Visualization is actually a far more powerful and integral tool than
you may have previously given it credit for.
Have you heard the term embodied Cognition?
Embodied cognition teaches us that the way we think about everything is linked
to the sensations in our bodies and to our senses. That is to say, that the only way we understand words, is by relating it to our physical experience.
When you are born, you don’t have any ability to understand English, it’s not innate it must be learned. So what is your ‘original’ language that you think in? What is your brain translating English into so that it’s native and you can understand it?
The answer is that your brain is converting the language to what it does innately understand: experience.
And when it does this, you can actually see the relevant areas of the brain lighting up under a brain scanner as though it were ‘happening’ to the person. When someone tells you about walking, you imagine walking and the relevant areas of your brain light up to show that you’re walking. When someone tells you about a bad day at work, mirror neurons fire as though you’re watching someone being shouted at or as though you’re being shouted at.
In short, we understand by ‘simulating’ the experience in our brain.
And this makes visualization incredibly powerful. This is you actively simulating situations and as far as your brain is concerned, it’s just like it’s happening.
This now means you can use visualization in a number of ways.
One of the most common and popular uses for visualization for instance is to go to a ‘happy place’. This is one way to find an oasis of calm in a stressful day. All you’re simply doing is imagining that you’re somewhere that makes you feel relaxed and happy. That might mean that you’re sitting in an imaginary field surrounded by the sounds of animals and by beautiful flowers, or it might be that you think back to being in that situation.
At the same time though, this also means that you can use visualization as a tool in CBT. Instead of focussing on the ‘words’, go deeper and focus on the visualization. Maybe you don’t have ruminations that make you nervous to speak in public – maybe it’s more like visions!
So correct those visions. Choose how you want it to go and how it will realistically go. Visualize it that way and your body will produce the neurotransmitters as though it’s really happening – priming you for optimum performance.
Here is an easy visualization to play with...