Creating Health Through Guided Imagery

By Gwenn Henkel, CMH, MH
Certified Medical and Master Hypnotherapist
Peninsula Woman Magazine May 2006

For years it has been widely known that the mind exerts a tremendous influence on our physical well being, and many times determining the difference between good health and disease.

In ten years of doing my work, I have learned many techniques for tapping into the mind’s healing energy enabling us to influence our own health with amazingly fast, positive results. The medical use of guided imagery is not new. It has existed in many cultures around the world, in Tibet, India, Egypt, Africa, among Eskimos and American Indians, for centuries, even into Bible times. 

So just what is guided imagery? Sometimes it is referred to as “mental imagery” and what it really is, simply put, is the mind thinking in pictures. There are many ways that we can think. The most familiar to us is logical thought. Since the 17th century, this type of thinking has been given precedence over all others because it is the basis of science. However, there are other forms of thinking, non-logical, intuitive forms, which coexist with logical thought. Think about when you have an epiphany of insight, when all of a sudden you seem to have a new understanding of something, or you find a solution to a problem that you were having that didn’t seem to have a solution. This kind of thought is called intuition. As the educator Caleb Gattegno has suggested, without intuition, we would not be able to think of anything new.

Mental imagery, or guided imagery, like intuition, is a type of non-logical thinking. Logical thinking is used for making contact with people in our everyday world and with what can be called objective reality. Mental imagery is the thinking used for making contact with our inner subjective reality.

The language of images is most common to us in our night dreams or daydreams. We can work with this language as easily as we work with spoken language. The ability to understand and communicate in this language of images probably precedes the ability to communicate words. Becoming aware of this language of images really only requires you to turn your attention to it.

As you will see from a story I will share with you, the most amazing feature of imagery work is that it can be accompanied by physiological changes. This is the result of the mind/body connection. For over three hundred years, Western medicine has separated the mind from the body. And it is very interesting to know that no other medical system in the history of the world, including Western medicine prior to the seventeenth century, has made such a distinction.  It hasn’t been until the past few years that Western medicine has tentatively begun to explore the connections of the mind and body. Behavioral medicine and psychoneuroimmunology are two examples of this exploration. In fact, many studies in hypnosis have shown more directly the impact of the mental to the physical. 

Even though Western medicine (and Western science) has been reluctant to accept that the mind can alter the body, it already firmly believes the opposite, that the physical can affect the mental, and tranquilizers, antidepressants and anesthetics are all examples of this. Since it is so obvious that the body can affect the mind, doesn’t it stand to reason that the use of mental power, such as will or imagery, can affect the body?

In my experience of using guided imagery for so many years now, I have witnessed not only the effect of mind on body but also the power of mental imagery to help heal the body. I have seen this healing power across a wide range of physical disorders and maladies. Now for the story I said I would share…

I was called to Children’s Hospital at Stanford Medical Center, where a previous client of mine had a little 5 year old boy who was suffering from a rare illness where there were actually very few cases ever documented in the world. I’m sorry that I am not remembering the name of this illness (his chart is in storage) but the symptoms were a fever that wouldn’t go away and his skin began flaking off of his body. He had been in the hospital for a week, being hydrated with IV fluids and his medications, and he was hooked up to a machine that registered his vital signs, temperature, pulse and blood pressure. He hadn’t had an appetite since this illness began. 

Since children have WONDERFUL imaginations, they are so easy to work with So I began by asking him to close his eyes and imagine what all of the sick cells looked like in his body and what color they were. He explained to me that there were several drab colors. Then I asked him to tell me what color his healthy cells were. There were many bright colors. Then I asked him to picture a place in his body that was called a “Cell Wash.” It would look just like a car wash, but instead it was a place where all of the sick cells would go to receive all of the medicine that was pumping through his IV. They would all travel through the entrance of the Cell Wash, and be infused with all the good medicine and other healthy things that his healthy cells already had in them, and then they would exit the other side in all the bright colors! 

While this process was taking place in his mind, I happened to look at his monitor. His temperature had come down from 103 to 99 and his blood pressure and pulse had come down to normal rage for a child! I pointed to the monitor so his parents would see it. We were amazed that this had taken place in about 15 minutes! I then taught him how to reactivate this with an “anchor” to enable the cells to continue this process.

He was so excited that he felt so much better, that he asked his father if he could have a Mac Donald’s burger, fries and a chocolate shake! He continued to recover without a reoccurrence. I saw him with his mother a couple of years ago. He was 12. He didn’t recognize me until I did the “anchor” sign and he said, “You’re the CELL WASH LADY!” Guided imagery can be used for so many things such as Acne, PMS, Infertility, Hypertension, IBS, Fear, Guilt, Cancer and so much more. Controlled use of the imagination is one of the most powerful and readily accessible means of healing that we have. What you can do with your mind is limitless. Imagery work can help us all to be healthier. It can also bring us a deeper, more meaningful life.