Korn & Johnson refer to 12 ways of categorising types of visualisation.
These are grouped into two groups: basic and specific basic imagery.
Spontaneous vs Induced
Spontaneous imagery arises without conscious effort, whereas induced imagery is
created with some element of conscious activity. While guided relaxation
process is a good example of induced imagery, we are probably all aware of times
when a thought just jumps into our head for no apparent reason.
Abstract vs Concrete
Concrete images are more likely to occur when it appears in consciousness or has
been consciously induced. Whereas, the closer an image is to the source of
thought, the more abstract it will be. It is also likely to be more
symbolic and when occurring spontaneously, is likely to be more useful, when we
can take the time to understand its meaning.
An abstract image may be a metaphor which provides the solution to a problem we
are working on.
End Result vs Process
End result imagery deals with the desired outcome. For example, a person
wishing to lose a certain amount of weight may see themselves getting on the
scales and seeing the weight or seeing what they look like at the desired
Process imagery, on the other hand, describes the process needed to achieve the
goal. In the previously cited example, the person may see themselves going
for a walk every morning.
General Images vs Specific Images
General images are more state directed than goal directed. For instance,
they may be aimed at developing relaxation or a positive attitude. Korn &
Johnson see general images as being more important than specific images and
believe that they should be taught first. They liken general images to
developing a strong foundation for a house.
Examples of Specific Imagery
After Image – an example of this may be when you wake up in the middle of
the night and open your eyes to see the time on a digital clock. When you
close your eyes you may still be able to see the image of the time.
Daydreams and fantasy
These can be concrete or abstract and occur when you just drift away from what
you are doing and let your mind take you some place else. Long distance
runners will often just rip out and start imagining something and become totally
engrossed in it and lose awareness that they are running.
One major advantage that sleeping imagery has, is a persuasive demonstration of
skill for those that doubt their ability to visualise. Korn & Johnson
refer to three types of imagery that are associated with sleep.
Hypnagogic – occur just prior to falling asleep.
Dreams – are primarily spontaneous and contain significant information about a
person. As well, they can have significant therapeutic significance.
Hypnopompic – occurs just after waking.
Differ from daydreams and fantasy as they appear to have an external focus and
are likely to contain all five senses. They usually require something out
of the ordinary to initiate them – eg drugs, sensory deprivation, hypnosis or
Occurs when an image is being guided. This may be, for example, a guided
relaxation exercise or a hypnosis session.
Deals with bringing back to awareness a past event. It may be as simple as
saying to someone “do you remember the restaurant we went to ….”. This can
bring the event back to awareness and may be induced or spontaneous. It is
a valuable tool for discovering things about a person.
These can be spontaneous or induced and may build on a remembered image and
modify that image or it may be created totally from scratch.
Is related to a photographic memory and is more prevalent in children or in
cultures where the right hemisphere is more valued. It can sometimes also
be associated with a significant emotional event (SEE). A person will lock
in to their memory the details of the occurrence of a SEE.
Factors to be considered when you employ visualisation.
The above table summarises the hierarchy of imagery methods. The first
step is to build a strong foundation in altered states of consciousness.
When that foundation is established, you can use end result imagery. Only
as a last resort should you use process imagery.
When employing imagery there are a number of important factions listed by Korn &
Johnson (p72). These are:
Trust in Oneself – because initial changes can be subtle we may at first
not notice them
Commitment – daily practice is needed to obtain results
Appreciate Roles of Conscious and Unconscious – in words of Meltz (Korn
& Johnson, p 72), “All that it is necessary is for us to provide the
subconscious with a target and the subconscious will then direct all of our
behaviour toward achievement of the goal”
Trust First Image that Appears – when experiencing a spontaneous image
Control of Image is more important than clarity of image
Use all five senses for maximum effectiveness
Basically, these factors come down to trust and practice. This is
partially captured in the statement by Samuels and Samuels “It is most important
to accept what appears without criticism and without preconceived notions as to
what one should see” and the idea proposed by Ahsen that an image can be
strengthened by visualising it repeatedly”.
and the creative process
Visualisation and associated techniques are the corner stone of our creative process.
Henri Poincaré identified the stages of his own creativity and this was later
slightly modified by Wallis.
The key stages of this process are:
Preparation: collection of data,
filing if images
Incubation: releasing of the
conscious hold on the problem
Illumination: spontaneous solution
Verification: turning solution into
Both incubation and illumination are unconscious processes. Entering an
altered state of consciousness for the incubation stages can both accelerate and
intensify the illumination stage.
Korn & Johnson then provide adaptations to Poincaré creative stages. One
key element that comes from these is how they are supported by regular practice.
Imagery & Learning
Because learning is a “holistic or intuitive phenomenon” (Korn & Johnson, p135)
altered states on consciousness enable one more comprehensive absorption on
material to be learned.
Losanov suggests that from the day we are born we are constantly bombarded with
negativity. The first step (in accelerating the learning process) is to
overcome these limitations.
An altered state of consciousness (often called the learning state) is a magic
tool to breakdown these limitations.
The learning state may be entered with a variety of aids – for example,
classical music, focussing on an image and then expanding awareness into
peripheral vision, general relaxation techniques.
While both the altered state and the learning process is enhanced as we use all
our five senses – the visual system still appears to be significantly relied
upon for learning.
Korn, Errol R & Johnson Karen “ Visualisation – The uses of imagery in
the health professions”
M Samuels and N Samuels “Seeing with the minds eye”
C A Garfield “how to achieve peak performance”
E Jacobson “Electrophysiology of Mental Activities” Am J of Psychol, 44
A Ashen “Eidetics: Neural Experiential Growth Potentials for
treatment of Accidental Traumas, Debilitating Stress Conditions, and
Chronic Emotional Blocking” – Journal of Mental Imagery (1976)
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