Mental images are normal.
Most people form mental images in their mind’s eye. These images can be helpful as you bring stories to life, recall pleasant memories and locate where you leave things. Mental images can also be involuntary, recurring and intrusive. Scenes from an accident. Memories of loss. Imagining worst-case scenarios. These images are associated with stress responses, including distressing thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Intrusive images are prominent in many types of mental health challenges.
Involuntary images and visual memories are prominent in many types of psychopathology. Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and psychosis frequently report repeated visual intrusions corresponding to a small number of real or imaginary events, usually extremely vivid, detailed, and with highly distressing content. (Brewin et al, 2010)
Intrusive mental images and the associated stress responses are a key element in the diagnosis of Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A diagnosis of PTSD requires that symptoms be present for more than one month and cause significant distress or impairment in function. Symptoms of PTSD include: Recurring, involuntary, intrusive, and distressing memories, nightmares, and/or flashbacks; Avoidance or attempts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, feelings, or reminders of the event; Persistent negative changes in thoughts or mood; Changes in arousal or reactivity. (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020)
There is growing evidence that intrusive mental images play a causal role in these mental health challenges. Leigh et al (2020) studied the effects of modifying mental imagery in adolescent social anxiety by asking participants to change the self-image they held during conversations. They conclude that:
“the findings provide support for a causal role of negative self-imagery in adolescent social anxiety and point to the potential clinical value of techniques targeting imagery to treat the disorder.” Leigh et al (2020)
To date, most mental health treatments are based on the assumption that involuntary, intrusive mental images cannot be changed. The focus of therapy is to offer techniques to experience relief, such as: replacing the intrusive image with a more positive image; reframing how to think of the situation and changing the body’s energetic response to the image. The aim is to relieve the distress through energetic or cognitive means.
Much research in human and animal learning has suggested that emotions and behavior are under the control of alternative memory representations that compete for retrieval (Gold, 2004; Jacobs & Nadel, 1985; Poldrack & Packard, 2003). It is further assumed that the dominant negative representations that support disordered mood and behavior cannot be directly altered but that it is possible to create or strengthen alternative, more positive, representations. (Brewin et al, 2010)
Logosynthesis® offers a model to shift mental images.
Logosynthesis®, discovered by Dr. Willem Lammers, offers a repeatable, structured model to directly identify and shift the energy in distressing, intrusive mental images. The distressing image dissolves. The associated distressing thoughts, emotions and physical sensations fall away. The representation no longer controls emotions and behavior, offering sustained relief. The specific intrusive image does not reappear although it is common to experience multiple intrusive images and layers of mental images which operate outside of cognitive awareness. The model offers a systematic approach to support healing and development. Discover Logosynthesis®: The Power of Words in Healing and Development (Lammers, 2020) offers a comprehensive overview of the model.
There is a growing base of evidence to support the immediate and sustained results offered by Logosynthesis®. (The Healthy Living Plan, 2022) Clinical, peer-reviewed research is now needed to prove its efficacy.
Resources are available.
– Brewin CR, Gregory JD, Lipton M, Burgess N. Intrusive images in psychological disorders: characteristics, neural mechanisms, and treatment implications. Psychol Rev. 2010 Jan;117(1):210-32. doi: 10.1037/a0018113. PMID: 20063969; PMCID: PMC2834572.
– Federal Framework on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Recognition, Collaboration and Support (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020)
– Feinstein, D. Empirically-Supported Premises About Energy Psychology: Mounting Evidence for a Controversial Therapy. Adv Mind Body Med. 2021;35(2):17-32.)
– Leigh E, Chiu K, Clark DM. The effects of modifying mental imagery in adolescent social anxiety. PLoS One. 2020 Apr 6;15(4):e0230826. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230826. PMID: 32251465; PMCID: PMC7135232.