On immagination to improve the quality of life
The author proposes a new way, easy to apply and immediately effective to use the capacity of our brains to improve our quality of life, whenever we recall them, with them will re-emerge the emotions linked to them, to use all of this to control our behaviour”. This is a project whose viability is explained in a simple and approachable way, which allows us, among other things, to learn the function of some neural networks in our brains, using neuroscientific concepts accessible to all.
Giovanna Genovese psychologist graduate of “La Sapienza University” in Roma, uses her background in Ericksonian hypnosis to put forward new approaches, her Model VH-E, to the solution of psycological problems to conviction that nowadays these need simple and effective methods, which, stimulating and using the abilities present in all of us, give immediate results.
I have always had a particular interest in what the mind is able to create using the imagination.
I was attracted to hypnosis, which I still use, (among other reason) because it is an altered state of consciousness, which allows the rapid production of detailed images. I have also, for many years, worked on mental representations without the use of hypnosis and I teach people how to use them to improve the quality of their lives.
When my work gave positive results, I didn’t ask myself why this could have happened, I am of the opinion that when something works it is better not to risk changing it; I thought there was need to search out the “why” of these results but rather the “how” ; I studied the ways in which some people reached positive outcomes in order to teach them to others, and the results became reproducible strategies.
In recent times the neuroscience’s invention suggested to me many possible answers to the question “why”: the idea of exploring the working of the brain in search of replies was too fascinating not to be tried.
I think that the ability of imagine, which should be seen as an evolutionary device, together with its close link to the emotions -which are also today considered from an evolutionary perspective – may be an instrument able to improve everyday life.
Perhaps the evolution of the brain has token another major step when hominids developed the ability to represent external reality through mental images, to store them in the mind and then link them with other images to produce imaginings. It may be that this was facilitated by the needs of a mythology, which suggested the intervention of supernatural forces in natural order and chaos. Even today a belief in charms and portents persists, revealing the need to believe in the possibility of magical interventions on material events, to have the illusion of an ability to control them.
Considering life today, I believe that the excess of some behaviour that has to do with the relationship of modem man of things and people is caused by a slow regression in the creative capacity of the mind, due to its steadily decreasing use. It may be that we are losing some connections between brain cells, that we are on the point of blocking the process that Rita Levi Montalcini has called “cellular regeneration “.
My investigation ranges from perceived sensory events to which significance is attributed to their relationship with memory and motivation, all linked to mental representations and to the emotions, and to how this whole can be joined with the incredibly powerful but governable energy which the act of imagination can have in the folds of the brain.
The neurophysiological information in the first part of this work mainly from books which consider the most recent discoveries of neuroscience have tried to find an objective explanation of the model I use with my patients, this model, which I have called “SH-E” is based on our faculties of Sight, Hearing and Emotion and on the capacity to act on the first two to modify the third.
I have attempted to give a succinct explanation of “how” this psychological mode as functioned in my consulting room and how it can function in everyday life in everyday psychological problem in which images, words and emotions ead ~haos, confusion and suffering.
The work concludes with a practical example of how it is possible to use images and words to modify the emotions. .
I am sure that by learning it we generate a better relationship with everything of which our senses become aware. We can acquire a better way to perceive, to interpret and understand, to react and to act and this will permit a dimensioning of our behaviour, improving our lives for ourselves and our fellows.
The connections between the neurons of our brains allow the passage of impulses, which activate areas specialised in specific functions.
A powerful activating impulse comes from the sense of vision images activate other images, together with the sensations and emotions linked to them.
This thesis affirms that the modification of a mental representation can modify our emotional reactions, and thus our relationship with reality, and thus, byway of the correct resulting actions, can improve the quality of lives.
We all know that we often’ think in images, we remember images, and we construct images based on other images.
It is also true that we have an internal language: we think in concepts, words, which very often are like spee6ji bubbles on photos, paintings, sketches: or like sound tracks on film. They all have subjective, personal, emotional meninges, and may be reactivated in response to various stimuli.
We may find ourselves outside these mental images, and see ourselves and hear our own voices inside our heads while the film is projected, without being part of it, or we may be inside these scenes, and see their images around us as though we were there. Inside our minds these sensations and feelings, which can be named and explained in words, blend with each other and lead on ne from another.
