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Use Guided Imagery Meditation for Health and Well-Being – Interview with Dr. Bob Rich, Psychotherapist

“Use Guided Imagery Meditation for Health and Well-Being – Interview with Dr. Bob Rich, Psychotherapist” by Joan Y. Edwards

Thank you for allowing me to interview you on my blog today, Dr. Bob. I am looking forward to hearing your explanation of guided imagery meditation and how it can help bring us health and well-being. I am glad that you created a CD with the guided imagery stories to help us even more.

I am glad to be here. My personal goal is to help people achieve good health in mind and body. Let’s begin.

What is guided imagery?
Guided imagery is a story you tell yourself, vividly involving all the senses, and then you move into it; you live the story.
Here are a few examples:

  • Suppose you are a swimmer and want to improve your tumble turn. You can watch the way a champion does it, then close your eyes, completely relax, and feel yourself in the water, feel your arms powerfully stroking, your feet doing a rhythmical flutter kick. You see the end of the pool coming closer with each stroke, as you look forward through your goggles. At just the right time, you do an exact copy of the champion’s movements, feel your feet against the tiles and push off.

This can be actually a better way of improving technique than real-life practice, because if you’ve been unknowingly doing it wrong, you’ll just keep practicing the mistake. With guided imagery, you can make the correct way into a new habit.

  • It’s the anniversary of a loved person’s death. You can vividly recall a wonderful time with that person, and go back there, re-experience it. It’s OK to cry while doing this. You’ll find honoring the memory this way to be wonderful.
  • You can create a “safe place” for yourself, and practice being there until you can use it as a resource in everyday life, whenever you need it. I have a guided imagery script at http://mudsmith.net/bobbing10-3.html#peace that leads you to feeling as if you were a beautiful lake in the crater of an extinct volcano.

I taught this to a client who was facing a trial with a certain jail sentence. When he came to me, anxiety was killing him. He couldn’t sleep or eat, and every thought catastrophized his situation. Once he’d practiced the beautiful lake script, all he had to do was think “crater lake,” and he completely calmed down even while on the witness stand.

What are the benefits of using guided imagery?

  • All the benefits of any form of meditation are muscular relaxation, inner peace, a holiday from anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, tension, and worry.
  • The ability to consciously use bodily mechanisms that are usually subconscious, such as reducing or even switching off pain, lowering heart rate, sleeping better and removing waste products from muscles.

For example, when I ran a lot, I sometimes suffered from leg cramps. After a run on one occasion, I imagined a fire hose blasting into each thigh, loosening and washing out the muck in my muscles. The muscle spasm went away — and my ankles swelled up! They stayed swollen for about three days. So, next time, I imagined a piston like in a large syringe, pushing clean water into my thigh, then sucking it out again with the muck in it. The spasm went away, and there was no swelling.

  • Being able to practice skills in imagination — as I said in the answer to your first question, this can be more beneficial than doing them in real life.
  • You can use it to get rid of an infection, prevent nightmares or improve posture. Whenever I feel the first signs of a respiratory infection, I do a few minutes of a particular script, and typically the problem is gone by the next morning. Basically, this script tells my immune system to get busy.
  • Enjoyment. You can have a lot of fun without moving from your chair.
  • Develop inner strength and confidence. In one of the guided imagery scripts on my CD, I turn myself into a huge tree. I did this guided imagery once while heading for a job interview, and I’ll guarantee that I was the only huge tree driving along the freeway.
  • You can use it to speed up the body’s normal healing processes.

Can guided imagery prevent nightmares? 

A 5-year old girl was brought to me by her grandmother. She’d witnessed her mother being bashed by her stepfather, and Child Protection put her in her grandmother’s care. She had nightmares every night.

I brought along a little stuffed toy to the first session: a blue unicorn. I got her to concentrate by drawing a smiley face on her thumb and asking her to look at it. Then I said, “This unicorn’s name is Hailey. She is very small now, but when you are asleep, she will come to you as big as a horse just right for you to ride. When the nasty things happen in your dream, you can hop onto Hailey’s back. She will use her horn to chase the bad people away, then you can ride together having fun.”

It worked. When grandmother brought her back for the second session, she reported that the nightmares had stopped. The stepfather came to the door once. The girlie raced back to her bedroom, grabbed Hailey, and stood there clutching the toy to her chest, glaring up at him without any fear.

Does guided imagery heal the body, mind, and spirit or only relax it?

