About The Polar Bear
Using visual imagery to boost your immune system and feel better.
Visual imagery is an important tool.
I’d like to show you how you can start using it right now.
The female polar bear is my visual
image, my personal symbol, of power and good health. I use her in my
imagination to represent the cells of my immune system as they rid my
body of invaders such as viruses and bacteria. Just the thought of
her helps me feel better. I enjoy a small collection of polar bears
which I display at home and in my office, reminding me that I always
have the power within myself to feel better physically, emotionally,
The immune system is a remarkably
complex group of cells that act like an army of internal soldiers
whose sole purpose is to guard you against invaders. This personal
army can cleanse your lungs of foreign particles, rid your bloodstream
of infectious viruses and bacteria, and destroy cancer cells. Your
immune system cells are born in your bone marrow, move into your
bloodstream, and are known as white blood cells. They are what helps
you fight off a cold, flu, sore throat, or ear infection. They are
the cells that rush to a paper cut on your finger causing it to be a
bit red and swollen as they do their work fighting off any bacterial
invaders at the site of the cut. Immune system cells do their jobs in
various ways: eating the invaders, engulfing them, blowing them up so
they explode, paralyzing them and squashing them so they die. Then
they are flushed out of your system or are eaten as waste.
with each other, letting each other know when an invader is present and how many
cells are needed for the fight. They even tell each other when the job is done
and that fewer fighting cells are needed. Even more amazing, scientists now
know that immune system cells learn new behavior and that they can grow in
number and in concentration when people relax deeply, use visual imagery, and
help themselves feel better in a variety of ways, such as exercising, eating
well, and using social support.
My immune system cells are my
sentries, forever moving about my body and guarding me against
invaders. I imagine them symbolically as my polar bears, constantly
swimming and walking around through my blood stream and lymph system,
forever alert to cells that are "me" and "not me." They recognize
"me" and destroy what is "not me."
When one polar bear finds an invader,
she alerts other polar bears in my system. My invaders are
represented as fish, which the polar bears swat with their big strong
paws, destroying and eating them. They do this for as long as
necessary. When the fish are destroyed, the polar bears separate
again, taking their time perusing through my body, ever watchful,
ready to protect me at a moment's notice. Of course, I know that in
reality there are no polar bears or fish in my body, but over time,
these symbols have come to evoke strong, positive responses in my
I have always been curious about
polar bears, attracted to their beauty and strength, to the mama
bear's fierce loyalty, love and protection of her young. Fish
represent non-threatening creatures that I'm also drawn to, but in a
different, less emotional way. I see them as more neutral beings.
They are a normal part of life, just like bacteria and viruses are.
Having some around feels healthy to me, but having too many is not.
When my polar bears swat and eat the fish, they are big, aggressive,
purposeful, and strong, but not cruel. I see the fish coming together
in schools and then not surviving the attack. This is imagery I'm
comfortable with. Over time, if you choose to play with the concept
of visual imagery in your imagination, you'll find your own personal
imagery that you're comfortable with – your own personal symbol, of
power and good health
The process I have just described is
enhanced by relaxation and meditation. I often guide myself into a
relaxed state and then visualize my polar bears at work. They are
particularly useful when I have a cold, a cough, any pain, or bruise.
If I'm taking medication or using a psychological technique, I see my
polar bears as enhancing those processes. It feels very good to
actively participate in my own healing.
You can too.
If you would like to try this
process, try the following brief relaxation exercise.
Please do not use this exercise while driving or while your
attention is needed for anything else.
CREATING YOUR OWN RELAXING
Sit or lie down in a very comfortable
place where you won't be disturbed. Notice how your body feels as
it's fully supported by your chair, couch, bed, or floor. Your
muscles relax. You have nowhere else to go right now, nothing else to
do. Just allow yourself to enjoy these moments.
Now, close your eyes as if pulling
down a shade to the outside world.
Take three deep breaths, saying to yourself "I'm breathing in
relaxation and breathing out tension and worries."
Count from 3 to 1, knowing that
you're relaxing more and more with each count down.
Imagine yourself in a comfortable and
wonderful place that is pleasant, relaxing, and soothing for you. It
might be a place that you have been to before, a place that you've
seen in a magazine or movie, a place that you've heard about, or
perhaps a place that exists only in your imagination. Wherever that
place is, imagine yourself there. In your mind's eye, sit or lie down
somewhere in this place. Or perhaps, you might feel more comfortable
walking on a path. Whether you're moving or still, that's fine. The
important point is that you feel comfortable, relaxed, and interested.
Imagine yourself experiencing all
your senses so that this place feels real to you. If you focus your
imagination on all your senses, your body will respond as if you are
really there. Here's how to do it: you are imagining yourself in your
special relaxing place, and now you will focus your attention on your
SIGHT: see what is around you
HEARING: hear the sounds of your place
SMELL: smell the fragrances and aromas
TOUCH: touch the things that are near you so you know what
they feel like, feel the breeze on your skin, the temperature of the
air, perhaps the warmth of the sun
TASTE: notice any taste in your mouth, such as salty sea
air, or a recently eaten favorite food
AWARENESS: let yourself become aware of what you feel like
here, let yourself relax and feel the comfort for awhile
Now, while you are very comfortable
in your special place, it's time to imagine your immune system at
work. Let your images emerge, whatever they are. See your symbol of
power and health moving around your body, energized and alert,
protecting you from anything that does not belong in your body.
That's right. Let this remarkable process of healing and good health
happen for you now. Stay with this imagery for as long as you desire,
taking your time.
When you're ready, count to yourself
from 1 to 3, and as you do, reorient yourself back to your immediate
surroundings, and open your eyes. Or, if you have time and are in an
appropriate place, you may wish to drift off to sleep for a nap or for
It will be helpful for you to
practice this exercise. Just as any new skill improves with practice,
doing this exercise many times will enhance your body's positive
responses. After you've practiced many times, you'll find this
exercise can be effective for you in just 2 -3 minutes, anywhere, at
This powerful process is not a replacement for any medicine
that you are taking or medical or psychological treatment you are
receiving. It is an additional, effective tool for you to use.
Exercise, healthy eating habits, and social support are other healthy
tools to promote good health and well-being.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Stephanie R. Carter, Ph.D., PA
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