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Types of Images

Suppose I asked you, ‘Where is your home?’ When answering such a question, would you have an image in your mind of where your home is in relation to where you are now? Even if I simply said ‘teapot’ – would you just remember the word or would you picture a ‘teapot’ almost instinctively? If I asked you to describe in words what your mother looked like, would you simply remember or would you first create an image in your mind and then describe the image? Now think about ‘church bells’. What is it that comes to mind? Finally, think about ‘vinegar’. All these examples, to different degrees, combine both memory and images. The point is that we often remember by first creating an image.

Images are not only visual. We can have images of sound (auditory), of movement (kinaesthetic or motor), of touch (tactile), etc. Undoubtedly, the most common image is visual. In terms of a sample of the population, the types of images and their percentage in ranking order are:

Visual imagery     97

Auditory           93

Motor              74

Tactile            70

Gustatory          67

Olfactory          66

Pain               54

Temperature        43

This in itself is useful information. If you intend to improve your imagery, then you should concentrate on the visual and auditory, since these are the easiest and will lead to the greatest success. This book emphasizes creative visualization and as such deals to a large extent with visual imagery. Given that most of the population has visual imagery then this emphasis is justified.

Why are visual images in the mind so important? The most important thing about visual images is that they can influence the body. This does not apply to all images, but only to those images in which you are involved. The image, however, does not have to be about reality, it can be a totally imaginary (unreal) image. In the mind’s eye it is possible to place an image of oneself in a totally imaginary scene. But why go about this image formation? A strongly formed image will lead to an emotional response or some other bodily response. It does not matter whether the image is about reality or something totally imaginary. Both will create changes in the body that are consistent with the image. You only have to ask a small boy to imagine that he is brave and strong and you will see him straighten up and throw out his chest. In other words, the body is responding to the image being formed in the mind.

But it is not only the body that is influenced by images; images also influence behaviour. Again the result is similar. A strong image leads to behaviour consistent with the image being formed in the mind’s eye. It does not matter whether the image is one of reality or unreality. What matters is whether the image is strong and whether you have belief in the image.

What is generally lacking in image formation, especially when the image involves something that is not real, is an ability to create and hold a strong image. The reason for this is simply that we have not developed the skill. It has not been thought necessary to train a person in image formation. The fact that nearly everyone forms images and uses images as guides to their memory does not mean that most people do it well. Everyone can speak (with a few exceptions) but some are better than others because they have practiced it and been taught how to do it well. Creating images in the mind is no different. This type of training plays a central role in psycho­synthesis.

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