Did you know that the body/mind cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a very well-imagined one?
For example, one really well-imagined experience is a nightmare. Perhaps you have awakened after a particularly frightening one to find your heart pounding, your body frozen or conversely ready to pounce, your skin damp with perspiration? Then you realize it was not a real experience and the body symptoms fade away.
Or perhaps you have heard sounds and seen behaviors that have made you imagine something terrible is about to happen. You become very alert, your breathing becomes shallow, your fists are clenched, your eyes are as wide as saucers ... and then you realize that you have misunderstood the situation and there is no danger at all. The experience was not real, but because you believed it could be your body/mind prepared in consequence producing automatic bodily responses.
Let's try a little experiment here. Try to really imagine the following as if you were really doing it:
You are in your kitchen, about to prepare a thirst-quenching pitcher of lemonade. The lemons are big, round, juicy and bright yellow. You put one on the cutting board and bring your knife to slice it. As you slice, you see droplets of lemon juice squirt from the lemon and your notice the impulse to bring a piece of the lemon up to your mouth and run your tongue along the juicy pulp ....
Now, notice what is happening in your mouth. Is your mouth producing some extra saliva based on this well-imagined experience? If you imagined well, you should notice extra saliva being produced in your mouth. Even the slightest bit of 'watering' in your mouth is evidence that your body/mind cannot tell the difference between a well-imagined experience and a real one. There is no lemon near you. You merely imagined it. Yet your body produced a physiological response (salivating), as if there were actually a piece of lemon being raised to your mouth.
Sports psychologists use this phenomenon to help their athlete clients prepare for competitions. A well-imagined practice session can be almost as effective as a real one - and if done using all the senses can prepare an athlete for the event. Of course, this is not magic and other factors weigh into the equation (environment, your health on the day of the event, other competitors preparation, intent and behavior, etc.). However, the body/mind will produce the chemicals, hormones and muscle reactions of the required moves by means of a purposeful visualization.
Any person can use this technique to prepare for an upcoming event - a speech, a presentation, an interview, a medical procedure, etc. It has often been called "fake it 'til you make it", but I prefer calling it "acting as if".
Years ago I heard an interview of the then aging Richard Burton (star of stage and screen). Up until then he had been well-known for his bouts of drinking and depression. The interviewer noted that Burton seemed to have his drinking under control and did not seem as moody or depressed as he once was. Burton replied by saying something to the effect: "Well, one day it dawned on me that I was a good actor ... so why not act as if I were happy. That's what I did ... I acted as if I was enjoying life and before I knew it, I was!"
Any of us can act as if. If you are lacking confidence for a social gathering - act as if you are very comfortable in your skin. Remember the acting has to convince your body/mind (be well-imagined) in order to produce the effect you want.
If you are terrified of needles in any medical procedure, try acting as if you are no more terrified than anyone else.
If you are nervous around members of the opposite sex, try acting as if you have a high level of comfort and experience in that domain.
If you are terrified about an upcoming employment review, act as if you have every confidence that your performance will be found satisfactory.
If you feel shy and/or inept in large social gatherings, act as if you are the host and need to make sure everyone else has a good time.
Prepare yourself for any kind of 'performance' by visualizing it going well, in advance. When at the 'performance', act as if you were totally confident of the outcome. Remember, for your body/mind to believe you and produce the ensuing beneficial bodily reactions, it must be well-imagined.
Another important piece of information is that worry is usually a well-imagined experience. We worry about the worst possible scenario in a given situation - imagining every horrid consequence or possible humiliation.
Again, your body/mind does not know the difference between a real experience and a well-imagined one. So think about what you are doing to your body/mind when you worry. Your body/mind is perceiving the worry thoughts as indication of an imminent threat (physical or emotional). You are producing chemical and hormonal reactions to prepare for the well-imagined, impending threat ... created by a well-imagined event called worrying. Worry stresses the body and all its systems. Worry is a well-imagined experience we would all do well to avoid. If you catch yourself worrying, you can remind yourself that your body/mind does not need to be put through the stress, and decide to stop.
New age gurus have usurped this information and tell their often needy, desperate followers that applying these principles of visualization and acting as if to concerns about success and wealth, will produce the same effects. To my mind, and based on my experience, this is a distortion of the principles. The only ones I have seen get rich using this technique in this fashion are the ones who make the claims and write the books. Of course, you are free to employ the principles in any way you want and see what results you get. You are much more likely to be satisfied with the results if you are applying them to inner feeling states, rather than trying to attract outer good fortune your way.
I have worked with several people in therapy who, on the advice of a guru or book, tried to apply this technique to attracting a mate, a job, or money. When it did not work they did not blame the guru, book, or faulty use of the technique. Rather they blamed themselves and struggled with a sense of failure and disappointment. You can try the technique any way you want, but just know that it works better with regard to building inner strengths than attracting outer benefits.