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How does visualization work and why is it powerful?


Hall of Mirrors at Damanhur – Image from Daily Mail

The brain processes ‘imagined‘ and ‘real‘ events in very similar ways.  The same visual centers of the brain are stimulated, for instance, when you see something in your bedroom and when you imagine it.  And because information in the brain is stored, not in isolation but in association, visual stimuli trigger emotional, sensorial, mental and physiological responses.

Such is the nature of the complex networks of  associated information.  It is the reason behind ‘wet dreams’, waking up in a panic and finding butterflies in your stomach when you are anxious or nervous :-). Whether ‘imagined’ or ‘actual’, the brain and the body’s responses are similar.

This fact can be used to great advantage and it is, by athletes, scientists, teachers, healers and anyone wanting to effect a reality different to their current reality.  Children are born with this ability, which, sadly for many, diminishes as they get older.  Why?  Because we live in a society dominated by the belief that values and respects only that which is physical, tangible and quantifiable.  Anything ‘imagined’ is treated with suspicion and often dismissed.

Yet, interestingly enough, we hold a conflicting belief, or rather, a ‘knowing’ that our imagination is the basis for some of humanity’s most spectacular achievements, from the Taj Mahal to computers and the internet to high consciousness communities in Damanhur, to name just a few.  Many of us are also familiar with the story of Einstein visualizing himself riding on a ray of light, the speed of which would be impossible for us to appreciate through mere reasoning but possible to ’sense’ through imagining or visualizing as Einstein did.

So, how does visualization work?  When we visualize something in our mind’s eye, we activate the associated sensations, emotions, thoughts and beliefs.  I explained in previous posts about affirmations and the need for them to be supported by our beliefs and emotions.  Visualization provides us with a powerful means of generating those emotions rapidly and effortlessly while bypassing conflicting beliefs! This ability for visualizations to bypass conflicting beliefs is what makes them particularly powerful.

As the appropriate and most supportive emotions are generated, our entire mental, emotional, biochemical and physiological ‘maps’ and patterns are changed.  Clearly, the more often we visualize and the more deeply we enter into the sensorial and emotional aspects of our image i.e. we see, taste, smell, hear, feel that which we are visualizing, the more powerful and stable are the new patterns or ‘maps’ that we create.

Put another way, if you are having trouble believing that you will find your ‘perfect partner’, visualizing being with the perfect partner, doing things with her/him by using the brain’s ability to ’see’, ‘touch’, ’smell’ and ‘taste’ will evoke strong emotional responses that start to lay down the ‘maps’ or patterns for that reality!  You are therefore primed and set for that reality!

The fact is, all the things that we do routinely/habitually are the outcomes of what was once consciously desired, imagined, thought and felt.  Having a cup of coffee, for instance, once began with the desire, thought and positive feeling for coffee.  Over time, this ‘map’ of desire, thought, sensation and emotion was laid down, refined and accessed/retrieved so frequently that it became an ‘automatic‘ response.  In other words, you no longer had to consciously go through the entire gamut of desire-thought-emotion-sensation to get you to the point of making and drinking a cup of coffee (action/tangible, physical reality).  The entire process has been truncated to go directly from thought (mental) to action (physical)!  But more of that another time :-).

What is important to remember here is that visualization is something that we naturally and routinely do.  As far as the brain is concerned, visualizing activates the same centers in the brain as information received from physical stimuli.  It is an elegant, efficient and powerful technique (natural ability) that we already possess but which most of us have forgotten how to use to our advantage.  Visualization is particularly powerful because it enables us to rapidly and effortlessly arouse the emotions and beliefs that are needed to support our desires and intentions/affirmations and to turn them into reality while bypassing conflicting beliefs.

Do you have trouble visualizing things you desire?  Or are you a pro?  Share your experiences in a comment!

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4 comments to How does visualization work and why is it powerful?

  • I’ve tried visualization before but I’m not very good at it, I must confess. Sometimes it works well, but others I guess my mind has trouble accepting it as true. Maybe I need to practice more…..

  • Hi Monique, for a long time I didn’t see the value in using visualizations. If anything, I considered it an ‘inferior’ way of trying to make things happen and at some point didn’t even trust its validity! It was only after I began practising meditation seriously and consistently that I became aware of how my mind naturally visualizes things and that I could see the effects in ‘real’ life i.e. in the physical world. That’s when I realized that rather than some ‘fad’ or spurious phenomenon, visualization is something that we already do. The point then is, do we want to use it to our advantage or not? If we do, then it will work once we understand how it works :-).

  • juno

    Hi. Wow for once it’s easy to leave a comment. Well I’m 16 and I first tried visualisation when I was 15. The effects were just mad. I rarely do it; I’ve probably only done it about 4 or 5 times in my whole life to be honest, but every time I did I saw HUGE differences in the way I act. I found that I effortlessly responded to things (and people) in a much more positive way. I didn’t even realise how different I’d acted until the day after (because I was so engrossed in my (previously visualised) reality). I think visualisation’s great and everyone should try it. You can achieve anything you want once you ‘believe’ in it – like Henry Ford said, ‘whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right’ xD
    Btw I’d just like to add, I don’t think visualisation works for everyone. Tbh, I think it only really works for people with very vivid imaginations.

  • Hi Juno, thank you for your comment. It’s great that your experience with conscious visualization has been so rewarding. I tend to think that our ability to visualize (or anything else for that matter) is largely governed by our beliefs. As your Henry Ford quote so rightly suggests, if you believe you can visualize, you certainly will. That said, people may indeed have their preferences – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic etc. I have found that people who claim they are unable to visualize, however, are quite capable of visualizing quite spontaneously fearful situations whether from the past or as dreaded projections into the future :).

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