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Creative visualization is currently highly popular, even faddish, and is deployed as a technique for accomplishing everything from prosperity to healing to spiritual growth. The basic idea is that visualizing a desired condition sets in motion forces that help to bring it about. The most immediate source for this technique is the New Thought churches—a religious movement composed of such denominational bodies as Unity and Science of Mind, though the utilization of creative visualization and related methods has extended far beyond the bounds of traditional New Thought.
The images that are constructed in the mind during visualization exercises bear more than a little resemblance to the types of images encountered in dreams. It is a natural step from this observed relationship to the use of creative visualization in so-called dream-programming techniques. In these methods, the dreamer decides what he or she wishes to dream and then attempts to “convince” the subconscious to have dreams on a particular topic. Visualization is part of this attempt, which can be surprisingly effective.
Another way of utilizing creative visualization in the context of dreaming is to attempt to reshape one’s dream landscape during lucid dreaming. In lucid dreams, the dreamer has the unusual experience of being aware of dreaming during the dream. Because the dream landscape is a product of the dreamer’s mind, it should be possible to simply “will” the dream to change, just as one does in certain visualization exercises. Again, this is often surprisingly effective if one has already mastered the technique of lucid dreaming. Some healers and therapists have begun to make therapeutic use of this technique, asking people who are nightmare-prone, for instance, to attempt to manipulate their dreams so that they will have happy endings.