Healing Cancer with Imagery and VisualizationSat Dharam Kaur, N.D. October 1, 2005
Increasingly we are discovering the subtle and powerful linkages of mind and body through imagery. Jeanne Achterberg, author of Imagery and Healing, believes that the image can alter cellular mechanisms and the intelligence of the cell. Bruce Lipton (author of The Biology of Belief) and Candice Pert (author of Molecules of Emotion) have demonstrated that neuropeptides located on cell membranes throughout the body direct the DNA within our cells, and these neuropeptides are strongly influenced by our thoughts and feelings. We think in images which can shift the cellular machinery so that it performs unnatural functions, or conversely, a healing response. What we imagine in our minds has a direct correlation to how our body responds to life.
Achterberg has found that imagery is able to deeply affect us in the following ways. There is an unplanned, non-deliberate body-mind shift due to an event or to external environmental sensory stimulation; for example, the biggest effect on infertility is for a woman to call a fertility clinic to make an appointment, for women often become pregnant just knowing that they may receive help. On the other hand, walking into a typical doctor’s office causes most people’s white blood cell count to go down and blood pressure to go up.
Imagery can positively affect the mind-body when we adopt a new identity. If we have been ill, we can take on a new persona, change our previous life-script, so that “we are not the same person we were when we became ill.” We can “imagine” and embody our new identity with an inner commitment to helping ourselves. This is a deliberate effort of moving the mind-body in a healing way. For example, the cancer patient who shifts from being a “pleaser” or “victim” and initiates life changes to do what she’s always wanted to do for herself may appear selfish and different to those who have
known her previously.
Take a minute to think about this for yourself. What would your new life script look like if you could rewrite the character in the play? How would you be different? How would you act differently to those around you?
Imagery affects the body-mind through a conscious and deliberate attempt to connect directly to the workings of the cell. This may occur through hypnosis, biofeedback, or specific visualization of anatomical parts and physiological processes. There is a direct relationship between the image
and cellular function.
Jeanne Achterberg has found that if we visualize that we have more T-helper cells and T-killer cells that improve our defense against cancer cells, we can actually increase their numbers. She developed a drawing exercise to assess an individual’s likely prognosis with an illness. Using 14 specific parameters, she was able to predict over 90% of the time who would die and who would go into remission from cancer. First, she ensured that the patient was in a comfortable position, preferably lying down. The patient listened to tape-recorded relaxation instructions and was given a brief education regarding the disease process, how treatment might be helping the patient, and how the immune system works. The listener was advised to imagine these three factors in action.
It was the listener’s choice to imagine her cancer cells or white blood cells any way she chose: “Describe how your cancer cells look in your mind’s eye.”
“How do you imagine your white blood cells fight disease?”
“How is your treatment working in your body?”
The patient was then asked to draw a picture of the body, the immune system, the cancerous process, and the treatment.
The interview protocol plus the drawings were scored according to the following 14 parameters:
1) vividness of cancer cell
2) activity of cancer cell
3) strength of cancer cell
4) vividness of white blood cells
5) activity of white blood cells
6) relative comparison of size of cancer and white blood cells
7) relative comparison of number of cancer and white blood cells
8) strength of white blood cells
9) vividness of medical treatment
10) effectiveness of medical treatment
11) choice of symbolism
12) integration of whole imagery process
13) regularity with which they imagined a positive outcome
14) ventured clinical opinion on the prognosis
Jeanne Achterberg’s work reinforces the fact that what we believe andimagine about our bodies has an incredible bearing on how we deal with anillness. Our minds create the most powerful drugs during the healing process. We can believe in our body’s innate capacity to heal. We can familiarize ourselves with our immune system and visualize its components doing their jobs efficiently and perfectly.
GUIDELINES FOR CREATING HEALING IMAGERY
1) Portray the cancer cells as being few in number, small in size,weak in strength, and lacking vividness.
2) Portray the white blood cells as being vivid, very active, strong and powerful, large and abundant, and overwhelming the cancer cells. Believe more in the potency of your body’s ability to heal than in the disease process, and understand that nothing is fixed — it is a process than can go either way.
3) Portray the naturopathic and medical treatments with vividness and effectiveness.
4) Choose strong, powerful, active imagery that is well integrated yet personal.
5) Practice the imagery frequently, at least twice daily. Keep drawing, over and over, until it’s as powerful as it can be for a healing response. Draw so that you believe it.
6) Visualize that your body’s healthy cells are easily able to repair any slight damage the treatment might cause; that the dead cancer cells are flushed from the body easily and completely; and that at the end of the imagery, you are healthy and cancer-free.
7) See yourself accomplishing your goals and fulfilling your life’spurpose — relate to your future rather than your past. Explore what your ideal future might be and shift your life in that direction so that your immune system responds with you. Draw one or several of your long term goals that you are moving towards achieving.
Sat Dharam is a naturopathic doctor, Kundalini Yoga lead trainer, and author practising in Owen Sound, Ontario. She developed the Healthy Breast Program, designed to help educate women in breast cancer prevention through Kundalini Yoga and lifestyle change, and teaches it internationally. She was awarded the Naturopathic Doctor of the Year award in Ontario in 2000 for her work in breast health education. She also developed the “Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery” program, and has been working closely with Dr. Gabor Maté in delivering this program as well as a psychotherapeutic modality created by Dr. Maté called Compassionate Inquiry. Sat Dharam has written several best-selling books: A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook, The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer, and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women's Health.