What Can’t You Think Without?

There is one thing that molds the shape of our thoughts; something we can’t build buildings or plan days without.  It gets us out of bed in the morning, helps us whip up a meal, make a to­-do list, write an email or fall in love. Movie directors, engineers, artists and construction workers – surgeons, musicians, MBA’s and chefs all use it to create a plan and follow through with their intentions.  Without it, downtown Chicago wouldn’t have been built; your shirt wouldn’t have been designed or the screen you’re reading this on wouldn’t have been conjured up.

Imagery.  We can’t think without it!  We have creative, stream of consciousness, 24-hour images moving through our heads, inspired by a seemingly endless array of sights, sounds, smells and kinesthetic stimulation from our environment. When we sleep, images take the form of dreams delivered in symbols and metaphor blended by our life experiences and shaken into a cocktail of uniquely surreal and perhaps fearful scenarios. We are the products of an incredibly busy brain – a virtual imagery machine.  More about this below, but first: What are images, anyway?

Imagery may be synonymous with pictures or visions to many, but according to the Association for Music and Imagery (AMI) they can also include memories, feelings, and all the senses: what you can hear, smell, touch, taste or see. Images may be fantastic, involving myths or the awareness of flying like an eagle, winning big or falling hard.

Your Inner Landscape

What does this have to do with you?  The images you have of yourself and of others have a deep influence on your mental and physical health.  Researcher Dr. Candace Pert, in her seminal book The Molecules of Emotion, wrote about her discovery of neuropeptides, the molecules that result from our feelings and flow into our immune, neurological and other systems in our bodies. Our thinking changes our chemicals! Think about that. If you constantly beat yourself up with not being enough – smart enough, thin enough, good enough, etc. your body, mind and spirit are flowing with chemicals that correspond with negative feelings.  On the other hand, if you give yourself a break and live with compassion for yourself and others it will be those more positive, healthy chemicals that are swimming through your immune system.

But how do you make a shift when your feelings always feel like a runaway train?

Try this: Stop. Close your eyes if you can. Take a minute for a slow, deep breath (with the longest exhale you can muster), and check in with what you’re feeling at the moment. If it’s good, take a moment to enjoy it; savor and take in those chemicals!  If you realize you’re thinking something that you’d like to change, take another deep breath. Allow yourself to bring up an image of a place you’d like to be (the beach? Or with someone who loves you unconditionally?). Let yourself be there for a minute. Make a decision to spend a little time with it. Notice the colors, scents, temperature and sounds of being there. Feel the temperature. Notice where the light is coming from.  Feel the air on your skin.  Bring in the images that come to you and savor that.  Breathe it in.  You are now in a new place and your body/mind/spirit will be responding, as well as your neuropeptides.  The challenge is allowing it for yourself and knowing you have the power to change your mind!

Louise Dimiceli-Mitran is a counselor and music psychotherapist in Chicago.  Take a breath and visit her at www.louisedmitran.com.