Previous Interview with Charles McInteer
by Chinyere Communications

Charles Michael McInteer, M.D. works full-time at the University of Alabama, Birmingham hospital. He is an active member of both their Psychiatry and Family Practice departments. Dr. McInteer also holds two Ph.D.'s: one in Sociology, the other in Child Psychology. Visualization has been a main interest of his for over three decades. Here, he shares why he has pursued this interest and how we can use visualization to improve our private and professional lives.

CC: Dr. McInteer, would you please begin by providing your definition of visualization?

MM: Visualization is a technique whereby a person mentally takes their body through certain steps in order to practice or prepare for physically following through. For example, a dancer during a physical break, practices through visualization, and a person about to make a speech before an unfamiliar audience, prepares through visualization.

This technique has been used by U.S. Olympic athletes as well as by those of many other countries for years because it has been shown for some time now to substantially enhance performance. It is especially useful during times when the person may not otherwise be able to practice or prepare, for example, during times one is suffering from physical injury or other limitation, e.g. being on a long and cramped plane ride.

CC: How can people use this technique to improve their personal lives?

MM: Well, one way they can use it is to aid in patience. For example, they are under verbal attack by a loved one but instead of reacting without time and thought on their side, they could visualize how they want to proceed all the way through the desired outcome. This brings us to another advantage of visualization: time.

Using our minds we can go through motions much more quickly than if we were limited by the time it would take to engage in the corresponding physical movements. So while it may seem at first that there would not be sufficient time to use this technique in the midst of such a disagreement, the time is there in your mind where you can slow or speed projected activity as necessary.

CC: Is it equally advantageous to visualize a future step in high speed as in actual speed? Would anything be lost in the process?

MM: That depends on several factors. First, visualization is NOT as beneficial as physically going through the motions for practice. However, depending on what is being visualized, it has been shown to be up to 87% as good as physically going through a routine for practice. Ideally, one would have the opportunity to visualize in real time but in a rushed situation, like the disagreement before us, it is better to visualize than to proceed cold.

CC: What are the steps to effective visualization?

MM: It may sound like a paradox, but the first step is practice, of the visualization itself. Second, focus on the subject at hand, not being distracted by external noise, and quieting internal anxiety. Many people are helped by preceding their visualization with a relaxation exercise. Third, be diligent about following ALL of the steps that would have to be taken in actuality. Visualization can be thought of as a basic practice or preparation technique so as the saying goes, "PERFECT practice makes better".

Skipping necessary physical steps while you are visualizing an activity would only make you more likely to make similar mistakes following the improper visualization. Good visualization involves starting over, or at least going back to the point before the mistake, to do the problematic section again until it's perfected in the mind, AND THEN following through with physical practice when appropriate.

CC: Will you show us, step by step, how to prepare for a successful job interview? One of us here at Chinyere Communications could play the role of the person to be interviewed for a new job.

MM: Sure. When should we begin?

CC: How about next week?

MM: That's fine. See you all then.

Until next week, guys & gals.

(Part II:)

Charles Michael McInteer, M.D. works full-time at the University of Alabama, Birmingham hospital. He is an active member of both their Psychiatry and Family Practice departments. Dr. McInteer also holds two Ph.D.'s: one in Sociology, the other in Child Psychology. Visualization has been a main interest of his for over three decades. Previously, he shared why he has pursued this interest and how we can use visualization to improve our private and professional lives. We ended the first part of our interview with Dr. McInteer's promise to walk us through a visualization exercise to help us prepare for a job interview. This is where we now proceed.

MM: First, find a peaceful environment to sit down in, e.g. a passenger seat of the car you pooled into on your way to work. Second, reduce as many outside distractions as possible, i.e. mute the volume on your walkman but leave your headphones on and your eyes closed. (As an aside, it wouldn't hurt to tell the other passengers that you'll need to concentrate for a few minutes.) Take a deep breath and count back from 10 to 1 telling yourself that with each count you will become more relaxed and focused.

Then picture, in order, any stray hair on your head being smoothed, your eyebrows being groomed, your eyelids closing more securely with your eyelashes interlocking, your breathing deep and steady, your lips mostly closed but relaxed, your neck tension-free, your shoulders down and back and still relaxed, your nose-breathing in synch with your lungs and diaphram, and your legs too relaxed to stand up as each toe is too relaxed to support you counting from 10 to 1 as you feel them completely relax from one side to the other.

Fill in the space around you with your favorite completely tranquil, dimly lit scene. This should be complete within three minutes of beginning this visualization exercise.

Next, picture yourself arriving to the place of your interview 5 minutes early. The receptionist greets you warmly (of course) and gives you a cup of milk and your favorite snack to take back to the waiting area. As you munch, picture yourself and the interviewer being introduced, then sitting down, as you are now, to converse.

Then picture, one of the first questions - you considered the possibilities in advance so you know what the first set of questions will be. And you know what your best answer is, so go ahead, answer the way you intend, with the same or similar words, gestures, expressions, and tone.

Now do this for the next question and the next until you hear the interviewer say, "Thank you. This was a real pleasure. I look forward to seeing you again in the near future!" Then with a perfect smile, of course, you see yourself thanking the interviewer for their time, standing up, extending your arm for a good handshake, picking up your briefcase and jacket and gracefully exiting the office.

Now stretch out your fingers and toes and slowly open your eyes, counting from 1 to 10 with the knowledge that when you reach 10 you will be "refreshed and relaxed and ready to accomplish what [you] set out to accomplish that day." You'll feel more awake and more rested, and more importantly, more prepared. In fact, my daughter, a real night owl, has found that it's easier to jump out of bed in the morning as long as she tells herself immediately before opening her eyes, "At the count of 10, I'm going to wake up feeling refreshed and revived and ready to accomplish everything I set out to accomplish today - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!"

CC: Thank you, Dr. McInteer. Previously, you said that it may be appropriate to follow visualization with physical practice. Does this example, of preparing for a job interview, warrant physical practice as well?

MM: Yes. Time permitting, literally walk and speak through the motions and if you have a cooperative friend, go further to role play successfully handling the possibilities in advance of the actual interview. The closer you're able to approximate the actual experience the better. And some repetition is helpful but there is a limit so if you start to feel the signs of frustration, annoyance, or anything else negative besides a decreasing amount of anxiety, take a break. The visualization should feel positive and energy-providing.

CC: Do you have any parting advice? MM: Yes, if plausible, travel to the building location of your interview in advance and at the same day of the week and time of day so that you can guage travel time but do not go inside until five to 15 minutes before your actual interview is to begin because you do not want to make the interviewer, receptionist, other employees, or yourself nervous! And follow the traditional pre-exam wisdom: Get a decent night's sleep, wake up in time to eat breakfast, etc. And try to do so at least the entire week before your interview.

Alright, y'all. Good luck with your upcoming interviews!

(All new interview/dialog next week.)

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