Stephanie R. Carter, Ph.D.
Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychology

7325 SW 63rd Avenue
Suite 101

South Miami, FL 33143
 


Tel: 305.275.2269

Fax: 305.667.9880 

About The Polar Bear
Using visual imagery to boost your immune system and feel better.

Visual imagery is an important tool.  Id 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, and spiritually.

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.  They communicate 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 body. 

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 IMAGERY

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 senses.
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 the night.

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 anytime. 

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.

Take care,
Stephanie

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Stephanie R. Carter, Ph.D., PA
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