We know it is hypnosis but they call it visualization.
The Power of Visualization
Hosted By: David Folk Thomas, Fox News Channel
Ben Kligler, MD - Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Aurora Ocampo, MA, RN, CS - Center for Health and Healing, Beth Israel Medical Center
Webcast Transcript: Recorded Live: June 6 2000
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Welcome to our webcast. I’m David Folk Thomas, and the topic today is visualization. Have you ever told somebody you’re not feeling well and they look at you and say, "Oh, come on, be positive. Use your mind over matter." Well, they’re not as off-base as you might think. It’s not that farfetched. It’s actually the essence of visualization. That’s when you use the mind to influence the body.
Joining me today, a couple of experts, Dr. Ben Kligler, sitting on my left. He’s the medical director of the New Beth Israel Center for Health and Healing in New York City. Sitting next to him is Aurora Ocampo. She’s a clinical nurse specialist at Beth Israel Center for Health and Healing. Welcome to you both.
I’ll start with you, Dr. Kligler, because you are sitting right next to me. Why don’t you just explain in a nutshell what visualization is?
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: I think you started off with a good explanation. It’s part of a whole group of modalities, including imagery, meditation, relaxation therapies, that are based on the notion that the power of the mind is very potent and that you can use the power of the mind to influence all kinds of physical problems.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Give an example of that, just a general example, right off the bat. We’ll get more into detail later.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: One of my best examples is with children. I see children in my practice. When children have warts on a knee, on a hand, anywhere on their body -- which is a common childhood problem -- you can actually eliminate warts by using the power of the imagination. It’s a little bit complicated telling you how that works exactly, but basically you use a visual image to help the body muster its defenses against the virus that’s causing the wart, and it works like a charm.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: I’m going to play the skeptic here and say, "Now, how on earth is that possible?" Let’s take Dr. Kligler’s wart example. Can you get into a little bit of how that might be possible?
AURORA OCAMPO: When we do visualization, what happens is, first, before we do that we put the patient, the client, into a very relaxed state and then do the visualization. When somebody’s so relaxed, what happens is a lot of chemicals, hormones, are produced in our body. I’m sure you’re familiar with endorphins. You have serotonin. When that happens, the body’s own innate capacity to heal is activated.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: So these bad chemicals, say, could be causing the wart or preventing the wart from --
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: She’s talking about the good chemicals, in the sense of -- The body has ways of communicating. Certain systems communicate with other systems. The cells communicate with each other in the body. They do this using certain chemicals, or what we would call mediators. That would be a more technical term for it. For example, the immune system -- which is what’s actually going to fight off the wart, which is caused by a virus -- will respond to certain chemical signals. You can use the visualization or the imagery to step up the body’s production of those signals to soup up the immune system to go and do what it needs to do.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: What kind of image is best to conjure up when you want to get rid of a wart?
AURORA OCAMPO: It depends. Sometimes, especially with kids -- I don’t know now which characters that they have -- before, they used to have the Pac-Man eating up -- chop, chop, chop.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: And Ms. Pac-Man, Aurora, you know. Politically correct here, okay?
AURORA OCAMPO: Politically correct, right. So that’s what happens. Most of the time, the body doesn’t know what’s in the mind. When you really are imaging that and you’re very relaxed and you’re really concentrating, the body thinks it’s real. This is mind over matter. The body thinks it’s real. It doesn’t think it’s in here, so the body reacts now.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: One good example, if you want to think of just closing your eyes for a minute, or even with your eyes open, and picturing your favorite food. If you do that for just a second, and then you stop and notice what’s going on in your mouth, you’re salivating because you’re imagining your favorite food. So all you did there was imagine something.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: Whatever it might be. That sounds good. But your body is responding with a physical, physiological response just based on a couple of seconds of imagining something.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: That visualization will help you gain weight, probably, if you do that. How do you measure this? I mean, the chemicals, this method you’re talking about, how do you know what to do, what to shoot for? Where does it start?
AURORA OCAMPO: There’s some blood works that they can take, what they call the T-cells or the killer cells. I think that there was research that they did on students where they showed a comedy or something that they enjoyed, and then they took blood. They know that when you’re happy, when you’re relaxed and you’re peaceful, your T-cells go up, and they can actually tell that when the get the blood works and tests done, versus watching a horror movie or something when you’re imagining the worst thing, when you’re worrying, they measure it again and it goes down. So that coincides with what Ben is saying about the immune system, how you could activate the immune system.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: There’s a whole field called psychoneuroimmunology, which is a whole field of research looking at how does this stuff actually work. Why does a particular mood or a particular mental picture or a particular image create certain physical responses? There are people trying do determine what are those molecules that are causing that communication? In practice, you don’t have to do that. In practice you’re looking at, "Does it work?" So I’m looking at that kid, and we’re talking about their favorite superhero in their imagination kind of going to work uprooting those warts. The measure that I care about is, "Does it work?" Two or three weeks later are those warts starting to disappear? In practice nothing works all the time, but many times it works.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Are kids the best patients for this because they’re younger, they haven’t become as skeptical as adults? I would imagine for the adults that you’re first step would be to convince them that this is a viable method of treatment.
AURORA OCAMPO: They do imagining all the time. They have imaginary friends. With adults, it’s like, "I have to imagine things?" and they become very intellectual. They say, "Well, how am I going to imagine this?" You have to go through steps with them instead of being spontaneous, like the kids.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: Once they understand it, then they can practice it. I think it’s very variable with adults. There are people who are much more rationalizing in their approach to life, and it can be hard for them to make use of this tool. There are other people for whom it comes very naturally and it’s no problem, and you don’t have to do a lot of unlearning or un-teaching to get them to do it.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: For our viewers out there who don’t have warts, what other problems can visualization help them with?