Guided Imagery is a tool you can use in many ways. It can be a form of meditation, where you can relax and rest your body and put peace into your heart. In addition, once you are fully relaxed, you can use it to become comfortable with pain, even severe pain, reduce the pain, and maybe even have it go away altogether.

You can use it for safely processing traumatic experiences from the past, in that way healing psychologically. However, there is a risk that you could become too distressed to cope, and it’s better to do this with an experienced therapist. I did this for myself as self-healing. I describe this in my book, Ascending Spiral. I first did this as a young man, before I had therapeutic skills.

How can you use guided imagery for pain reduction?

Detecting pain is different from other senses. When you see something, it’s a one way process: from light falling on your eyes, the information goes through complex processing and interpretation, to the experience of seeing something. Similarly, there is a nerve pathway from a particular location to the brain, indicating tissue damage. That’s what we experience as pain.

However, there is also a reverse pathway which can shut off the pain sensation as a part of the emergency reaction of the body. When you are in a life-threatening situation, you actually don’t feel pain but do what you need to do.

It is possible to tune into this mechanism even though you are not in a life emergency. Do this by telling yourself a story that modifies the pain. The subconscious mind can really only modify pain by making it stronger or weaker. If you have a moderate pain, say a headache, you can visualize a “pain gauge” and turn the pain down. Severe pain takes more work.

  • Imagine the pain as having a color, say blood-red, and a particular shape and size. You then make your breath into a glowing cloud. It could be silver, or blue, or sunshine-color, whatever you choose. You breathe the beautiful color onto the red pain, have the two colors mix into a dirty mess, then breathe away a thundercloud. As you do this, the color of the pain changes over many repetitions. At the same time, you can imagine that the pain is like a football or car tire, hard because it has pressurized air inside it. Whenever you breathe out the thundercloud, you can smell the same stink as when you let air out of a car tire, and feel the pain getting a little smaller.

What you are doing is indirectly telling your subconscious mind to reduce the pain, and it does.

How can you use guided imagery to heal parts of your body?

I once tore a muscle in my thigh. It must have popped a vein too, because I had a bruise all the way down to the ankle. Such an injury takes about 3 weeks to heal. Using the glowing breath imagery, I healed it in 8 days.

When I tore a tendon in my shoulder, the left upper quarter of my body was a pulsing volcano of pain. I couldn’t sleep anyway, so sat in a recliner chair all night. I started with breathing sky-blue light onto the magma-red pain. After a while this became boring, so I introduced a little man in a white coat, carrying a syringe the same size as himself. He filled up his syringe with fluid, and ran off to empty it when I breathed out the thundercloud.

I went for an ultrasound 2 days later.

The lady working the magic machine said, “There is an old tear in there.”

“What makes you think it’s an old tear?”

“There is not enough swelling for a new one.”

Of course not. My little man had taken the swelling away.

How can you use guided imagery to help attain goals?

There are standard motivational techniques, explained by people such as George Washington Napoleon Hill, who was the first black American to make a million dollars. A necessary part of these techniques is to vividly put yourself into the frame of mind of having already achieved your goal.

  • Here is an example. Suppose you want to reduce your weight. You can relax your body, then go through a script that takes you into your “special place.” Once there, place a full length mirror in front of yourself. In the mirror, you see your own image of course — but make it what you’ll look like after you have attained your target shape. That you in the mirror is lean, fit, strong and healthy.
  • Take a step toward the mirror. Naturally, the image will step toward you also. Smile at the mirror. The image will smile back. Take a second step. Now your nose almost touches the mirror, so you and the image are nose-to-nose. Hold your arms out to each side, and the image does the same.
  • Now, take one more step, and you will feel her body against yours. Put your arms around her, and feel her arms around you. Feel the warmth of her comforting hug, her breath on your cheek and stirring your hair.
  • One more step, and the two of you meld to be one. So, you can feel what it feels like to be lean, fit, strong and healthy.

This is very highly motivational.

Can guided imagery be useful for a writer?

Suppose you are stuck about how to handle a scene in a story you’re writing:

  • Pick a character who is going to be the witness to the scene. Now, completely relax, use a script to go to a special place of peace, then invite your character in. Change personalities: BECOME the character.

I’ll pretty well guarantee, you’ll write the scene so vivid and realistic that the reader will feel a part of it.

  • Or say you have a complex situation such as a killer hunting your protagonist in a wilderness. Instead of thinking about what happens where, you can imagine yourself being a bird, and watch the two of them from above.

