The Power of Pictures, The Illusoriness of Images, & The Reality of Representations

David A. Wright, MD, MBA, MHSA (Medical Legal Consultants of Greater Atlanta)

Dr. Wright is an MD, a Board Certified Hypnotherapist, Board Certified NLP Practitioner, Board Certified TimeLine Therapy
® Practitioner, Board Certified NLP Mental Health Coach, & Psychoanalyst in training


According to one source, Mental Imagery, Visualization, and Imagination can be summed up in the following way “There is a short phrase to summarize this process:
Conceive, Believe, Achieve.” Authors like Paul R. Scheele, Lisa Nichols, and Tony Robbins are advocates of this model. They are sincere believers in the belief that “You have to See It to Believe It!” Or phrased another way, “You have to See It in order to Conceive It!” I’m also a strong believer in this doctrine.

Mental Imagery is used to help people do everything from increase their academic performance and increase their athletic/sports performance to creating new senses of awareness and consciousness. It has been used to help individuals relax, relieve anxiety, relieve pain, lessen muscle aches, create new goals, and pursue their hopes, dreams, desires, and aspirations. Recall the phrase “I have a Dream?” Why is that sentence so powerful? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Why are Dreams important? Why are Pictures Important? Why are Images important? Why are our Mental Representations vital to our success?


Well, let me provide you with some sound data:

  • According to one source, “The retina, which contains 150 million light-sensitive rod and cone cells, is actually an outgrowth of the brain. In the brain itself, neurons devoted to visual processing number in the hundreds of millions and take up about 30 percent of the cortex, as compared with 8 percent for touch and just 3 percent for hearing.” (Discover Magazine, 1993)

  • According to Image Think, “We do know that when our eyes our open, our vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity of the brain — a full 2 billion of the 3 billion firings per second — which was the finding of neuroanatomist R.S. Fixot in a paper published in 1957.” (Image Think, 2012)

  • “40% of ALL nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the Retina. In fact, 50% of ALL neural tissue deals with Vision in some way. The nerve fibers statistic is also cited by Eric Jensen in Brain-Based Learning.” (Image Think, 2012)

  • “In that same paper from 1957 that R.S. Fixot published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology (summarized here), 50% of our neural tissue is directly or indirectly related to vision. More of our neurons are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined. In fact, we may be out-evolving our sense of smell.” (Image Think, 2012)

  • “ It is often said that 2/3 (60%+) of the brain is "involved" in vision. However possibly less than 20% of the brain is dedicated to "visual-only" functioning. The other 40% is doing vision+touch, or vision+motor, or vision+attention, or vision+spatial navigation, or vision+meaning, etc. There is generally a smooth gradation from areas fully-specialized to one thing to areas involved in many things.” (King, 2013)


  • According to John Medina in his book Brain Rules,” in the fight for more neural real estate that’s going on between our olfactory cortex and the visual cortex, vision is winning.” (Image Think, 2012)

  • According to Grady, “The eye and brain work in a partnership to interpret conflicting signals from the outside world. Ultimately, we see whatever our brains think we should.” (Discover Magazine, 1993)

  • “More than 50 percent of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information,” points out Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics. “Understanding how vision works may be a key to understanding how the brain as a whole works.” (Hagen, 2012)

  • “When scientists back in the 1950s met to talk about artificial intelligence, they thought that teaching a computer to play chess would be very difficult, but teaching a computer to see would be easy,” says center member David Knill, professor of brain and cognitive sciences.” (Hagen, 2012) “Why? Because chess is hard for humans. Only the rare human with lots of practice becomes a master. But seeing appears easy for us. Even a baby can see. For that matter, insects, birds, and fish can see—albeit differently than humans. Some see better, in fact.” (Hagen, 2012)

  • “What researchers now know is that human vision is incredibly complicated. While we’ve developed software that can beat the pants off the best chess master and best our brightest at 'Jeopardy!', computer models have barely scratched the surface of human vision.” (Hagen, 2012)

Vision Illustration

  • “We mistakenly think of human vision like a camera,” says Knill. “We have this metaphor of an image being cast on the retina and we tend to think of vision as capturing images and sending them to the brain, like a video camera recording to a digital tape.” (Hagen, 2012)

  • “But human vision is more akin to speech than photography. From infancy, our brain learns how to construct a three-dimensional environment by interpreting visual sensory signals like shape, size, and occlusion, how objects that are close obstruct the view of objects farther away. Even nonvisual cues, such as sounds and self-motion help us understand how we move in space and how to move our bodies accordingly.” (Hagen, 2012)

