Visualization: “Who’s zoomin’ who?”

Oookay…we’re gonna’ kickoff (in celebration of the Super Bowl?) a series on visualization. Don’t know yet exactly how many parts, but what I do know is we’re going to be covering some incredibly fascinating and hopeful subject matter.

So we know visualization has been a self-improvement hot topic for years now. Actors use it, athletes use it, academics use it, all sorts of folks use it. And the fact of the matter is, in spite of the hype and misuse, it works. But how, and why?

Well, before we get into the neurophysiology and psychology of it all, let’s take a look at a very startling example of visualization that makes a quarterback visualizing a completed pass look like playing Tiddly Winks.

I’ve followed the work of neurologist, author, and professor, Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, for some time now. His image is just above. This is one clever and brilliant man, and if you get a chance, type his name into an Internet search. By the way, great read just below. Anyway, some of his greatest work has been with sufferers of phantom limb pain. I mean, we’ve all heard of it, but go figure…how can something hurt that isn’t there? And how do you stop pain when its source is seemingly invisible?

Well, years ago Ramachandran pondered such questions and came up with a very wild theory and even wilder idea. And here’s what it all looks like today.

Dr. Ramachandran is in his office working with a patient who lost his left arm quite some time ago and suffers horribly from phantom pain. So Ramachandran holds a cheap old foot-square mirror upright on a table, perpendicular to the man’s body. He tells his patient to put his right arm on one side of the mirror and what’s left of his left arm on the other. As a final tune-up Ramachandran told the man to position the mirror so the reflection created the illusion that his intact arm was an extension of the one he lost.

So now we’re ready to go. Dr. Ramachandran asks his patient to begin moving both of his arms in a similar motion, keeping his eyes on the reflection of his intact arm. And what do you know…the man could actually feel his missing limb moving about, and the severe cramping that had caused ten years of intense pain had gone! Better yet, after 30 days of working with the mirror for just ten minutes a day, the man reported his phantom limb “shrank” and was truly gone. I still get goose-bumps from that story.

So what say you…think there’s anything to this visualization business? Uh, yeah! Much more to come tomorrow, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts? We’d love to read your comments.