You can use these two examples as models for designing your own aid to creativity.

Do you get the same benefits from reading a script for guided imagery as you do from listening to it?

You can’t read while using guided imagery any more than you can ride a bike while reading a book on how to do it. You can read the instructions first, then do some practice, then re-read the instructions. It’s easier to have someone read it for you or to record it and play it for yourself. You can also buy a pre-recorded set of scripts.

Is guided imagery a form of hypnotism?

In a way it is. The difference is the “contract” or implicit agreement between the guide and the client. If you choose to do hypnosis with me, you put yourself in a frame of mind in which you agree to be open to suggestions from me. If you are in a deep hypnotic trance and I say, “I wonder how strong you really are. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could safely lift that table over your head? Give it a try!” then you almost certainly would be able to exert a force that normally you can’t.

Whether you have a guide talking you through a script or not, the activity is something YOU do. So, you have full control. If you do guided imagery meditation with me, you only accept the suggestions for the story.  If it was guided imagery meditation and I suggested that you safely lift a table over your head, you’d open your eyes and say, “Don’t be silly, that’s too heavy for me.”

What time of day is best to do guided imagery?
At first, any time when you can guarantee an absence of interruption or distraction for the period you want to devote to it — say 15 to 30 minutes.
When you get good at it, you can use it while driving a car, talking on the phone or doing any other complex task.

Which senses do you use with guided imagery?
Depends on the person. People vary widely in their use of imaging. Some people are very visual. Others are oriented to sound or to words. Most people use a mixture. Some have little or no ability to image at all. Actually, I am an example of that. My visual imagery is almost nonexistent. All my thinking is me talking to myself. I can hear music in my mind, but find it hard to experience an internal copy of any other sound. I have a good somatic sense: imagining feelings in my body. But regardless of how you do it, you can benefit from learning to use guided imagery. I read a book in which the therapist taught her clients to imagine looking at and listening to a waterfall. One of her clients reported that he could neither see nor hear it. All the same, thinking “waterfall” developed the same kind of benefit for him as thinking “crater lake” did for my client.

Can you make up your own guided imagery?
The best kind is what you make up for yourself. It may help to listen to a number of scripts by others, but then you can modify them or make up your own. It will work better than anyone else’s.

Is it better to listen to guided imagery descriptions in stereo?
What you hear (or read and memorize; or make up as you go) is only a guide. The details of presentation don’t matter at all. What matters is that you create a vivid imaginary reality, and move into it. How you do this depends on your personal habits of thought. If it works for you, it’s OK. If it’s not quite right for you, you can experiment with doing it differently.

Tell me about your CD and its guided imagery. Where can I purchase it? How much does it cost? What guided imagery is on the CD.
The CD’s title is “Healing Scripts.” I originally recorded it because I used to talk psychotherapy clients through various scripts, and they kept pestering me to have them on a CD. Until I retired from psychological therapy, I sold 2 or 3 CDs every week to my clients. Now that I’ve retired, I am looking for new people who’ll find it of benefit, so thank you for asking, Joan. You’re very welcome, Dr. Bob.

There are two “inductions:” a story I tell that takes you into a special place of peace. These are alternatives to each other.
The first starts on a mountain top, then a walk through a forest into the special place of your choice at the moment. Because I live in Australia, I describe an Australian forest, but perhaps surprisingly, this doesn’t matter. I’ve had a client who listened to my spiel, while happily experiencing walking in a pine forest. I’ve had a German lady who put European birds in the place of the Australian ones I mentioned. This is generally true for all guided imagery. You can and do adapt a fixed script to suit your needs of the moment.

Because this script involves walking, it may be unsuitable for some people: for example those who are grieving about being paralyzed, or for whom walking is painful. Therefore, I have a second induction script, in which I take the listener down an elevator (only, I call it a lift on the CD, not having expected to be dealing with an international audience).

The other 10 scripts are short, and are in three categories: “feel good,” “healing” and “pain reduction.” The idea is, you can program your player to select one of the inductions, then one, two or more of the short scripts. So, for example, you can go to your special place, then reduce your pain, then work on healing the injury. This could be very good post-operatively.

When I send out a CD, I enclose a page of helpful instructions with it.
The CD is available at http://bobswriting.com/psych/heal.html. I used to sell it for $20, but have reduced this to $15, including shipping anywhere.

