I’ve come to appreciate the importance of visual cues in healing and recovery, particularly in my case of a traumatic Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). As I’ve written about many times before, recovery from SCI doesn’t just involve a standard protocol or physical rehabilitation regimen with proven results. I confidently believe that when treating a more “simple” injury (i.e. a broken bone, torn ligament, strained muscle, etc.), both the patient and the practitioner can rely heavily on the standard protocols of recovery to achieve the desired results. “Wait this long, then do this, avoid doing that and things will improve.” I don’t mean to downplay the magnitude of these injuries, or oversimplify them but with an injury like mine, that involves not only a massive physical trauma but an immense emotional and psychological one, and that leaves the person with little to no standardized protocol for recovery, one must be open-minded and creative in finding potential treatment options.
On that note, I have to recognize the importance of visually seeing the recovering body in a positive or optimistic position. At my therapy center, I love the fact that there are mirrors plastered on every wall, not for the sake of vanity (I have zero desire in seeing myself sitting down in a rolling contraption) but because I recognize the importance of watching myself in the positions that I want my body to be in: standing, walking, squatting, upright, and such.
It’s likely impossible to prove but I am very confident that if someone were to do a study on recovery, with two groups of people dealing with the same injury and the only difference between the groups was the use of mirrors and visual feedback, that those people with the visual feedback would have better results. (If someone already has links to studies like this and wants to share, I’m all ears…)
So, I wonder, did it take me this long to figure out such a simple concept? Why am I bringing this up now, more than two years after the last time I was able to look at myself in the mirror and see my standing self, smiling right back at me?
I’ve always understood this, but only recently have I really taken it to a new level. Not long ago, I placed a mirror in front of me in the standing frame I have at home, so I could watch myself in an upright position, so I could remind myself that this is the right position to be in: feet planted, legs vertically extended, back straight, and eyes looking ahead. I firmly believe that the more I can send a visual signal to my brain/subconscious/whatever you want to call it, the more my body will, in turn, respond to these stimuli and motivate recovery to get me back into that position. (I also think the same result can come from the visual stimuli we see in dreams but that’s a separate post for another time…)
I also have to give a lot of credit to my girlfriend who has consistently implored me to look at old photos and videos of myself standing, running, and walking, further confirming this idea. I can’t say I’ve been good about doing it thus far but that’s changing now. I am taking every opportunity I can to provide my brain with the positive visual stimuli that come from being upright. I recently found a printed out photo from the very first camping trip the two of us took together, only weeks before my accident, of me standing up, backpack on my shoulders (as was often the case) imitating the drawing on the rock next to me. I taped this photo up above my desk, providing myself with that many more opportunities for positive visual feedback, so I’ll conclude with that:
19 thoughts on “Mirror mirror on the wall”
So true Arash. Great reminder about mirrors. I can’t wait to meet your girlfriend. She sounds really special. XXOO
She truly is. 🙂 -AB
What an important concept!! Powerful strategy.
Yes it is -AB
you’re right about the power of the visual image for future development – if you want the scientific reasons and lots of amazing case studies read anything by Peter Dowrick on ‘Video Feedforward’
Thanks for the suggestion! -AB
Dear Arash, thank you for your post – a useful reminder to all of us to have reminders – visual or otherwise of what we are striving for around us.I have been thinking of you lately and remembering something i saw written by Ilchi Lee – he is a Korean man (who lives in Sedona now) who developed a method of exercising and meditation (Dahn yoga) including what he calls brainwave vibration. i remember he wrote about falling off a horse and suffering some sort of paralysis which the doctors said he could not recover from/or said he needed to stay very still (I cannot quite remember). He decided any movement was good and started a sort of rocking in his bed and he grew better much beyond his doctors’ expectations and within a shorter time. Sorry not to research this better and write it clearer but if you have time, try googling Ilchi Lee and brainwave vibration – maybe a sort of vibration can be a new key for you. All my best wishes and love, Melanie (PS If I get the chance I will look this up myself and try to give a clearer picture of what he did and the result.)
Thank you Melanie. I’ve been looking him up and reading about his treatment. It’s a very interesting story indeed. Thanks for sharing -AB
There have been articles about Vision boards and Dream boards. The fact that you can SEE what you want makes a big difference to your brain. Kudos to your girlfriend for the constant encouragement to visualize how you want to be again and maybe the two of you can do some research and put together a poster board Vision board together! Help you see what you want and believe you will obtain it!
I’m a big believer in manifestation – so I’m sending you good energy today as you continue to manifest your destiny!
I love the idea of manifestation too, always have. I’ve known about vision boards for a long time now and love the idea of them. I haven’t done that specifically but I have harnessed the same concept in visualizing what I want to occur and then working towards making that happen. Great to hear from you as always -AB
I agree wholeheartedly with this ‘vision’ (or mirror) concept.
How can anyone recovering from such a debilitating injury ‘see’ unless they’ve got a visual image of how they ‘look’. Small improvement and/or goals need to be put in their perspective too.
You may ‘feel’ or ‘sense’ that you’re sitting up straight, but only a mirror will ‘tell’ you that you’ve achieved a straight back (when your brain is still receiving mixed messages). Your therapist can tell you anything he/she likes, but seeing with your own eyes is a truth that no one can give you.
Yes that’s true. The visual feedback is so important for recovery. -AB
Arash, great post here! Keep up the fight! Sam
Sent from my iPad
Thanks Sam. You too! -AB
Arash. I agree. And there is another aspect to healing that will help your recovery faster now that you are moving more. The brain, mind and body are so powerful to each other and inter-connected that each help and support the development of the other. Without movement, brain cells die without renewal. Movement through exercise is the driver that switches on activity in the brain and mind. Using exercise as a tool to activate and engage the brain for learning, building a memory bank, honing attention skills is a medicine free (no side effects) healthy, safe way to get fit by renewing cell growth and many, many other benefits. Exercise is not only necessary, it is a necessity. It is medicine. It is inoculation against heart decease, diabetes, cancer, anxiety, depression and many other issues. Just 5 minutes of intense exercise is very beneficial.
Keep moving my friend.
Great great great words bro. I couldn’t agree with you more. Exercise is essential to recovery but has always been what kept me sane and happy through most of my life. One of my therapists always says, “movement breeds movement” and it’s something he uses a lot in the types of exercises he does with me. I like your description of the renewing of cell growth and calling it medicine. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing. -AB
Arash. I agree. And there is another aspect to healing that will help your recovery, faster now that you are moving more. The brain, mind and body are so powerful to each other and inter-connected that each help and support the development of the other. Without movement, the brain cells die without renewal. Movement through exercise is the driver that switches on activity in the brain and mind. Using exercise as a tool to activate and engage the brain for learning, building a memory bank, honing attention skills is a medicine free (no side effects) healthy, safe way to get fit by renewing cell growth and many, many other benefits. Exercise is not only necessary it, it is a necessity. It is medicine. It is inoculation against heart decease, diabetes, cancer, anxiety, depression and many other issues. Just 5 minutes of intense exercise is very beneficial.
Keep moving my friend.
Positivity! smiles. butterflies. bubbles. puppies.
Yes… sure bro. Good to hear from you 🙂 -AB