How a child with Chickenpox stopped itching

teddy bearAs you know, I’m a big fan of visualisation.

As I’ve explained before, in many ways the brain doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary. As we imagine something, to the brain, what we imagine is actually happening.

In previous blogs I’ve shared scientific evidence of how people have altered physical strength through visualisation, how visualisation can help weight loss, lots on the power of placebos, as well as how visualisation is used to help people heal from illness.

During a workshop I taught last weekend on this subject, a woman shared an amazing technique that her little 3-year-old daughter used to avoid scratching her face when she had chickenpox. It is such an amazing strategy that I just had to share it with you.

Her child’s face was so itchy, the woman told me. Having learned about visualisation from my book, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, she explained, she was suddenly struck with an idea.

She asked her daughter to go find a teddy bear whose face tickled as much as hers. When the little girl returned with a teddy, her mother told her that she should scratch teddy every time her face became itchy and that it would help stop her own itch.

And that’s exactly what she did.

Amazingly, the itch faded on her own face and she didn’t scratch her face once.

It reminds me of how mirror boxes can be used to help people who have lost a limb to deal with phantom limb pain and itches. Say the person had lost their right arm. A mirror box can be placed on the table and the person would lay their left hand down. The mirror then shows a reflection that looks like the person has both a left and right arm.

And that’s what the brain processes. The mirror box tricks the brain into acting as if the person does have a right arm, enabling them to then scratch it. In other words, scratching the left hand, now reflected in the mirror as a right hand, can relieve a phantom itch in the right.

These kinds of techniques work because when you focus on any area of the body, the corresponding region of the brain is activated. Focus on a finger, for example, and the finger region of the brain is activated.

It’s likely, given the teddy-chickenpox example, that even a representation of a body part can have the same effect. In other words, something that we decide represents a part of the body might activate the brain in the same way.

This is how what I call ‘symbolic visualisations’ work. A gentleman who had suffered terrible depression once shared his symbolic visualisation with me. He said he felt broken, so he symbolised his broken feeling as broken shards of a mirror.

In his mind’s eye, he then gathered up the shards, heated them in a cauldron to melt them, and then poured them into a new mould. In effect, he took his brokenness and made himself whole again.

A month or so of daily visualisation like this was a huge tonic for him and brought him out of depression.

He represented the mirror as his feelings, just as the little girl represented the teddy’s face as her own face.

14 thoughts on “How a child with Chickenpox stopped itching

  1. David – I love this post . As someone who used visualisation to help craft her own remarkable recovery from ill health, disability and wheelchair to being wonderfully happy and healthy and running up hills with her dogs again I truly know its power. I love how this little child got relief from her own itching by scratching the face of her teddy bear. Visualisation is powerful. A lovely post 🙂

  2. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Maureen, and so great that your visualisations were so successful. Awesome!! 🙂

  3. Thank you.I love to read your blogs and books. I work with people that is stopped by pain here in Norway and learn then some of your techniques. And I also youse them om myself. I had a beginning of osteoporosis and it is no on the way to be reversed. I also use different vitamins and try to change the reason why I got the sickness.

  4. Jo Sawkins

    Ah, David, thanks for reminding me about how mirrors can be used. I want to do this with a boy who has a paralysed arm through injury and I am sure that he will be able to make some really good change. Much appreciated !

  5. Janet Stead

    Hello David,
    This is so interesting. Do you think it would would work with varicose eczema? I’m trying to reverse it. But how?
    Cheers!

  6. Sarah

    I need to find away to use this to recover from M.E/Fibromyalgia…

  7. Another Maureen chiming in.:) Just brilliant, David! Love your book and these examples. Thank you so much for your beautiful sharing. The reminder is very timely having just lost my precious golden retriever, Bo; Allowing the grief but also seeing it transform into pure love and timeless connection. Passing this info along to others as well. Many blessings! Maureen

  8. fabulous story of teddy, just like the mirror box experiments! I teach my clients to recover from CFS/FM/anxiety etc by associating into a healthy state and focus on wellness and take the power away from symptoms..I wonder if that is what Maureen had? ) …the brain is a miraculous thing working in harmony with the body…Love how you enable people to understand the science of well-being David. Many thanks Jan

  9. Therese

    Thanks for sharing, David and Maureen. Your posts were very inspiring…and a wonderful reminder for me of the power of visualization. Blessings to you both!

  10. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, Maureen. Having lost my wonderful labrador, Oscar, a few years ago, I can understand how you might be feeling. I have found that the loss has indeed transformed into our love and timeless connection. 🙂

  11. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Hi Janet, the most common way to use visualisation is to imagine (if you were tiny and standing right beside the affected area) what it would be like, and then to Imagine turning it into being healed. In effect, turning ‘Illness’ into ‘Wellness’. Then to do this once or twice a day. You don’t need to be a great visualiser. We all imagine in our own way – some visual, some with sound, some more feeling, and some with just a vague image but still intending wellness.

    So as an example, you could imagine being the size of your skin cells and gently massaging a ‘miracle moisturiser’ into the area, whistling a happy tune as you see how the moisturiser is completely changing the affected area. Or if you wanted to target the seeming cause, then you might imagine the pressure from the veins easing, like you were untying a balloon, for instance, to let some air off, or easing the pressure of a pressure cooker, and as the pressure eases you see the affected area returning to normal again. Something like that. Or, I’m sure you can come up with something even better that is more in line with how the symptoms appear or feel in you.

    The key is to be consistent (i.e. visualise every day) as you imagine the transition of your picture from illness to wellness. I hope that helps. 🙂

  12. Hello David – it’s Susan (who wants you to come to Canada sometime)
    Visualization is so important to the work I do with others (and myself) who life with chronic physical disabilities, Most respond well, but I once worked with women who claimed she could not garner images within your thoughts, she also had a high level of learning disability. In her instance, I suggested to include a tangible, just as the teddy example for the child. The task was to gather 5 leaves – not perfect ones, just the first 5 she came across (it was autumn here). She brought them to our next visit and then we waxed them onto a page and examined and talked about the beauty within each one. We next framed them for her to hang at home. Being able to actively notice the beauty despite their imperfections worked as a projection exercise. Thus, when she felt imperfect and overwhelmed, she could then look at the framed imperfect leaves. This helped as bringing an image forward mentally for her was truly challenging. Always another anvenue to move toward a goal to live well when unwell.. Best, Susan

  13. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Wow! That’s really beautiful, Susan. What a really wonderful way to help her to change her feelings about herself! 🙂

  14. Therese

    Thank you everyone for sharing…I have continued to read the posts and the examples given have been very helpful and inspiring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *