What Is Visualization?


The word “visualization” by itself can have many different meanings, depending on the sphere and context it’s used in: science, music, data representation, psychology… The basic definition of visualization is that it’s:

1. the act or an instance of visualizing

2. (Psychology) a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal

Both of these definitions describe pretty accurately the term as we use it in the context of the law of attraction. On Wikipedia, this use of the term refers to creative visualization and is defined as:

the practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations.

Visualization is the process by which you recreate the images, feelings, sounds, tastes, smells – everything that makes the complete surroundings for an activity of your choice – in your mind. It’s a focused and conscious effort that you make to create a perfect surrounding where you can practice an activity, experience a feel – basically to do anything you want, as vividly as you can.

You have probably watched The Matrix – remember the scenes where Neo “learns” how to fight? It’s all happening in his mind, but he wakes up saying: “I know Kung Fu.” – and he really fights like he’s been learning and practicing Kung Fu his entire life. Now, The Matrix is fiction, we know that, but these scenes actually describe pretty well what can happen in real life if you practice visualization regularly.

Some History and Some Real Life Examples

Creative visualization is used as a basic technique used to enhance positive thinking. It started to gain popularity in the 19th century, and one of the first authors who was using it was Wallace Wattles, a writer who belonged to the New Thought movement, best known by his book “The Science of Getting Rich“, one of the first texts dedicated to the law of attraction. In it, he describes how, in order to become rich, you have to think and act “in a certain way”, and to form a clear mental image of your goal.

Although Wattles was an American author, many Americans became aware of the visualization technique some seventy years later, when the Russians used the technique as central to training Olympic athletes – who ended up winning a staggering 195 medals, 80 of which were gold. That is one of the most well-known studies involving visualization: the Russians compared four groups of athletes in terms of their training schedules.

Group 1 received 100% physical training;
Group 2 – 75% physical training with 25% mental training;
Group 3 – 50% physical training with 50% mental training;
Group 4 – 25% physical training with 75% mental training.

Group four, surprisingly or not, performed the best, indicating that “mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses” (Cummins). After that, the similar experiments were conducted (like this one), with similar results. You can imagine that visualization as technique for achieving better results in sports is being widely practiced today.

Another great example that visualization really works in achieving personal goals is the violinist Emilie Autumn, who claims that her music writing skills were developed by playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D mentally every night.

Want someone more famous? If you haven’t heard the story about Jim Carrey and his check, it goes like this: one night in 1990 when Jim Carrey was a struggling young comic trying to make his way in Los Angeles, broke, dreaming of his future, he wrote himself a check for $10 million ‘for acting services rendered,’ and dated it for Thanksgiving 1995. He put the check to his wallet, where it stayed until it deteriorated. By 1995, his per film fee escalated to $20 million.

Visualization as Therapeutic Technique

Visualization, or mental imagery as it is referred to in psychotherapy, is becoming more and more used  for treating a wide variety of psychiatric and medical concerns along with hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation as the role of the imagination in health and well being is being more recognized. Mental states and physical health are intimately connected: there are numerous studies that prove that there’s a direct impact of visualized processes to the patient’s sensory experience, and the results are far reaching and immediate.

The list of conditions where visualization has been shown to be effective is very long, and includes:

  • increasing effective pain management
  • learning new and desirable behaviors (assertiveness)
  • sexual difficulties
  • habit disorders
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • mild to moderate depression
  • generalized anxiety disorders

In psychotherapy, the therapist and the client construct a relaxing scene where it is important to involve all senses in the image, including the emotions – the most important aspect of imagining is the feeling of actually experiencing the scene – of actually “being in it”. Then the therapist guides the patient through the image by giving him specific suggestions like: “Imagine how the sand feels between your toes, notice the color of the water…” The patient is then asked to practice the image at home between sessions.

Treatments are usually brief, but that depends on the complexity of the issue  – if the behaviors that the patient wants to change are more numerous and more difficult to specify, it will take longer than with one simple issue.

It’s estimated that twenty million Americans of all ages practice some form of imagery or meditation, by themselves or with the help of a therapist, to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and cope with life threatening illnesses.

Simple Visualization – What You Can Do Right Now

The examples above may look like something that is possible for others, but not you. But the truth is, we’re all capable of this, and so are you. Let’s do it, right now.

Imagine a glass of fresh lemonade. Take a couple of minutes, and see yourself going to the kitchen, taking a cup, taking a lemon, putting the lemon to the juicer, turning the juicer on, pouring the lemon juice into the cup, adding the water to the cup. Some sugar maybe? Now see yourself taking the glass and drinking fresh lemonade.

Were you able to do it? Do you taste the lemonade in your mouth?

That was a visualization 🙂 Oh, we also have a more detailed explanation of how visualization works if you want to try some more.

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