How long have you been using guided imagery?
Since about 1968. By now, I’m quite good at it. This is despite the fact that my ability to see visual images is very poor. So, if it benefits me, it’ll help anyone.

Wow! That’s 46 years you’ve been using guided imagery to help heal and calm yourself and others. That’s a long time.
Thank you for sharing all of this information with us. It has been very helpful to me and will help everyone who reads it.

Here is a review of Dr. Bob Rich’s CD: Healing Scripts


Healing Scripts by Dr. Bob Rich

Reviewer: Janis L. Silverman, author

Take a breath, close your eyes, listen, imagine, visualize. This CD by Dr. Bob Rich, Australian psychologist and author, is an absolute pleasure. Whether you are new to guided imagery meditation, or you are an experienced meditator, you will find these meditation scripts refreshing, relaxing, invigorating, and regenerative.

Before beginning imagery work, find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Turn off your technology, sit quietly and breathe softly, slowly, deeply.

Dr. Rich’s CD is divided into four sections of his favorite guided imagery scripts.

  1. Inductions

Dr. Rich introduces two guided imagery stories to achieve relaxation. I enjoyed listening to Dr. Rich’s voice and lovely Australian accent. He helps the listener create vivid pictures in his mind as he travels with him through each tory. “Australian mountain top” introduces a total body scan and the ascent to an Australian mountain top, and to a special peaceful place. “Descending lift” begins in an elevator to another exquisite and special place. I like Dr. Rich’s use of nature in his imagery. The sights, sounds, smells the listener envisions create a deep peace.

As one uses a healing script, he should listen carefully and stop the recording as needed to complete or extend a meditation.

2. Feel Good

Dr. Rich introduces four guided imagery meditations. Again he employs nature to help listeners achieve vivid imagery. These meditation scripts encourage the meditator to visualize, then become part of the scene, and best of all, to leave worry and pain behind. If you are not from Australia, you may need to stretch a bit, as the wild life and botany may be new to you. This should not hinder the listener, as Dr. Rich’s colorful description provides clear pictures.

2. Healing

I love these three healing scripts, finding them creative, with amazing potential to “Stimulate the immune system.” The listener will learn a powerful technique to clear infection, colds, sore throats, etc. The “Healing light” script is easily imagined. This is one that can readily be recalled and use anytime, anywhere. A third script has intention to “Heal the planet.”

4. Pain Reduction

I especially appreciate the last three pain lessening meditation scripts. Again, Dr. Rich paints images the listener can use immediately to visualize and release pain. This can be used for an infrequent backache or for chronic pain. I had to listen and stop the CD to have more time to immerse myself in Dr. Rich’s images. ‘Modify pain” and “Melt Stabbing pain” may take some practice. It is well worth a bit of time, as a listener will reap the benefits of diminishing pain levels. I am suggesting that the listener may wish to stop the CD and spend more time with these rich images, particularly if she has pain in several areas of her body.

Guided imagery has been researched. Medical benefits include lower blood pressure, reduce stress and pain levels. As a long time meditator, I know that imagery creates calm, better focus and a sense of well-being. Psychologists and social workers may use these techniques with patients. Imagery scripts can be used by an individual in the comfort of his home. Dr. Bob Rich has recorded these extraordinary imagery meditations. A meditator will find favorites and practice them until she no longer needs to use the CD. That is the beauty of imagery meditation. A listener can take these mindful adventures with them anywhere. Once mastered, these scripts are carried in your mind.

A Note from the Reviewer:

I have used guided imagery meditation for decades. I have authored five books of guided imagery meditations for children and adults. I am currently writing more of this genre. I am confident that listeners of Dr. Rich’s Healing Scripts CD will find relaxation, wellness, well-being, healing strategies and pain reduction. I have tried out Dr. Bob Rich’s scripts for several weeks. I recommend them to anyone in search of healing of the body, mind and spirit.

Reviewer: Janis L. Silverman is the author of educational and counseling books. https://smile.amazon.com/stores/author/B001K8HEEQ/allbooks

Here is more information about Dr. Bob Rich from my interview
Interview with Dr. Bob Rich: Writer, Mudsmith, Psychologist, and Editor

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you’ll ask Dr. Bob a question or tell him what you think about guided imagery.

Dr. Bob Rich gave away a free Healing Scripts CD to a lucky winner May 18, 2014. 

Good luck to you with your writing.
Celebrate each day.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014-2019 Joan Y. Edwards