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If you doubted the power of mind imagery to change your physical state take a look at this report in Scientific American Mind (May 2012). Amputees who experience phantom limb pain can get relief from an optical illusion. This trick involves looking in a mirror at the reflection of a healthy limb from a certain angle, which causes it to appear where the missing limb should be. Seeing the limb move freely fools the brain into relieving the pain. 


Thinking of something else is a time-honored method for coping with pain. Indeed, psychologists have demonstrated repeatedly that what you think about can modulate the pain you experience. People using binoculars to view an injured hand reported greater pain in the hand when it was magnified and less when the binoculars were reversed and the hand was minimized. The size of the image affected the pain.


Until now scientists did not know how exactly that effect plays out in the body. In a study published in Current Biology, neuroscientists have found that distraction does more than merely divert your mind; it actually sends signals that bar pain from reaching the central nervous system. 


If we can control pain just by thinking differently then imagine what effective mental imaging can have in all areas of your life. The idea of visioning achieving your goals has been around for a long time but rarely has hard science been so precise in backing up these ideas.   


Your authentic or aspirational identity is what you hope to make of your self, the type of person you want to become—the “ideal you.” It is a vision of the personality traits, values and patterns of behavior you wish to personify.
The ideal you is shaped and ultimately realized in the world but formed in your imagination. Your imagination is the ultimate source of your authentic nature. It is the expression of absolutely everything you wish to be.
The focus on what you aspire to be is more an activity rather than an end in itself. You are not trying to capture a pure, original or pristine identity that exists separately from the stream of your experience—that lies hidden waiting to be discovered.
The development of an aspirational identity in this context is what the philosopher Richard Moran has called ‘self-constitution.’ He believes that we are uniquely able to constitute ourselves. Therefore, you don’t search for your authentic self, it exists right here right now. You don’t discover your authentic self, you shape your authentic self in a way that gives meaning to the life you lead.
The philosopher George Herbert Palmer described the process by using the analogy of an elm tree. When the seed of an elm begins to sprout, it is adapted not merely to the next stage, but to every stage beyond that. The whole elm is already predicted in its genetic make-up when its seed is planted in the ground. For it to become an elm it must have a helpful environment, but still a certain plan of movement “elmwards” is already contained in the seed.
But what if the seed already knew the shape and size of elm it had the potential to become? Every time it sucked in moisture or basked in sunshine it would be gently adapting this nourishment to the fulfillment of its ultimate goal. It might be asking itself for example, whether the strength gained from the environment would be better sent to the left branch or the right.
Such an elm would be entirely different to its fellow elms in the forest. Because if it could envisage what it might look like as it grew to maturity it wouldn’t be an elm but a human person. Unlike the elm we are entrusted with our own growth. The basic plan is in our genes but the environment we inhabit and the choices we make ultimately decide what we become.
Your authentic or aspirational identity is what you hope to make of yourself, the type of person you want to become—the ideal you. It is a vision of the highest potential that you aspire to fulfil in your life—the true, free and authentic person you wish to become.
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