I can't visualize anything
Can anyone explain this? I realized I can’t visualize anything. If you say the word orange the word comes up not the image of it. Can you picture an actual orange in your head? Sometimes I get a sudden flash of what it looks like than it’s gone.
One thing to keep in mind is, that the separation of the senses is purely superficial. The brain is segmented so that it can be more efficient, so that it doesn’t become overloaded. Because if we were to sense everything at once, it would be like hearing all sounds at once… it would just be a jumbled mess of nothingness.. but really, what is the difference between sight and sound? Between taste and smell?
They are only different things because those parts of the brain do not communicate with each other and share information. But anyone with synthesia would argue that they are one in the same. It’s all about how the brain communicates. Heck, why are smell and taste so linked? Because those parts of the brain are so close together and there is some overlap in information. To us that is normal, but all that is is a “normal” form of synthesia.
For that matter, that’s all that abstract thinking really is. Why do we associate blue with cold and red with hot? Why do we call certain pains “sharp” and others “dull”? Why are curved lines “soft” and straight lines “harder”.
All we are really doing when we make these associations is taking different sensory information and combining it together. It is synthesia at a very common/basic level, so common, that we consider it normal. However, if you were to look at the neurological process it entails, you would see that it really isn’t all that far off from what most people consider a very strange phenomena.
My point being, you think in words and emotions, but that really isn’t all that far off from thinking in a visual sense, which isn’t all that far off from thinking in a auditory way, etc. The overlap is there (even you admit to a degree you can “visualize”… you can see the outline of your mothers face, you can imagine the color red… how far off is imagining the color read from imagining seeing the color red? It’s a very thin line imo), it’s just to what degree we experience each.
You say, “The only image I have of an apple right now is a memory of me opening my fridge a week ago and looking in a drawer and seeing an apple.”… but that’s really not all that different than someone else imagining something they have yet to do. The difference is, they can combine different aspects of their brain to form a “potential future” image while you can only imagine one you’ve actually seen.
Think about it, our ability to imagine future scenarios is a function of the pre-frontal cortex. But all we are really doing when we do that is taking past memories and using those to project out future outcomes. Visualizing something in our mind is merely an abstraction of that process using the visual, rather than something like plain thoughts. We can take past “visual” memories/images and distort them to fit something new and original. Where as you seem to struggle with that and can only bring up very fixed images you have actually encountered.
However you can do that same thing using emotions. If I tell you to imagine a scenario you’ve never experience before, I’d bet you could bring up many emotions you’d encounter, even though you’ve never actually encountered that scenario in real life. You’re able to take past experiences/feelings, and project out your emotional response in a new scenario. It’s essentially the same exact thing!
Lets take taste for example.
Ask me to imagine the taste of a warm apple pie, and I can more or less do that. It’s not the strongest connection, but I can invoke some sort of sense of how it tastes. Ask me to then take that apple pie, and imagine how it would taste if I combined it with a pile of salt, and I can’t really do that. I can’t combine those two experiences into one, I’m not good at projecting that.
Ask a world class chef however, and I bet they can not only evoke that initial taste of apple pie much more strongly, but they can also use their imagination to combine different items and project/create what it would taste like in their imagination.
Conceptually, I can say what it would taste like, but I can’t really imagine “tasting it”. Much the same as I imagine you say you can imagine the concept of an apple, but you can’t really imagine “seeing it”.
That world class chef however, probably has a different experience when imagining the taste of food. A much “stronger connection”.
@stevenv, “I just have one question, how does someone create a totally new thing in their mind?”
We do it all the time. Everytime you make a decision you are choosing what you think is right based on all your previous knowledge. You take what you have learned and experienced and project out future outcomes (even if on a subconscious level) to make the “best” decision. Your brain is literally calculating a decision by combining different factors into something it has never quite experienced before and responding according to what it projects…
Consider, each moment is completely unique to any other in history. Each decision you make and each scenario you face, no matter how similar, is never exactly the same as one before. So you must be combining different forms of knowledge/experience into one cohesive “story” that your brain then tells you in order to make a decision. When you think about the future, that is exactly what you’re doing too. You are creating an entire new thing (the future) in your mind based on previous information.
We don’t think of this as strange or unique, because that’s just what we do as humans. That is normal to us. Ask a pigeon to “think about the future” however, and you’d be looked at as if you were crazy. To them, that concept doesn’t even exist.
When we’re talking of imagining visual things in our mind, its the same process just with images. It is merely our brain making the abstract combination of different visual stimuli in order to form one cohesive new image.