  • “This report assessed outcomes of hypnotherapeutic interventions for 505 children and adolescents seen by four pediatricians over a period of one year and followed from four months to two years. Presenting problems included enuresis, acute pain, chronic pain, asthma, habit disorders, obesity, encopresis, and anxiety. Using strict criteria for determination of problem resolution (e.g., all beds dry) and recognizing that some conditions were intrinsically chronic, the authors found that 51% of these children and adolescents achieved complete resolution of the presenting problem; an additional 32% achieved significant improvement, 9% showed initial or some improvement; and 7% demonstrated no apparent change or improvement. Children as young as three years of age effectively applied self-hypnosis techniques. In general, facility in self-hypnosis increased with age.” (Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, 1984)


  • “In 2013, the Journal of Cranio-maxillofacial Surgery published a study in which 24 volunteers had two wisdom teeth removed. All of the patients had one tooth removed with the help of hypnosis alone, and the second tooth was removed using standard local anesthesia, without hypnosis. Here are the reported results: “Of the subjects who underwent hypnosis, only two subjects (8.3 percent) reported pain after induction of hypnosis. In the local anesthetic group, 8 subjects (33.3 percent) reported pain. The results of the study clearly showed that patients in the hypnosis group had less pain during the first few hours post-operatively.” (Romane, 2016)

  • “Mental imagery is a familiar aspect of most people's everyday experience (Galton, 1880a,b, 1883; Betts, 1909; Doob, 1972; Marks, 1972, 1999). A few people may insist that they rarely, or even never, consciously experience imagery (Galton, 1880a, 1883; Faw, 1997, 2009; but see Brewer & Schommer-Aikins, 2006), but for the vast majority of us, it is a familiar and commonplace feature of our mental lives. The English language supplies quite a range of idiomatic ways of referring to visual mental imagery: ‘visualizing,’ ‘seeing in the mind's eye,’ ‘having a picture in one's head,’ ‘picturing,’ ‘having/seeing a mental image/picture,’ and so on. There seem to be fewer ways to talk about imagery in other sensory modes, but there is little doubt that it occurs, and the experiencing of imagery in any sensory mode is often referred to as ‘imagining’ (the appearance, feel, smell, sound, or flavor of something).” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2014)


  • “Our ability to see is literal and figurative, in that our brains can generate images regardless of whether or not we are physically seeing an object with our eyes. The ability to “see” without seeing, known as mental imagery, can be used as a way to improve athletic performance, to instill positive thinking, and to treat the symptoms of certain mental conditions. For example, the use of meditation to focus the mind on a single object can reduce the occurrence of intrusive thoughts in conditions such as OCD and ADHD. Though our general understanding of the ways in which mental imagery can affect us is pretty good, how and why we use it remain unanswered questions.” (Rogers, 2008)

  • Albert Einstein said “Imagination is the most powerful creative force in the universe.” (Alban, 2017)


  • “There is plenty of research on imagery’s effectiveness for a variety of issues. With regard to our bodies, this includes (but is not limited to) reducing the severity of hot flashes, postoperative pain and pain medication use; alleviating nausea; increasing mobility and decreasing pain in osteoarthritis, improving symptoms of asthma, and more. Imagery can also help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve self-confidence, help us visualize success, and enhance our ability to perform. Well-known athletes, including Tiger Woods, have been frank about their use of imagery to improve their games, and with good reason.” (Psychology Today, 2013)

  • “Scientists have devised a way of reading your mind—or at least determining what you're looking at. By looking at your brainwaves, scientists at Stanford, Ohio State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are able to tell whether you're looking at a photo of a beach, cityscape, forest, highway, mountain or office, just by the pattern in which your neurons fire.” (National Geographic, 2011)

  • “If brain space indicates the importance of a sense, then vision is the most important. Roughly 30 percent of neurons in the brain's cortex are devoted to vision, compared with 8 percent for touch, and 2 percent for hearing.” (National Geographic, 2011)


  • “A genetic mutation found in approximately two to three percent of women allows them to see up to 100 million different colors—one hundred times more than the average person.” (National Geographic, 2011)

  • “Unlike other senses, human vision is processed in the back of the brain (in a location called the occipital lobe). The senses of smell, taste and hearing are processed in the sides of the brain (in the temporal lobes).” (National Geographic, 2011)

