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The Powerful Way to Change Your Life
By Norman Vincent Peale
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1982 Norman Vincent Peale
All rights reserved.
Imaging — What It Is and How It Works
There is a powerful and mysterious force in human nature that is capable of bringing about dramatic improvement in our lives. It is a kind of mental engineering that works best when supported by a strong religious faith. It's not difficult to practice; anyone can do it. Recently it has caught the attention of doctors, psychologists, and thinkers everywhere, and a new word has been coined to describe it. That word is imaging, derived from imagination.
Imaging, the forming of mental pictures or images, is based on the principle that there is a deep tendency in human nature to ultimately become precisely like that which we imagine or image ourselves as being. An image formed and held tenaciously in the conscious mind will pass presently, by a process of mental osmosis, into the unconscious mind. And when it is accepted firmly in the unconscious, the individual will strongly tend to have it, for then it has you. So powerful is the imaging effect on thought and performance that a long-held visualization of an objective or goal can become determinative.
Imaging is positive thinking carried one step further. In imaging, one does not merely think about a hoped-for goal; one "sees" or visualizes it with tremendous intensity, reinforced by prayer. Imaging is a kind of laser beam of the imagination, a shaft of mental energy in which the desired goal or outcome is pictured so vividly by the conscious mind that the unconscious mind accepts it and is activated by it. This releases powerful internal forces that can bring about astonishing changes in the life of the person who is doing the imaging.
To illustrate, right here at the beginning, let me tell you four true stories. As you read them, I think you'll see very clearly the imaging principle at work. Here is the first one:
It's wintertime in Cincinnati a generation ago. A cold wind chills the crowds hurrying along the busy street. A young boy — maybe eleven, maybe twelve — has stopped outside the building that houses the city's newspaper, the powerful and respected Cincinnati Enquirer. The youngster is not too warmly dressed; his clothes are obviously hand-me-downs. Shivering a bit, he is staring through the big plate-glass window, watching the feverish journalistic activity inside.
One figure in particular has caught his eye: a burly man in shirtsleeves seated at a central desk. A green eyeshade shields his eyes from the glare of a light bulb dangling above his head. An unlighted cigar is clamped between his teeth. His desk bristles with scraps of typescript impaled on spikes. Papers overflow from wire baskets. The black headlines of various editions spill onto the floor around him. Activity. Confusion. Chaos. But power emanates from that desk, and the boy in the street can sense it. He knows that this man is in command.
The man spins around in his swivel chair, twists a sheet of yellowish paper into an ancient typewriter, hammers out a few staccato lines. He rips it out, stares at it, takes a black copy pencil from behind his ear, makes a few lightning-swift corrections. He raises his head, barks an order. A copyboy darts forward, snatches the paper, disappears. The shivering witness in the street watches, transfixed.
A huge policeman saunters past, twirling his nightstick. Impulsively, the boy turns to him. "Officer, who is that man in there — the one with the eyeshade and the cigar?"
"Him?" The blue giant looks down indulgently. "He's the editor, sonny. The editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, that's who he is."
The policeman moves on. Finally the boy goes down the street, looking just as he did before. But he is not the same as before. He is changed. He's no longer aware of the cold wind or the hurrying crowds around him. Inside his head a scene is forming — not just a vague or casual daydream, but a vision of the future that has all the reality, all the intensity of the present. Intuitively, the boy knows that sooner or later what he is visualizing will come to pass. He is sure of it. The scene in his head is a replica of the scene he has just witnessed behind the plate-glass window, with one all-important change. The occupant of the editor's chair, thirty years hence, is himself. Himself, Roger Ferger, a poor youngster with no connections, no advantages, nothing except an image so powerful that it will bend all the laws of probability until they conform to an even stronger, though hidden law.
He goes home with that image fixed in his head. When he says his prayers that night, he relives his dream and asks for help in achieving it. Night after night he does this, unaware that by imaging himself so intensely in that editorial chair, and by reinforcing that image with prayer, he is touching the kingdom of God within himself and releasing forces more powerful than he knows.
How do I know this story? I know because Roger Ferger related it to me years after that memorable day in his childhood. He told me when he was not merely the editor but also the publisher and the owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Image of Her Future
Now for the second story. Again we go back through the years. We are in one of the poorer sections of an Ohio town. A young girl is bending over a metal washtub. She is one of eight children, the daughter of a miner. She is washing her father's overalls.