Heck, even when you imagine the apple in the fridge, the image exactly as you have literally seen it… that’s not totally true… your brain doesn’t have the capacity to remember that entire image. Your memory is not that precise. Somewhere along the way, your brain is taking some other information and “filling in the gaps” to what it thinks the image should look like. Your brain is not like a polaroid, no where in there is that image stored perfectly.
So while it may not seem like it to you, your brain is creating a “totally new thing in your mind” too. It’s just to a smaller degree.
And unfortunately, you might not ever be able to visually imagine it further than that… perhaps those connections necessary to consciously combine different images into one new cohesive image aren’t there (or very strong) in your brain (as I said though, you certainly can do that in other aspects, like with emotion).
Though I will say, I believe if you worked hard enough and practiced it, eventually you could change the way you thought, and your visual imagination could be strengthened… after all, that is the principal of neuroplasticity. Our conscious effort can quite literally change the way our brain is wired. However, it would take work and wouldn’t be easy (and you’d also probably lesson the connection you have with other stimuli in the process).
What you may view as limiting, may merely be a way for you to experience something wholly unfamiliar with other people. It is not a curse, it is a gift that more than likely means you are more in tune with different aspects of your senses/emotions. Everyone’s strength is someone elses weakness, and vice versa. It’s all about how you use it.
I recently saw something very clearly. I was just waking up from a nap and was still very tired. Then, like a picture, I saw a heavy man’s hand. I stared at it for a couple of seconds and then I lost the picture. I can still picture it, but not as clearly as I did.. Also, it didn’t look covered in dirt, but I felt like it was nasty.
@stevenv, Go to a table.
Get a piece of paper.
Draw a coffee cup
Tah dah. You’re like everyone else.
@alljuicedup, Thanks that’s a really good description of free-will. But not everyone thinks that way. I don’t recall past events and see what I can do in another event due to that other event. I just choose what I feel like doing at that moment. Wouldn’t that just make everyone a robot if they choose to act the same way according to past events at every moment.
Yeah I believe where the brain lacks another part of it excels. Honestly I don’t really plan on strengthening it I see no purpose in that. Like you said I rather use the strengths I already have.
@stevenv, I dunno man, if you can remember what something looks like, an apple for example, doesn’t it mean you can visualize? Like @ijesuschrist says, To draw something you need to know what your drawing. Even if you are drawing something simple like a coffee cup, lets say the handle, how can you draw it without visiualizing? You’ll need to know where it starts, how it curves, where it re-joins to the cup. You can just say “it’s from memory”, but then the important part: How do you remember a coffee cup? Do you remember it as a sound, a simple number, a set of measurements? The most efficient way is definitely to remember it as an image. So surely drawing from memory requires that image stored in your mind.
Just letting you know – but I think I have quite good visualizing, I can think of clear images – but an “image” in my mind is totally different from an image by sight. It’s simply a thought with a shape so it doesn’t feel the same. Don’t get tricked by the word “visual” – it has nothing to do with eyes!
@sfhardy, I’m talking about visualizing something on the spot. Can you picture this coffee before you draw it and as you draw it? I can’t really see it I can just remember how it is I can’t actually visualize it in my mind. Only if I try and remember a certain coffee cup and I can remember a memory of it or I can remember a picture of a coffee cup for some reason. But making a coffee cup appear in my head and put it on a desk and than drawing that scene in my head. Not happening hahah
@stevenv, What you’re describing is very familiar to me.
If you tell me for example to visualize a forest, I will only be able to visualize one I have been to before. I can’t create a new one. If I try to do so, I will only get flashes, sensations, feelings or drift into a cartoon world :D
But as mentioned before, we’re all different… That isn’t half bad.
When I’m reading I don’t picture how the characters might look like, I just read and my mind intellectualizes the story. I can still remember what I was reading though and sometimes I get flashes of images I don’t consciously remember and it feels like I have no control over.
Also throughout the day, I’m getting images from my childhood very often…
I can recall memories most people would never be able to recall.
We’re creating by thought I guess, learn to love it :)
You may want to try out some drugs like shrooms to enhance your ability to visualize… While tripping you’re seeing a lot of cool shit.
@napathy, Awesome, I’m glad someone can relate. I already do love it just that I thought everyone was like this and just realized that it isn’t the case. I’ve tried shrooms twice but I didn’t take enough to hallucinate. I will definitely try it out.