  • “Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have calculated that the human eye can transfer data at the rate of approximately 8.75 megabits per second—roughly triple the speed of the average Internet connection in the United States.” (National Geographic, 2011)

  • “Scientists have found evidence that birds can literally see the earth's magnetic fields.” (National Geographic, 2011)


  • “The ultimate purpose of the visual process is to arrive at an appropriate motor, and/or cognitive response.” (Brain Line, 2017)

  • “Although the visual processing mechanisms are not yet completely understood, recent findings from anatomical and physiological studies in monkeys suggest that visual signals are fed into at least three separate processing systems. One system appears to process information mainly about shape; a second, mainly about color; and a third, movement, location, and spatial organization. Human psychological studies support the findings obtained through animal research. These studies show that the perception of movement, depth, perspective, the relative size of objects, the relative movement of objects, shading, and gradations in texture all depend primarily on contrasts in light intensity rather than on color. Perception requires various elements to be organized so that related ones are grouped together. This stems from the brain’s ability to group the parts of an image together and also to separate images from one another and from their individual backgrounds. ” (BrainFacts.org, 2016)

  • “Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered that an area of the brain previously thought to process only simple visual information also tackles complex images such as optical illusions. The research, conducted with animals, also provides evidence that both the simple and more complex areas of the brain involved in different aspects of vision work cooperatively, rather than in a rigid hierarchy, as scientists have believed to date. "Because half of the human brain is devoted directly or indirectly to vision, understanding the process of vision provides clues to understanding fundamental operations in the brain," said Professor Mriganka Sur of MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The research, which will appear in the December 20 issue of the journal Science, was conducted by Professor Sur, graduate student Bhavin R. Sheth, and postdoctoral fellows Jitendra Sharma and S. Chenchal Rao, all of the same department.” (MIT, 1996)


Whenever you close your eyes and imagine something, your brain is creating, adjusting, or reinforcing your mental image of something—and, in the process, it's building the mental machinery (neurons, hormones, etc.) that are needed to help make that mental image a reality. However, don't take my word for it. In fact, don't take Einstein's or any of the other authors' words for it.

Try this simple trick: Close your eyes and Imagine one of the happiest moments in your life. Then, look in the mirror, take a picture of your face, or notice how you feel. Next, do the same thing and think about one of the saddest moments in your life. Then, look in the mirror, take a picture of your face, or notice how you feel. Finally, think of one of the scariest moments in your life (Fear, Phobia, etc.). Then, look in the mirror, take a picture of your face, or notice how you feel. What you should Notice is that your expressions, feelings, emotions, and other facets of yourself will reflect the mental image that you've conjured up. Interestingly enough, the same mental images that tend to imprison us (Fear, Phobias, Anxieties, Etc.) also have the ability to free us. Do you use a "Vision Board?" Do you know someone who uses a "Vision Board?" Ever wonder why people use them, or where they came from? If you haven't already, then you should start.


All thoughts, feelings, actions, behaviors, and human processes begin in the brain. You truly do have to "See it in order to Believe it", and you have to "Believe it in order to See It." Walt Disney often said it best


David A. Wright, MD, MBA, MHSA (Medical Legal Consultants of Greater Atlanta)

Dr. Wright is a Board Certified Physician Hypnotherapist, Board Certified NLP Practitioner, Board Certified TimeLine Therapy
® Practitioner, Board Certified NLP Mental Health Coach, & Psychoanalyst in training

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Dr. Wright believes that the Best Method of helping patients to achieve their goals is by gaining access to the Subconscious [Unconscious] Mind. It is there that the answers to lasting change reside. If working with the Conscious Mind (which is what most modern talk therapies employ) were the Best Method of Achieving Change, then more people would already be living the lives they've consistently desired. The primary reason why they haven't achieved lasting change is because they've tried to achieve change by treating the symptoms on the surface, while allowing the deeper, real dilemmas to fester, grow, and thrive

Dr. David Wright achieved his MD in July of 2010, graduating Suma Cum Laude from Xavier University School of Medicine. His primary emphases in medical school were forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry (addiction medicine), and neurology. While attending medical school, Dr. Wright concurrently completed 2 Masters Degrees back to back: an MBA and an MHSA. After completing his MD and both Masters degrees, Dr. Wright continued his educational pursuits by completing a Certificate in Strategic Management in 2012 and a Certificate in Human Resources Management in 2013, and a Marketing Certificate in 2015.