13 May 2010

I think in pictures

Doesn't everybody? I thought so, but I'm beginning to see that my assumption was incorrect.

Owner at work put up new clocks all over the plant. These clocks boldly scream the correct time in six inch red numbers and can be set by remote control. The only good thing I found about these clocks is that the one in the lunchroom is synchronized with the time card machine, making my breaks exactly 15 minutes long. When Owner told me about the clocks and how there would be one in Scaling that would be seen both by me and by everyone in baking, I asked if I could keep my analog clock tucked away on the far wall.

Owner automatically said no as all the clocks must be exactly the same time and then asked me why. I told her that I think in pictures and when I look at an analog clock I instinctively know what time it is. I can see a picture of how much time has passed and how much is remaining. But when I look at a digital clock I have to convert it to analog in my head and remind myself it's the time and not a series of numbers. If it's a series of numbers I'm likely to memorize them or find patterns in them. Besides, I told her, even my cell phone has an analog clock on it. Owner looked at me like I sprouted several new eyeballs on my face during my explanation. Reluctantly, she conceded to allow me to have my analog clock where nobody else could see it, as long as it was the same time as the digital clock.

Sidebar: digital clocks also wiggle to me. I have very bad eyes (my prescription is -11.5 which translates to being able to see only 10 cm in front of my face before things get fuzzy) and when I'm talking or chewing, the numbers on the clock wiggle. It's a bit annoying to look at wiggly numbers.

So I related all this to S and he told me that thinking in pictures adds to my Freak Status (he calls me that affectionately because I am different than anyone he's ever known). Anyway, apparently nobody he's ever spoken to has talked about thinking in pictures. J wasn't around so I asked T how he thinks, the conversation was something like:

Me: when you are thinking of something, how does it look in your head? Like, if you want to tell me that you are biking, are you picturing yourself biking?
T: why?
Me: because I'm nosy.
T: yeah, but why?
Me: because I always have a picture in my head, or a movie of a conversation. Do you?
T: no...freak.
Me: laughing...ok, but if you want to tell someone something, how is it in your head?
T: like a running sentence.
Me: like pictures of words scrolling by or a voice of the words?
T: my voice of the words.
Me: so, when your mind is blank, is it really blank?
T: yeah.
Me: huh.

My mind is never, ever blank. In my mind I have a constant picture of something. If I'm thinking of a conversation I want to have it's like watching a movie of the conversation - over and over and over until I get it right. Or if I'm thinking of a blog post I have a movie of watching the words appear on the screen as if I'm typing them. Music is color patterns filling my internal field of vision. I was grateful to my dad for showing me Winamp's Milkdrop visualization which is swirling patterns and colors that move to the pace of the music. I can just watch it and veg out, relaxing my brain for a bit. TV has the same effect, if the show is good then my mind absorbs the images in front of me. If the show is bad, I have my own show in my head. Books are the same way.

So unless I create an environment where my brain can relax (good book, TV, movie, sometimes music) I have a constant stream of still images and movie-type images. Constant. If someone is relating a story to me, my brain translates it into a video in my head. If I'm on the phone, I'm imagining everything the person is saying as a movie. Unless they are describing how their child looked, then it's filling in the details on a photo.

This is probably why I had no problem with languages. I learned French and German (and forgot them from disuse) easily. My older sister said it was hard for her because in French she'd have to search for the translation of 'table' or 'chair' and then put it in a sentence. For me, I'm always translating the image in my head to words anyway so it doesn't matter what language I use.

During a Down, this is extremely difficult. I find I have to work really hard to find the right words to describe the picture in my head, often unsuccessfully and frustratingly. Telepathy would definitely come in handy then. During an Up the pictures move so fast I am miles ahead of the person I'm speaking to and already planning a conversation on a completely different topic. I have far more access to vocabulary on an Up and can describe things in exquisite detail, the words come easily to my mouth and I don't have to work to find them.

All of this is the reason I find the way TV/movies portray telepathy to be ridiculously slow. Translating images takes time and effort. If I was telepathic I would flash an image to anther person rather than talk in my head to someone. Instead of asking if S would like to go for a walk with me, I'd send a quick movie of us walking outside and enjoying it. Why on Earth would I use words when images are more detailed, more accurate, and more filled with emotion? Why say "I am sad" to someone via telepathy when I could just send a photo me looking sad with a strong current of emotion? I always thought sending pictures or videos through telepathy would be too difficult to portray on TV which is why they use voices saying what they want. Now I think it might be because people think the same way T and S do.

So, do you think in pictures or words? Is your mind ever really blank?


Ana Marie said...

Interesting. My mind is hardly ever blank. It causes me tremendous sleeping/relaxation problems. I can meditate well enough to clear most of it out, and when im down thats easier... but there are usually thousands of ideas. I don't think in pictures all the time, like it isnt something that comes naturally in the same way you are describing. I think in voices, words, colors, and associations. Numbers have colors, music has pictures, etc. If i say to someone "I am really sad," i picture myself as really sad while i say it, like looking in a mirror maybe. This could be that i just wish to see myself how other people may be seeing me at the time. I always convert stories and books to videos and scenarios in my mind, of course. When i think of having a conversation i usually imagine the person with me, and i usually even speak the words to myself. I imagine things in pictures and videos a lot. Maybe its not too uncommon, im not sure

Chantelle said...

I never really thought about how I think. I think I think more in words or in unformed space than images. When I do think in images, I have a hard time spitting out the words.


The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

my thinking is a messed-up jumble of sound, images, floating words and numbers, smells, physical sensations, etc.

i often hear people's voices in my head speaking different familiar phrases. therapy was helpful to me because i could integrate the therapists' words into my thought processes. their phrases became part of my regular thoughts, which was a reminder and a comfort. on the other hand, it is exceedingly difficult to remove negative phrases from my head.

i usually also have images in my head but i have difficulty *intentionally* imagining things with any accuracy or solidity. the images just morph and slip away.

when i am speaking, i think in written words, though i sometimes hear the phrases in my head. i forget things quickly if they are not written down, but i have a farly good memory for things i have seen in print.

it all mixes together, mostof the time, and i can't really describe or express a lot of it. sometimes the contents of my mind seems similar to a dream.


Chantelle said...

What Vicki said! That's what my thinking is like!

I was thinking about this, and I think that your ability to think in whole images is what makes you such a great writer. You're describing something that you can see in your head, which is much clearer than trying to describe what's in my head.

Love you,