time is money” or “when the time is ripe”. We, therefore, perceive the world according to how we experience it and not in the way that others define it.
Contrary to the Cartesian approach, which prevails to this day and which considers consciousness as a secondary by-product of our existence, Phenomenology places consciousness at the center of our existence.
The images we choose to keep in our psychosynthesis, be it voluntarily or not, affect our psychophysiology. Surveys with brain scans have shown that, the same regions of the brain that are activated by what is considered to be our “normal” perception, are also activated with Imagery (Miyashita, 1995). For example, imagining a phone activates the same areas of the brain that are activated when we see a phone in front of us. (Posner, 1993).
In 2012 Assistant Professor Ulas Kaplan of James Madison University and Dr. Gerald Epstein, MD, psychiatrist and founder of the American Institute for Mental Imagery, 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 nature of Imagery is both diagnostic in the sense that images reflect the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our existence that call for exploration and healing, as well as therapeutic in that it reveals a live treasure of therapeutic symbols which comprise the key to our transformation. All that is needed is to be trained in understanding the language of Imagery and the messages it conveys.
One important key in the practice of Imagery is to ensure that the duration of the exercise is not extended; otherwise the exercise has little to no effect. Imagery exercises usually last up to 30 seconds, so as to avoid the interference of the linear rational mind that interprets, analyzes, criticizes, and casts doubt. Since images affect our psychophysiology and until the practitioner learns to apply imagery with concentration without effort, it is essential to be guided by an Imagery instructor who is able to ensure its correct, safe and beneficial application.
Originally published in Greek in Enallaktiki Drasi magazine in June 2018
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.
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