@stevenv, So if I said draw a coffee cup with two handles, you couldn’t do it because you’ve never seen one before?
You’re fooling yourself man. You’re thinking everyone else has full blown hallucinations in their imagination.
“Visualizing” anything is completely abstract. It is not in the form of a vizualization, it does not take place in the same area of the brain that handles input from the eyes. We are not fabricating images in our view space.
If I imagine a dragon with crazy wings and blue color and so forth, I don’t “SEE” it. Its there, but its not an image as if it was printed on paper and handed to me. Its abstract data, its how our brains imagine things.
To say you can’t visualize stuff – why would you limit yourself like that lol. If you truly couldn’t visualize things you wouldn’t be able to draw a coffee cup with two handles.
@stevenv, If I asked you to design your perfect house, you couldn’t do it because it never existed?
If I asked you to imagine what the rainforest looks like with some snow on the ground, you couldn’t do it because you’ve never seen a picture?
If I asked you to imagine taking a coffee cup made of clay and smashing it, you’d have no idea what that would look like?
How about a dog with wings?
A cat with a horn on its head?
Impossible? You couldn’t even try to draw it?
@ijesuschrist, No I could because I know how it could look. You don’t need to be able to visualize things to do that.
I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to explain. Anyways I don’t find it limiting at all, I’ve gotten this far without. Heck I didn’t even know it was possible. Some people can visually see an apple in their head like they are creating a movie scene in their head.
@ijesuschrist, I can draw it again, that is just putting two memories of things together.
I am saying I can’t visualize things in my mind at will. If I want to imagine a dragon flying over my neighborhood right now I couldn’t do it. Hallucinations are random visualizations. I’m talking intentional ones.
I can visualize smells, colors, images, scenarios. They aren’t as ‘clear’ as real life or hallucinations are. It’s almost like thinking for me. When I think (in English language) I sort of ‘hear’ or ‘feel/see’ the words I’m thinking, one by one, but it’s different to actually hearing them. In the same sense I can visualize a color or a smell, but it’s different to actually really seeing or smelling them.
I have just tried an experiment to visualize a forest and the first forest that came to my head is the one from ‘Alan Wake’, the video game, then a couple of others which I’m pretty sure are from memory. However, I could start visualizing some extra detail on trees (changing the shape), increasing the size of the forest, the color/hue , the size of some trees and etc. I guess visualization can works with interpreting images from memory.
The first couple of times I smoked weed I literally created movies in my head. I would smoke, put some music and create very vivid movies in my head. It was so amazing now that I remember… this effect unfortunately wore off after a couple of months from when I was introduced to weed. Now my visualizations aren’t even as close to being as vivid as those times. Also, if you’ve never hallucinated of psychedelic substances, you definitely should. It feels amazing to ‘see’ thoughts and feel what it’s like to ‘taste’ the music you’re listening to and to ‘taste’ the colors you’re looking at haha. LSD and 2c-b personally gave me the strongest visual enhancements, but I think weed still gave me the ability to create and see clearest movies in my head.
Although I’m not too sure, I think visualizations can be practiced and eventually you will be able to ‘see’ the visualizations more clearly as you practice.
@stevenv, “No I could because I know how it could look. ”
SO WHAT THE F*CK IS THE DIFFERENCE?
I think the problem is not that you can’t visualize things. The problem is you think everyone else has this incredible ability to imagine things as if its a movie screen playing in their head
Actually that’s one of the reasons I don’t smoke weed. My imagination is so vivid that I get literally the symptoms of at least 5-6 mental illnesses and start feeling physical dysfunction from something altering my mind. Controlling it is a different process, I still think it’s because of what emotion we put through visualizing. I put a lot, and even though I’m sensitive as a little bitch, I don’t have to look like it. From what I gather not many people can do that, but I’m sure it takes just practice. It’s hard to grasp if you can’t visualize things because it takes effort. It shouldn’t take any effort at all, because it’s not easy to stress yourself and clear your mind at the same time. For example self-hypnosis is when the body and mind are at complete peace, that’s why people remember “forgotten” memories and get clear visuals under it. And still the only way to have a vivid imagination is if you’re training it. Writing dreams, spending a lot of time dreaming and concentrating on books we read, or music we listen to completely make the imagination easier to express. It’s a frequent act of creating starting points.
@ijesuschrist, There is a difference no need to get riled up lol
How vivid are your visualizations of an apple? I do think some people have great visualizations skills some people mentioned them here.
I can’t form a vision in my head, I can call upon a memory.