While we are thinking of something or someone our sight may become more acute and lead us to concentrate attention here or there, we hear this and not that, we salivate and we are awctft of scents even when they are not there; at the same time, certain regions of our brains become activated.
When we look again at past scenes, reconstructing them around ourselves, we may at the same time feel once more our past sensations and emotions; in this way, we may become aware of the particular exciting factors which produce, in addition to physiological variations, emotional feelings: those subjective and hard to define experiences which, if negative, cause us to feel anxiety, and if positive, to awake the desire to seek to feel them again.
If the presence of the memory of negative experiences is pressing it will also condition our perception ofwhat could satisfy one ofour needs or desires.
A conditioned perception could reduce our choices and thus our satisfaction: when we look for something which could reawaken an emotion we have felt in the past, we are prevented from considering everything which could satisfy us to the same extent or possibly even more -instead. What is more, nothing of what we feel at the moment can overcome the comparison with what we remember as a “golden past “: it is unlikely that anything we can obtain now could survive the comparison with something we have thought about for a long time. Moreover, the result of the comparison is disappointment.
The memories which emerge after a long time are fragments of reality and constructs of images that, in our real lives, may never have been linked. The connections between faces, expressions, words, gestures, cause emotions to be experienced in a manner whose truth it is no longer possible to verify.
The mental construct is related to the feelings ofthe moment, to its desires, to today’ s unsatisfied needs, to unmet expectations, to sorrows and conflicts which give diffuse or blinding colours to things and events.
We should not forget that the context in which we find ourselves is itself capable of conditioning us: even light alone may produce changes (in America they use light to treat depression). Regret, on the other hand -becoming, as it inevitably does, a constant background music to our lives -can change even the most beautiful melody.
It may happen that complexes of unpleasant images and emotions, encountered too frequently, become obsessions, piling up on each other and obscuring reality, blocking new complexes which could carry with them calm or even happiness.
Happiness in this context is a feeling which causes sensations to erupt in our hearts: bright colours, brilliant lights, firework explosions which spread lightness throughout our bodies and … make uswant to fly.
While I was wondering how to describe the concepts outlined in the last paragraph I relived a moment of my own life in vague and attractive images which awakened in me an indefinable feeling …. that even if instead of lightness it had brought me pain. It would still have made me want 10 fly.
My ”fireworks” came from an image stored in my imaginary archive, and it is as well to replace it there as quickly as possible to avoid the risk that this feeling might become linked to a void in my life today, becoming a regret for words, expressions, gestures which perhaps have never before come together as they did a moment ago, when they became not merely an image, but a desire.
Thinking about it again I realise that this vague feeling may have saved me from many calamities: because nothing else can compete with it, it has saved me from throwing myself into experiences that might have ruined the happy existence I am living today
In reality, I have never experienced an explosion like it, but its absence has left me deaf to other sounds, unblended to other colours, not of fireworks, perhaps, but of the rainbow.
It is clear, from what has just been said, that there is a dangerous conditioning, which may arise from mental images, especially at moments when we are at our most vulnerable.
If we are unhappy, that same state of unhappiness may be a stimulus for the emergence of old images linked to bad experiences, times when we felt alone, abandoned, in need of affection, tenderness, kindness: sentiments which may have nothing to do with our present state of unhappiness, caused, perhaps, by a banal act of discourtesy.
The sadness we feel may acquire other connotations, lead to excessive suffering, give birth to needs which, moments before, we had not felt; all this will have repercussions on our behaviour, our relationships with others, and so on their reactions to us. They can therefore cause problems in relationships, which have no logical explanation.
The solution we find will very often worsen the problem, especially if it comes from a tablet and a glass of water. Indeed, some drugs act on the neurons of the brain to prevent stimulating transmissions in other words to lessen our emotional state but at the same time they inhibit responses to positive stimulation .
I fwe cannot exploit these we will not be able to construct those sequences of images to project into the future which could help us to imagine it as attractive, to create positive expectations and motivations which will help us to take the necessary steps to reach our objectives.
The most important aspect lies in the certainty of the continuous evolution of events, and in the expectation, when we are suffering, of changes in our future and the belief that we can ourselves bring them about.