The Power of Inner Pictures: How Imagination can Maintain Physical and Mental Health

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This book is about inner pictures and how we can access and change these pictures through our imagination. It is written not only for specialists in the field of psychotherapy and coaching, but also for the general public. With Thomas Kretschmar as a specialist in the field and Martin Tzschaschel as a journalist, the authors have created a joint book that is both comprehensive and understandable for everybody.The authors start by exploring inner pictures in general and how they influence us in everyday life, in memories, and in dreams, using examples from sports, business and other fields. The book then examines how inner pictures and the imagination can be used for therapy. The applications are drawn both from medical and non-medical treatments, including biofeedback, sleep, hypnosis, autogenic training, and the healing of physical diseases. The authors then examine the methods of imaginative psychotherapy.Additional contemporary methods are also utilised, to make this a completely up-to-date interventional approach. The book concludes with examples of cases from the authors' own therapy practice. Parts of therapy sessions have been transcribed so that the reader is transported into the therapy room. The cases present clients with anxiety attacks, insomnia and burn out, eating disorders, phobias, and OCD.

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Chapter One - The Surprising Power of Representations

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In this chapter, you will learn the role that internal pictures play in our everyday lives: for example, in recollections, in dreams during sleep, and daydreams. Other topics include visualisations, applicable in sports and in a working context, as well as the effects of suggestions. In addition, we will reflect on questions regarding the origins of inner pictures.

Inner pictures: our daily companions

What a rather unusual evening: two couples who are friends are seated in a restaurant, unable to see what they are eating. Everything is completely dark. Soft chunks—do they taste like carrots? Or are they potatoes? “No, I believe they're soft-boiled pears”, a woman speaks out into the pitch-black, her voice muffled by the food inside her mouth. She sounds uncertain.

If everyone could see the servings on her plate, their doubts would vanish, but the friends are dining in a darkened restaurant, astonished by the defeat of their gustatory senses.

A simple example, yet it demonstrates just how dominant the visual system is. About eighty per cent of all information perceived by us in an average given situation is delivered through our eyes. The nerve cells bundle up, forming the optic nerve, which sends electrical impulses along the back of the head, through into the areas specialised to perceive visual information. Forms, colours, brightness, movements, and the distances of objects each have their own “department” in the rear range of the cerebrum. If all of these departments work together harmoniously, our vision functions smoothly, and we remain unaware of the physiological processes involved. Thus, we see.

 

Chapter Two - How Internal Images Heal Us

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In this chapter, you will learn how to use picture representations therapeutically. This idea dates back 2,300 years, to ancient Greece. Today, the repertoire used by therapists and clients has become far more comprehensive, including methods such as biofeedback, dream interpretation, hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and deliberate imagination. These will be introduced in the following pages.

Biofeedback: mental images control bodily functions

Most of what happens to our organism remains unnoticed, even though there are a number of procedures that can be positively influenced once we become aware of them. The things we can perceive, we can change—this is the fundamental principle of a method called “biofeedback”. This does not describe an esoteric method, and neither does “bio” stem from the idea of “alternative and organic”, but, rather, derives its theory from biology and is founded in technology: electrodes or sensors, applied to the surface of the skin, measure body functions that are otherwise undetected. These processes are measured on screen (or through speakers), allowing us to become conscious of them so that we may deliberately change them through awareness. As an example, this principle can be used to aim to cure migraines or other sources of pain.

 

Chapter Three - Catathym Imaginative Psychotherapy

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In this chapter, you will find out how to treat emotional disturbances by using a method of daydreaming that has been effectively proved and successfully applied over many years of therapeutic practice. Using daydreams as the substance of mindful therapy—strange as it may sound at first—catathym imaginative psychotherapy (CIP) is a form of depth psychology orientated psychotherapy that has been validated in several scientific studies.

What is catathym imaginative psychotherapy?

A large proportion of our problems and psychological distress originate from far back in our past—forgotten or suppressed events that continue to affect who we are today, without us being any wiser. Catathym imaginative psychotherapy offers a straightforward method to help deal with these mental scars.

The concept is simple: the client rests in a comfortable position, for example, lying down. While the client's eyes are closed and he is relaxed, he is soothingly guided into a state of half-sleep through the calm words of the therapist: “Your thoughts appear and vanish, you wish them goodbye and they fly out of the room, through the window. One part of your mind will sink deeper and deeper into relaxation, while another part is wide awake, forming pictures in front of your inner eye.”

 

Chapter Four - Examples from Therapy and Practice: How Catathym Imaginative Psychotherapy Helps

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In the following pages, common mental disorders are introduced. They are independent of one another and, therefore, can each be read as stand-alone items. A specific case example with detailed dialogue always follows a general description. The reader has an opportunity here to participate directly in therapy sessions that would normally be closed to outsiders. Some dialogues are abridged or reproduced in excerpts, others are full length, so that the reader can be completely immersed into the personal story of the patient and fully experience the therapy session.

Naturally, everyone involved has consented to having these conversations recorded. All clients were treated by the psychotherapeutic practitioner Professor Dr Thomas Kretschmar (head of the Berlin Mind Institute). Their names, ages, and professions have been altered to conceal their identities. Should the reader gain the impression that a person could be identified with these altered data, this is purely coincidental—no personal information given is, in any case, factual. For example, a client introduced as “Anton A” will not only have a different first name, but also a different family name initial.

 

Chapter Five - Outlook: Imagination can do Even More

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In the previous chapters of this book, interested readers have seen the many possibilities to harness the power of inner images. In the beginning was an overview of the different aspects of everyday life, followed by examples from medicine, and finally the case studies from CIP gave intimate insights into the therapeutic practice. But other goals can be achieved by using the imagination.

The workplace is another area in which the potential of imagination sessions can be usefully utilised. That the power of inner images can also develop usefully in companies and businesses is a relatively new finding, and practical applications are still at the beginning of scientific exploration. However, promising first results have been obtained at the Berlin Mind Institute, which is why a coaching department for business clients and a research department for the transference of clinical methods to business have been opened recently.

Mental and physical health is important not only in private everyday life, but also in professional life. According to a publication by the Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Funds in Germany, mental disorders are now the third leading cause of sick leave and the leading cause for early retirement. The origins of these disorders are often in the companies themselves. They are “homemade”. And their victims can be found at all levels. There are lonely managers as well as frustrated and demotivated subordinates. Whether it is performance pressure, bullying, lack of integration into decision-making processes, boundary crossings, concealing insecurity or incompetence coupled with pompousness, there are numerous examples of how the professional everyday lives of employees are made so off-putting that they become ill.

 

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