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June 16, 2011 at 10:15 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Healing Power of the Mind - Visualization for Relief

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

I was talking to a friend yesterday that was complaining of a headache.

"Is it a caffeine headache?" I asked.

"Could be."

"Is it a sinus thing, you think? Is the headache around your eyes? It IS allergy season..."

"No, it's more around the base of my head and top of my neck."

So, probably not a sinus thing. As an admitted coffee addict (though I've been better and drinking more tea instead lately!) I first suggested they try a cup of coffee. Then I offered a less....conventional(?) solution - a visualization technique I often use when I'm trying to manage pain.

My Pain Management Visualization

I told them, when I had a pain somewhere, I would visualize the part of me in pain as being one connected and removable piece in my body. I explained it was like removing a cut cookie from a roll of dough, or I thought more accurately, like one of those simple toddler puzzle balls, with the different shaped plastic puzzle pieces (a yellow star, a red circle, a blue square...) and different shaped holes to match. I would image myself pulling the painful part of me out and setting it aside. Which... in reality would be completely gruesome, but in my mind I see it as being almost like those plastic puzzle pieces. When I set it aside, I imagine there is just a hole clean through me where it used to be and the hurting piece is sitting aside looking much like pain looks in a commercial - nothing graphic, gruesome or detailed, just red and throbbing.

"Sounds really weird, but I'm telling you it works wonders!" I assured them.

"Actually," they said "I do something sort of similar!"

They explained that THEY would imagine their pain as a fire and to ease the pain would imagine drowning it with water.

Interesting! I thought.

My Stress-Relief/ Empowerment Visualization

I actually had a couple other visualizations I used as well. I think the first one I remember trying was one I learned as a way to relieve stress and enhance confidence. I imagine, when I am feeling overwhelmed - stressed, or sad, or angry, or insecure - that I am filled with black cloudy smoke and ash, but with each breath out I am pushing out a little more of the nasty black smoke and ash, and with each breath in, I am breathing in purifying white light. Inside I gradually become less and less gray, until finally - and it takes varying amounts of time to get there - I am filled with white shining light and I feel tranquil and immune(?) to whatever was eating at me.

Hypno-Birthing Visualization

Another, I used when in labor - they call it "hypno-birthing", and actually it was extremely effective for me. In this case I imagined laying on the beach - feeling the soothing warmth of the sun and sand - and as a contraction would come, I would imagine a cooling wave wash over me.

For those of you who have never experienced labor - I think the most difficult part wasn't the pain itself, it was the fact that there was no way to really relieve it. Even though logically you KNOW it will eventually end, it can be more difficult to really BELIEVE than seems reasonable. It's panic and fear that makes the pain worse, I think. (Though I would LOVE to hear another mom's opinion!)

As such, the hypno-birthing technique REALLY did help. When the nurse came in an hour after I had mentally took my self to the beach, she told me she had never seen anyone so calm BEFORE an epidural. It certainly didn't take away my pain completely, but it helped me feel in control and calmed me to the point, I think I could have probably made it without the epidural if I had started that sooner and hadn't gotten so panicked.

When You Think About It, It Makes Sense

I mean, you just have to think about the placebo effect in order to understand the amazing power of the mind. It only makes sense that you would treat the pain at it's source. It is, after all, our BRAIN sending out those pain signals! It may be hard to explain WHY exactly it works so well, but I promise you, it really does. PLUS - no chemical, no risk of side effects!

If you haven't already, give it a try! And if you have, I'd love to hear about what other visualization techniques are out there!

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