As she washes her father's overalls, staring now and then out the grimy window at the bleak, familiar symbols of poverty that surround her, an image comes to her. She has had daydreams about her future before, but this is more than a daydream. Diamond clear in her mind is the picture of a college campus, tranquil green lawns, ivy-covered buildings. Graduation ceremonies are in progress, and she sees herself in cap and gown receiving a parchment scroll. She feels the soaring happiness, the sense of achievement, the pride.
But what kind of impossible dream is this? No member of her family has ever gone to college. Mary Crowe has prayed for the chance to go, it is true, but there is no money for such things. The Great Depression has the country by the throat. There is barely enough food on the Crowe family table. Her strange vision must be just a young girl's wistful fantasy, nothing more. And yet, the image of herself receiving the parchment scroll was so vivid, so real.
Consider, now, what happens next. Mary Crowe receives a summons; her parish priest would like to see her. Puzzled, she goes to the rectory, where the good father opens a desk drawer and takes out an envelope. "Mary," he says, "quite a while ago one of our parishioners gave me some money to be used to educate some deserving young person. I've been watching you, and I've decided you are the one. These funds will make it possible for you to have a four-year scholarship at Saint Mary-of-the-Springs. I know you'll make a wonderful record there."
Again, passionate dream into concrete reality. Burning image into tangible substance. Just coincidence? No, because Mary Crowe told me that — incredibly — when she went to Saint Mary-of-the-Springs and saw the campus for the first time, she recognized it. It was the campus she had seen in the vision that came to her while she was sloshing her father's overalls in the battered tin tub in the Crowe family kitchen.
I can't explain that; Mary Crowe couldn't, either. But she did go to college there. She studied hard and got top grades. As graduation approached, she began to think about a career. She knew of a case in her own run-down neighborhood where a life-insurance policy had stood between a poor family and total disaster. So she decided she would like to become an insurance salesperson.
In those days there were almost no women selling insurance. It just wasn't done. It was a man's world. But Mary Crowe "saw" herself as a successful producer. She visualized buyers whose lives would be protected and helped by the insurance they bought. She fixed all this in her mind with tremendous clarity and vividness. Then she went to look for a job as an agent for one of the largest insurance agencies in the city.
The man in charge of hiring turned her down. Flat. Women on his staff? "Go away," he said to Mary Crowe, "you're wasting your time. And mine."
Mary Crowe went away, but the next day she came back. Again she was refused. Again she came back. Again she was turned down. Day after day this went on. Night after night, on her knees, Mary Crowe prayed for patience and persistence and the strength to follow her dream. She closed her mind to doubt. She would not let it in.
Finally the man in charge of hiring was impressed with her dogged determination. "All right," he said. "We'll take you on. But no salary. No drawing account. Commissions only. So go on out and starve."
Mary Crowe went out and started selling, door to door. People listened, because she made them feel that she was primarily interested in helping them — as indeed she was. And she didn't starve. Far from it. She became the number-one salesperson for that company. She became a member of the Million Dollar Round Table — the exclusive group of insurance agents who sell more than a million dollars' worth of insurance in a single year. She became a legend in the insurance business. She became, in other words, just what she had imaged herself to be — a stunning success.
Well, you may say, those are interesting stories, but they happened years ago. What about the modern world? What about the present day? Let me tell you about Harry DeCamp.
Imaging Helps Heal Harry DeCamp
Harry was also in the insurance business. Quite successful at it, too. But the day came when that success meant little because he was told that he had cancer of the bladder. Inoperable cancer. When he asked how much time he had to live, the doctors couldn't tell him. They gave him some painkillers and sent him home to die.
Harry had never been a very religious man. As he put it, "I had only a nodding acquaintance with God." He thought about praying, but he didn't know how. "I knew God was there," he said later, "but He was some mystical Being, far away. It didn't seem right to start begging after ignoring Him for so many years."
Then two things happened in rapid succession. Someone sent Harry a get-well card and wrote on it, "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). Somehow that phrase stuck in Harry's mind. It kept coming back to him. Then he picked up an inspirational magazine and read two stories in it. One was about a seriously injured soldier who recovered from near-fatal wounds by creating mental pictures of himself as a healthy, whole individual. The other story was by a cancer victim who claimed that total believing and total faith were the keys to answered prayer, that Christ meant exactly what He said when He told His followers, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them", (Mark 11:24, my italics).
Harry DeCamp was not a churchgoer, though he was a nominal believer. After much thought, he decided to believe with total conviction that God could do anything, and that constant prayer backed by real faith could put him in touch with the enormous healing power of the Almighty. In addition to that, he decided to visualize the healing process taking place in the most dramatic form that his imagination could supply.
