Using Positive Visualization

Positive visualization can be a useful skill for anyone dealing with anxiety to learn. For those with emetophobia, positive visualization can provide a way to work toward your recovery while remaining in the comfort of a familiar place. When someone with a phobia thinks about a high-anxiety situation, their mind typically wanders to all of the things that could possibly go wrong. By intentionally and fully participating in positive visualization, scenarios with a positive outcome can be imagined. In such scenarios, everything turns out okay and reactions occur the way that they would if no phobia was present.

To practice positive visualization, first choose a time during the day when your anxiety level is typically low. Use your favorite deep relaxation technique until you feel calm and centered. If you do not have a favorite relaxation technique, try taking several deep breaths while focusing your attention on each inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. Once you are in a state of relaxation, begin visualizing yourself in a stressful situation in which you react positively. This will take some practice. When you first begin, your mind probably will not cooperate and your anxiety level may initially rise. If this happens, bring your attention back to your breath, relax for a few minutes, and then try again. It may help to start with a scenario that causes only a little anxiety, and then work up to high-anxiety situations. Below are two examples of what positive visualization might look like:

  • Imagine boarding a crowded city bus. You feel calm as you proceed to an empty seat and sit down. You read a book and strangers have conversations all around you as you ride. You are happy that you didn’t have to walk and you feel good about sitting down and resting your feet. You arrive at your stop, exit the bus, and continue on with your day.
  • Imagine sitting down next to two close friends at one of your favorite restaurants. You happily chat as the waitress delivers the menus and fills everyone’s glass. You peruse the menu, everything looks delicious, and you then decide to order lasagna for lunch. As you wait you carelessly continue your conversation. Your food arrives and it looks delicious.  You don’t hesitate to enjoy your meal and the company of your friends. You leave feeling refreshed, full, and satisfied.