The human mind is a powerful tool provided to us by nature. It can guide, protect, and even help us heal from various ailments and diseases. Imagery, in simple words, is the optimum use of imagination. It is undoubtedly a powerful mind-body communication tool. It is one of the oldest forms of medicine and offers cancer patients and caregivers the strength to fight the pain and suffering.
What is Imagery?
A mental image is one with sensory qualities. It impacts what you mentally see, taste, hear, smell, feel, or touch. When your thoughts show you an image, they also tell you about how you are currently storing and processing information. Hence, exploring imagery is an important component in fighting cancer. You can achieve optimum vitality by focusing on healthy mental images and being aware of the patterns associated with the unhealthy ones.
What is Guided Imagery?
In order to be able to benefit from positive mental imagery, you must be able to guide your attention and mental resources yourself. In other words, you should be able to focus your attention to specific places in order to send a message to your mind, body, and spirit. This helps cancer patients stay strong through the day-to-day battles in their fight against cancer.
Some techniques in guided imagery are:
- Active Imagination
- Exploring fantasies
- Dream Interpretation, etc.
How does Guided Imagery help Cancer patients?
Some of the potential benefits of guided imagery to people fighting against cancer are:
- Relief from anxiety, stress, and/or depression
- Lesser pain
- Stimulated immune system
- Helps reduce nausea arising from drugs during chemotherapy treatment
- Helps reduce distress during radiation therapy
- Aids in fighting inner conflicts
- Reduces pain and complications after surgery, etc.
How does it work?
Carl Simonton, a specialist in Radiology and Oncology, in his book Getting Well Again, has listed eight components for effective mental imagery:
- The patient imagines cancer cells as weak and confused which can be broken down.
- The treatment is imagined to be much stronger than the cancer cells.
- The patient also imagines the unaffected cells in his body to be strong enough to repair whatever damage the treatment might cause.
- A mental image of an endless army of white blood cells in the body is persistently created. Since these cells are the symbol of our natural healing process, visualizing them in large numbers helps the body believe that defeating cancer is possible and inevitable.
- Apart from the large number of white cells, the patient also imagines them to be aggressive and eager to find the cancer cells and destroy them.
- The patient also visualizes the dead cancer cells being flushed out of the system naturally.
- An important mental image is that of seeing yourself cancer-free and your body as healthy and full of vitality.
- Finally, an image of seeing yourself fulfill your life’s goals helps reinforce confidence in treatment and recovery.
References and Resources
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- ZenOnco.io Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
- Jeannine Walston – Imagery and Cancer
- Academy of Guided Imagery
- Health Journeys
- Martin L. Rossman – The Healing Mind
- Spiegel D, Moore R. Imagery and hypnosis in the treatment of cancer patients. Oncology (Williston Park). 1997 Aug;11(8):1179-89
- Guided Imagery – Breastcancer.org – https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/imagery
- Guided imagery- Effectiveness in cancer fatigue in patients undergoing chemotherapy – http://www.allresearchjournal.com/archives/2018/vol4issue2/PartC/4-1-47-565.pdf