An extension of the relaxation process is visualization, also known as mental imagery. This is a valuable tool for helping you reinforce belief in a desired outcome. It is an extension of the relaxation exercises in that it is typically added at or near the end of the meditation period.
The essence of visualization is to (1) create mental pictures of your immune system and of your chosen treatment effectively fighting the breast cancer. You then (2) visualize the breast cancer disappearing and your body returning to health.
Visualization is that simple, there’s no need to make it any more complicated. I ask you to try it.
Consider some of these guidelines: Picture the cancer in symbolic images. For those who require a realistic image, you may want to consult an anatomy text to find pictures of actual cancer cells. Most patients, however, use symbols. I’ve had people describe their cancer as sand, a lump of clay, and even ice cubes. I saw mine as jelly. The most important criterion for picturing the disease is to think of the cancer as weak and confused. Don’t give it power. Your imagery need not be anatomically correct unless you hold a belief that images of correct anatomy are required. What is important is the meaning you give the cancer’s imagined symbol; visualize the cancer as weak.
Imagine your treatment as strong and powerful, damaging only the weak breast cancer cells. Imagine your healthy cells remaining intact. Picture your immune system fighting the cancer. Imagine the weak and damaged breast cancer cells being naturally flushed out of your body. Picture the breast cancer shrinking until it is gone.
If you are experiencing pain, picture your white blood cells flowing to that area and soothing the pain. Whatever the problem, give your body the command to heal itself, visualizing the process in a way that makes sense to you. End the imagery by seeing yourself well, free of disease, and filled with energy.
How has this benefited you? Most people’s fears tend to decrease as the imagery process gives them a greater sense of control. Ongoing research leads us to believe the imagery process has an influence on the body, actually triggering a hormonal and biochemical response to a renewed sense of hope. The resulting changes to the body’s chemistry influence immune function, thus assisting the body in maximizing its opportunity to heal.
Visualization is controversial. More than a few health care professionals consider it to be a form of self-deception. “After all,” they reason, “I can show you that the tumor has been growing.”
I encourage you to consider this response. In your own mind, separate what is happening from what you wish to be the outcome. It is possible, and beneficial, to picture the breast cancer shrinking even though it may, at this moment, be growing. This is not self-deception. It is selfdirection, and is necessary to beginning the pursuit of any life goal. At first, reality will lag the vision you have of the desired outcome. But that vision will tend to pull us in the direction we need to go.
A Call to Action:
How can you make this visualization technique work for you? After evoking the relaxation response, try this:
1. Picture your cancer cells as weak and confused.
2. Create a mental image of your treatment and your immune system overcoming the cancer.
3. Imagine your body’s natural processes eliminating the disease from your system.
4. Envision the cancer shrinking until it disappears.
5. Imagine yourself well, filled with vitality for living.
I encourage you to visualize at least twice daily