Visualization techniques have been used in spiritual practices throughout the ages. Though this technique has been growing in popularity and has been proven to be effective time and time again, due to the requirement of imagination it is still something (without a proper understanding of how our brains work) a lot of people find easy to dismiss as hocus pocus or wishful thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, did a study comparing people who went to the gym with people who simply did imaginary workouts in their minds. The result showed a 30% muscle strength increase in groups who went to the gym (no surprises there) but what was interesting is the 13.5% muscle increase of those who simply did the mental visualizations.
Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist, accused of spying for the US, spent 9 years in prison and used his time in solitary confinement playing himself in mental chess, his attitude was ‘I might as well use this opportunity to become the world champion’. The outcome? He beat, world champion chess player, Garry Kasparov in 1996.
Dr. Carl Simonton used a combination of relaxation and personalized visualization (now popularly known as the Simonton process) to help patients with terminal cancer. The result was he was able to reduce the size of their tumor, some patients even experienced complete remission.
Even notorious heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammed Ali, used visualization & affirmations to enhance his performance in the ring.
These and countless other studies, stories and antidotes, make the effectiveness of visualization a hard concept to ignore, so much so that it is now accepted and a common practice amongst athletes; motivational speakers, therapists and even some medics.
“That’s great, those stories sound impressive but how does visualization (imagination) seriously influence our reality?” I hear you ask.
Let me attempt to explain, the brain is like a giant computer. Our conscious mind is what we use to interpret the world. It interprets and attaches meaning to everything we have ever experienced in our lives. These interpretations are past on to our unconscious mind and stored.
“Fine, I get that”, you might say but here is the rub, research has shown that 90% of our reactions come automatically from our unconscious mind, so even though our conscious mind does all the interpreting it is actually our old programming and stored beliefs (our unconscious mind) that are running the show.
Research has also shown that our unconscious is not only a space for storing information but also goal -seeking machine, meaning it seeks to attain specific goals and commands given by the conscious mind. Yes, numerous scientific studies dating as far as 2004 (perhaps even further) have confirmed that not only is the unconscious mind a goal seeking machine but also that the goal can be triggered with or without conscious awareness. Moreover, this goal once activated, will operate over extended periods of time (without conscious supervision) to guide your thoughts and (it would seem) internal & external behaviour towards that goal.
So if your conscious mind has been repeatedly feeding your unconscious negative emotional charged data such as fear or sickness or scarcity etc that is the goal you have programmed your unconscious mind to take on (consciously or unconsciously) and that is exactly the results you will produce.
The good news is, though we are not aware of our unconscious mind and it’s ‘activites’, we have more control over it than we realize. Our unconscious mind has no contact with the outside world, with our reality. It is in effect blind. It is a source of feelings and obtains information through feelings and experiences fed to it by the conscious mind; because it is blind and cannot interpret, it also does not know the difference between the real or imagined. Therefore, whether the desired experience is real or imagined matters not, as long as the conscious mind believes it to be true the unconscious mind will accept it as real. This is where the use of imagination comes in. With the application of repetitive, vivid, emotional charged visualization (imagination), we can use our conscious mind to program the unconscious mind and improve our lives.
Over the years imagination has taken a back seat to academia. However science has done countless studies that suggest our imagination is not only a key to programming our unconscious mind, but also our personal ‘goal- seeking machine’ within and producing the future we desire. I don’t know about you but for me, this certainly puts a whole new spin on Albert Einstein’s famous quote ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’
Written by Angelena Lewis