Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 28, Image Power

[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]

Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari



There was a man in his 30’s, who was still living with his mother working as a bank clerk. Despite being hard-working, he had a difficult time communicating with others. He had almost no friends or had experience with dating. It was common for him to return home from a day of working to go straight to his room and not come out. He also rarely spoke to his mother who was growing concerned for him. Later, she decided to take him to an appointment with a plastic surgeon. Her son didn’t like to go anywhere but he hesitantly agreed to visit the plastic surgeon.


At the clinic, the young man asked the experienced surgeon if he could fix his face. He spoke about how his nose was extremely huge and his ears looked like Dumbo’s ears. He even said that everyone would laugh at his ugly and peculiar face. Clients who visited the bank often avoided his window due to his strange facial features. He even said that his mother was not sure about what to do because of his unattractive features. Similar to a patient suffering from anorexia or bulimia, he was convinced that he was born ugly no matter how distorted the self-image may be. 


Going off of the topic of self-image, I would like to share an experience regarding hypnosis therapy. As a hypnotherapist, I often start a session with a brief experiment where I ask the client to imagine a familiar type of citrus. A client in a relaxed state follows my suggestion and begins to imagine “a juicy lemon”. It is often reported that people actually begin to salivate once they smell a scent that is sour. How is it that our body reacts without the physical fruit in front of us? It is because of our past experiences engaging with the fruit that is stored in our memory. Our nervous system is not only able to retrieve the image of the object but it can also remember how our body physiologically reacts to the image with color, saliva, and smell. It shows that we have a brain mechanism that reacts to the lemon itself along with the image of the lemon. 


Psychology teaches us that we react and behave not only to the physical object itself but also to the image of the object. It is also important to remember that not all images and thoughts will portray reality effectively. 


Event/fact -> Image -> Reaction -> Behavior


When a repeated pattern exists, these fixed beliefs are often very hard to change. When a stereotype has a negative connotation, it becomes even harder to change. 


The plastic surgeon who was visited by the bank clerk understood how appearance and self-image go hand-in-hand. The surgeon listened to the young man’s story with compassion. He did not offer his own advice or opinions. Instead, he simply sat and listened to the pain and suffering that the young bank clerk experienced.  He simply listened to the emotions expressed by the man by occasionally chiming in saying: “Is that what happened?”, “Ladies laughed at you?”, and “That must have been very hard.”


As the bank clerk was being heard by the plastic surgeon, the young man began to understand that the cause of his pain was not the size of his facial features, but rather his own belief and image that he created. He noticed that he was evaluating himself based on other people’s perception of him. As a little boy, he suffered from severe inferiority complex where he told himself he was ugly, laughable, and had a face that was not pleasant to look at. 


The doctor offered a mini-plastic surgery procedure that involved a simple “pulling” of his nose with an invisible thread. This inexpensive non-surgical procedure involved a method where the tip of the nose is being pinched. This method should adjust the form of the nose and change the appearance of a person drastically. This method, indeed helped the young man’s self-image. While he still claims to have the big Dumbo ears, it somehow doesn’t seem to bother him like it used to before. 


An image has the power to make people feel inferior but it can also bring up someone’s self-esteem when it is used wisely. Imaging is similar to a hypnotic suggestion and is something we can train ourselves to do. It is up to us to understand how self-imaging works and how we can use it to let it work for us. When you experience something that is not working for you, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:


  • Is my thought really based on the true fact/event or on my own images?
  • Is there any chance I mistakenly created that image of myself?
  • Would a person in a similar situation think the way I think?
  • If there is no solid ground with my thinking, why did I believe that it was the truth? What influenced my thoughts and behaviors?