He began to image armies of healing white blood cells in his body cascading down from his shoulders, sweeping through his veins, attacking the malignant cells and destroying them. A hundred times a day, two hundred, three hundred, he went through this imaging process. He worked at it constantly, day and night. "The images," he said later, "were just as clear as if they were coming in on our TV screen. I could see an army of white blood cells cascading down from my shoulders into my stomach, swirling around in my bladder, battling their way into my liver, my heart. Regiment after regiment they came, endlessly, the white corpuscles moving relentlessly on the cancer cells, moving in and devouring them! On and on the victorious white army swept, down into my legs and feet and toes, then to the top of my body, mopping up stray cancer cells as they went, until at last the battle was over. Day after day I replayed that battle scene in my mind. It made me feel terrific."
Harry DeCamp also kept on with his chemotherapy, although he was convinced he didn't need it. Six months later, when he went back for a checkup, the malignant mass was gone.
Which was responsible for Harry DeCamp's dramatic recovery — the chemotherapy or his intense imaging effort? Some modern physicians would say both. A noted cancer specialist, Dr. Carl Simonton, in conjunction with Dr. Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, has written a book called Getting Well Again, in which he expresses his conviction, based on experience with hundreds of cases, that we all participate, whether consciously or unconsciously, in determining our own health. Dr. Simonton is convinced that imaging is a powerful and effective tool available to victims of cancer or any other illness.
I Discover Imaging
Now I would like to tell you about a personal experience that happened to me many years ago. It was through this experience that I first came upon the powerful concept of imaging. And it happened in an unexpected manner.
Ruth and I had started a magazine called Guideposts, a spiritual, motivational publication. Beginning with only seven hundred dollars in working capital, the subscription list had risen to approximately forty thousand, but the financial situation had become difficult, in fact almost hopeless.
At this juncture, a meeting of the directors of the magazine was called as we were in imminent danger of being forced to discontinue the project. Present at this meeting was a wonderful lady named Tessie Durlack, from whom we received a dynamic and creative idea, one that changed the entire course of events. And, I might add, that same idea can change your life, too, as it did ours.
Tessie listened to our glum and dismal appraisal of the situation. We had hoped that she might follow an earlier substantial contribution with another monetary gift. But she quickly said she was going to give something much better than money, namely, a vital idea which in turn would lead to prosperity. "The situation," she said, "is that you lack everything — subscribers, equipment, capital. And why do you lack? Simply because you have been thinking in terms of lack. You have been imaging lack so, therefore, you have accordingly created a condition of lack. What you must do now, at once, is to firmly tell these lack thoughts or images to get out of your minds. You must start imaging prosperity instead."
Some of the directors objected that to mount a frontal attack on an unhealthy or negative thought pattern would not exorcise such thoughts but on the contrary would only serve to drive them more deeply into consciousness. Other directors added their opinion that we do not control our thoughts, but they control us. Seemingly disgusted by these expressions, Tessie snapped, "Don't you remember what the great Plato said?" I hadn't the slightest idea what the great Plato had said, but not wishing to reveal my ignorance I asked brightly, "To which of the many familiar statements of Plato do you refer?"
"To one you never heard of," she declared, and forthwith gave a quotation which she attributed to Plato. As I recall, it went something like this: "'Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.' So flush out these lack thoughts and do it now," she said. So then and there, we flushed them out, actually "seeing" them troop out of our minds.
She then explained that those lack ideas or visualizations were hanging around in the expectation that they would return soon to the perch in our minds where they had been hospitably entertained for so long. She declared that the only way they could be kept out permanently was by substituting a more powerful prosperity thought to displace them, an abundance or prosperity mental picture. She then asked how many subscribers were needed to guarantee a continuance of publishing and we agreed that one hundred thousand would do it. "All right," she said, "I want you to look out there mentally and see or visualize one hundred thousand persons as subscribers to Guideposts, people who have paid for their subscriptions."
Our visualizing was imperfect, to say the least, but she "saw" them, and so powerful was her imaging that we began to visualize them, too. Then, to our surprise, Tessie declared, "Now that we see them, we have them. Let us pray and thank the Lord that He has given us one hundred thousand subscribers." Rather astonished, we joined her in a prayer in which she asked the Lord for nothing, but instead thanked Him for everything in advance, including our one hundred thousand subscribers. In the course of her prayer she quoted that great Scripture, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24).
Excerpted from Positive Imaging by Norman Vincent Peale. Copyright © 1982 Norman Vincent Peale. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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