How does guided imagery work? What I can tell you is that the mind interacts with the body in ways more complex and creative than we can begin to specify. In brief, I can say that anywhere that nerves go in the body, you have the potential for the mind to go. Any function of the body can potentially be influenced by the mind and by the power of the imagination. It can happen as a result of a change in the function of the autonomic nervous system, through the production of hormones and neurohormones, or through activation of different parts of the brain.
There are so many ways in which changes in the mental-emotional realm can effect changes in the physical realm. All of the circuitry is there. This is not mystical. There are connections, both in terms of the wiring and in terms of the chemical messengers that transmit information back and forth. The question is how to take advantage of that.
—Andrew Weil, M.D.
First, there is the “send” feature of imagery. That’s the “mind over matter” aspect that people usually think of, using imagery to make a change. It’s a tremendously useful skill to learn. There is, however, a whole other area that we call the “receptive” uses of imagery. This means using the imagination to make an inquiry into how we are feeling—how the body is feeling, what emotions we may be having, what our deeper thoughts are about a situation—to draw on the wisdom of that innate healing ability that is built into the body.
What if you could have a conversation with your body, or a part of your body, and ask it how it is doing? The body is very intelligent, and imagery is a two-way language that not only allows you to potentially influence the body, but allows the body to communicate more clearly to you. In the guided imagery processes that I teach, you’ll learn how to go in and ask the body what might help it to heal more quickly and more effectively, and how to listen to its responses.
—Martin L. Rossman, M.D.