Sleeplessness and Pain Control With Guided Imagery
You find yourself awake in the middle of the night – again. You have followed medical recommendations which include; maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding napping, getting regular exercise, creating a relaxed sleeping environment, and avoiding heavy meals, drinking caffeine or smoking before bed time. But, you’re awake in the middle of the night – again. What’s going on?
During the day, we are awake and using our conscious mind. We, think, reason, and access memories useful to this process. Our conscious mind acts as a gatekeeper, keeping thoughts which interfere with functioning at bay. Unpleasant memories and/or thoughts are pushed to the back, repressed, and perhaps forgotten to the conscious mind.
However, when we fall asleep, our conscious mind goes to sleep as well. Now the unconscious mind is in charge. Sleep was designed by our bodies to facilitate healing, both physical and emotional. With our gatekeeper asleep unresolved problems come forward. The more uncomfortable the issue, the more restless our sleep, and the more tired we wake. We may or may not remember “bad” dreams. But, we do recognize the heavy feeling of fatigue.
How Does Guided Imagery Help Sleeplessness?
Imagery is at the center of relaxation techniques designed to release brain chemicals that act as your body’s natural brain tranquilizers, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety levels. Researchers find that these techniques work for PTSD, headaches, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and many other physical symptoms, regardless of cause, be it emotional or physical.
The US Veterans Administration as well as the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health researched guided imagery’s usefulness in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) They reported significant improvements in the reduction of nightmare frequency and intensity, increased positive mood states, improved sense of self and others and improved cognitive and emotional functioning.
Psychology Suite 101 reports that “if you’re looking for a way to ease chronic pain, speed the healing process, or reduce anxiety and stress, consider guided imagery. It’s an alternative therapy that’s noninvasive and drug-free.” The publication explains that guided imagery “sends direct, positive messages to the emotional control center of the brain. Those messages then travel to your immune system and autonomic nervous system, which affects your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates…You let positive hormones flood your body, and you concentrate on keeping that positive energy strong. Your body can’t differentiate between reality and thoughts…you imagine positive events – and your body responds in healthy ways.”
Please allow me to share my decades of experience with you. Clients report a good night's sleep after the very first guided imagery session. Call 714.743.5612 or txt me anytime to discuss your individual situation, and how we can use guided imagery to help you achieve rest and healing.
Pain Management - a True Story
So many of my clients are truly wounded souls. Talk therapy, the basis of all psychological interventions, is wonderful for helping clients pinpoint when their emotional symptoms started, recognizing their emotional reactions to stress, and planning more logical reactions. However, my clients’ emotional turmoil, created in their past, was always present just beneath their surface of logic. These clients had to constantly be on guard for their “emotional triggers” and then logically choose not to emotionally react. Life felt like a lot of work to them.
Before Christmas of 2006, Anne (not the client’s real name) agreed to try guided imagery. She had been brutalized physically, financially, sexually and emotionally as a child growing up, and by her ex-husband during their 15 year marriage. By the time she came to see me in September of 2006, Anne was suffering emotionally from depression and anxiety, and physically with migraines and stiff joints and muscles. She couldn’t get comfortable physically, and had problems getting a restful night’s sleep. Anxiety made things, as simple as grocery shopping, or watching her teenage children play soccer, extremely difficult. Holding down a job was impossible.
Because Anne had so much physical pain, I choose to start our guided imagery therapy with “Red Xs,” an imagery designed specifically to deal with emotional and physical pain stored within the body. And, we created an alpha trigger - a physical movement, designed during our guided imagery session, which, whenever used again, immediately helps the body regain the relaxed, pain free state of mind experienced during the actual imagery.
During the Red Xs guided imagery, Anne was able to describe her pain completely – the location in the body, what it felt like, and what it looked like. She decided she would like to remove the pain from her body, and emotionally did so. When the imagery was finished, I turned off the background music and turned up the lights. I realized that Anne was still sitting in her chair, motionless, with her eyes closed. A flash of terror shot through me – could she not come out of the meditation, was the pain worse, had I done something wrong? I tried to calmly ask Anne if everything was ok. She said it was the first time she could remember (in decades) being pain free, and she was afraid to move because she was scared that the pain would return. PHEW!
I continued working with Anne, on a weekly basis, for another six months. She used her alpha trigger whenever she couldn’t sleep, or when she felt anxious in public. Guided imagery allowed her to examine, and emotionally heal, many traumatic aspects of her life, without being re-traumatized. Anne was able to return to the work force, and her pain never returned. My clients have never been disappointed with the pain free, relaxed state of being, achieved during a guided imagery session. It is quite rewarding making a difference in people’s lives through the use of the remarkable meditative tool known as guided imagery.