AURORA OCAMPO: How about high blood pressure? When somebody has a high blood pressure, and I’m seeing the patient and we do relaxation and visualization, they sometimes even visualize a number where they want the blood pressure to go down. If the blood pressure is, say, 200 over 110 -- of course it’s not going to go down dramatically -- but just to have a goal to have it down to a certain safe number, and they do that.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: How long would that take? Do you have any time frame? It’s not instantaneous, I imagine. Like, "I want a low blood pressure." Boom.
AURORA OCAMPO: No. What I usually do is I check the blood pressure before the session with the patient. Then we’ll do the imagery and relaxation and check it again after, and we see -- they might not reach the goal, but the blood pressure certainly goes down.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: If you’re doing that for treatment, you’re going to need to repeat it frequently during the course of the day. So just seeing Aurora and doing your exercise, it’s not like this is a permanent cure for high blood pressure. But what you’re doing is teaching the patient a tool that allows them to lower their blood pressure in an ongoing way. So if someone goes home and practices it on their own, that’s how they’re going to succeed in lowering it in an ongoing way. It’s not that the work from Aurora is the cure per se. It’s the training to enable someone to do it on their own, basically.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Dr. Kligler, what about major diseases such as cancer. Can visualization help with that?
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: I think that probably depends who you ask. A couple of other categories of disease that I’ve used it for a lot and I think it’s very useful are pain problems, asthma and some other respiratory problems. It can be very helpful. There are many, many people out there who are using it for treatment of cancer, whether as part of the primary treatment or to kind of prevent recurrence. My own personal opinion is that they’re aren’t studies proving that it works in treatment of cancer per se. It can certainly, without a doubt, help with many of the troublesome symptoms that come along, either with the cancer or with the treatment of the cancer. So if you’re getting chemotherapy for your cancer and you are getting the terrible nausea that people often get with it, then getting some visualization training and being able to do it to help you through that undoubtedly is a wonderful tool to help you. How much it’s actually going to shrink a cancer or fight off a cancer by itself, I don’t know. I don’t know that it’s impossible, but I don’t know that we’ve studied it enough to know how often it’s going to work. I think as one part of a large program that encompasses a number of approaches, I think it’s invaluable.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Aurora, for, say, cancer, would that be what you were talking about before, maybe a Pac-Man visualization of the cancer being eaten away? What other types of things can you visualize?
AURORA OCAMPO: Some people visualize it like soldiers killing the cancer cells, or sometimes some housewife would even imagine a vacuum cleaner really chopping it. But like Ben is saying, visualization is just a part of the treatment. They might still be getting the conventional treatment, which might be chemotherapy or radiation, but it’s a part of it that makes it work. It doesn’t stand on it’s own most of the time, but it complements whatever conventional therapy that they are in with. So some practitioner like Ben wouldn’t say, "Well, you don’t have to do chemotherapy. We’ll do imagery." They work together, and the best treatments do work together.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: You can visualize that the conventional treatment is working.
AURORA OCAMPO: Absolutely. We have done that. While they’re getting chemotherapy, you visualize how it’s working as it goes into your blood and into your system, it’s actually working on the cancer cells and leaving alone, maybe, the normal cells.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: Aurora gets called quite often for hospitalized patients who are either people with cancer getting chemotherapy or other serious illnesses who are looking for help from the power of the mind.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: I’m going to get for one second in a second how somebody might get somebody like Aurora to help them. But just to wrap up the benefits of visualization, what about post-surgery healing?
AURORA OCAMPO: Actually, it’s funny you ask that. We are actually developing -- or have developed a program to help, first of all, prepare a patient through imagery -- and other modalities, but visualization is one -- where before surgery we see this patient and we, through relaxation and visualizing what happens at the surgery -- that after they wake up, let’s say, in the recovery room, they feel minimal discomfort, very hungry, and one patient actually said, "I love ice cream." Well, let’s image that, visualize that.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: The Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch?
AURORA OCAMPO: Maybe Ben and Jerry’s, right? But she said, "I love ice cream and I want ice cream right now." and that patient, when she woke up in the recovery room, suddenly said, "I want some ice cream."
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Interesting. Now, for the people watching right now who think this is something that can help them with whatever ails them, how would they go about, in their town, in their city, finding somebody that can instruct them in visualization?
AURORA OCAMPO: I don’t know about other towns, but I know that with Beth Israel that we do have a program that the doctors themselves, the surgeons would tell their patient, "There is a program that could help you get over, prepare you for surgery." and would suggest, recommend that if they could go into that program. I’m sure in other towns, like you said, and even other states they do have such programs.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: Everywhere around the country now, there are quite a few places with this presurgical program that Aurora’s describing. But even someone who’s not going to surgery -- I don’t think there’s a large town or city in the country where there aren’t people practicing imagery. They might be nurses. They might be conventional doctors. They might be practitioners of other kinds of therapies. There are chiropractors who make this part of their practice. There are acupuncturists who make it part of their practice. So in any individual place, I think, a patient is going to have to ask around and hunt to find out who are the practitioners in their area who are doing it. But they’re certainly out there. The other thing is, there are also tapes and CDs that are really widely available that people can get from some of the very wonderful, wonderfully talented, nationally known teachers of this. So you can get a tape or a CD or a video and teach yourself how to do this. There’s no reason that can’t work for you if you’re motivated.
DAVID FOLK THOMAS: But basically, maybe the best, quickest way to start is by asking your doctor.
DR. BENJAMIN KLIGLER: That’s reasonable. And many doctors will know somebody who does it, because it’s fairly well infiltrated into conventional practice at this point.