Inability to visualize

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Inability to visualize 2012-01-15T13:49:21+00:00

The Forums Forums What is it? Co-morbidities/Secondary Disorders Inability to visualize

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  • #90415
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    Anonymous
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    I’ve been struggling with some of the meditation practices we do that involve visualization and memory (in the sense of remember steps in a complex visualization). My husband remarked on this yesterday when he exclaimed “no wonder you don’t like poetry” since no images come to mind when I read poetry. I can’t stand reading poetry, I always think “what does it mean, why did he/she bother to write this, who actually pays someone to write this stuff?” Apologies to Leonard Cohen and others.

    I presume that I have dyscalculia, unable to estimate distance, time, etc. I have trouble remembering faces, names, past events, past conversations, etc. I can forget what the question was if I take more than a minute to answer. I can’t follow conversations very well, I’ll often interject with something inappropriate or unrelated. I take a long time to figure out how something works because I have trouble visualizing it. I have poor problem solving skills as a result, terrible in math. Obviously I don’t think of consequences of actions because I can’t visualize them all the way through (partly because of impatience). I only know that when i don’t do certain things, or when I do certain other things, I get in trouble, so I try to avoid them.

    I specifically have trouble visualizing in my mind – if you ask me to visualize a red square I can probably come up with something, but if you ask me to visualize a scene and activities within that scene, I can’t. It’s frustrating in therapy because no images really come up for me from the past except one or two, and they lose their “juice” (emotional impact) fairly quickly, so I have nothing really to work with. I can remember, for example, that I have been to Ireland, Scotland and England twice, but I remember few details and photographs don’t bring back any visual memories for me. I have read that this is a problem with what they call episodic memory.

    There’s very little about this on the internet. Some websites call it non-visual learning disorder, but there isn’t anything really that talks about this specifically nor how to deal with it.

    Does anyone else have this specific problem? Not a math problem, not ADHD symptoms, but a problem with visualizing in your head. I mean, there’s lot of stuff going on there, but I can’t direct it in a specific way nor is it visual imagery.

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    #111461
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    Scattybird
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    No I don’t have the specific problem you’re asking about. I can imagine (see) things in my head but I have problems visualise where I have been but that’s more of a memory deficit rather than not being able to visualise as such.

    But if I try to meditate I cannot visualise anything! So instead of sitting still getting frustrated I try to do the mindful stuff.

    Not really sure what I’m doing with it but for example if I go for a walk somewhere nice I try to walk slowly or even stop and just take in what’s around me. So I’ll try to be aware of how the breeze feels on my face, or the sound of leaves moving in a tree or the way the light falls on some water etc. To me that has the advantage of me focussing on something I don’t have to imagine, but I have to concentrate on being aware. It’s nice when it works and gives me a moment of calm.

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    #111462
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    Hi scattybird,

    Mindfulness is supposed to be very good for ADHD. I first learned it years ago at a Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction 8 week program. I have since gone on to other practices, although I do mindfulness practices as well, not saying anything about it being good or bad, just that I am doing other practices now for the most part. Breath practice can also be a mindfulness practice if you invite anything else that comes through the senses to be non-judgementally observed along with the main focus, the breath.

    I often struggle with attention (non-ADDers do as well), but it’s the visualizations specifically that are giving me a problem, and that’s one of the practices I am supposed to be working on. Not only that, there are a number of different visualization practices and they get more and more complex. I haven’t been doing them since I started investigating the sleep & ADD issues, but I am expecting that my teacher will want me to go back and start working on them again. He’s not familiar with ADHD (or learning disorders either, I think, not sure), so I want to find more information about what it is and how I can work with it, or the lack of it, it seems :?

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    #111463
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    Scattybird
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    Hi no_dopamine,

    It sounds like you’re way ahead of me on this. I wonder if I have misinterpreted what you mean by visualisation? I just mean being able to have a picture in my head. But actually there are different levels of this. Before I was diagnosed I was desperate to try to motivate myself so I bought a book on positive visualisation. The idea was that I should be able to visualise the positive outcome of me actually doing something such as finishing a project at work on time and visualising how good that would feel. Then I would be motivated to get it done. At the time I didn’t know I have ADD (or am ADD!). I find that kind of visualisation impossible. There’s no way I can visualise in that sense.

    It’s an interesting subject. Hope your teacher helps you get there.

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    #111464
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    auntybb
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    What a relief! I thought that I was the only person in the world who couldn’t visualize. Those tapes with “guided” meditation always get ahead of me before I’ve managed to even start visualizing the first thing. I’ve always found it funny to go running after the next one, especially in a relaxation tape.

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    #111465
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    Anonymous
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    auntybb – I do better with guided meditations, I manage something, but we are supposed to do these unguided, he guides us through the first time and provides written instructions, but I still can’t manage it. This is not a good example of what I am doing, but here goes anyway: imagine you are supposed to be visualizing yourself on a sunny beach somewhere and can’t remember the next step – how quickly does the visualization vapourize when you have to stop and read the next step?

    Did I mention I am a lousy cook – I can’t follow a recipe, I forget what I just read, I skip over a key ingredient, etc.

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    #111466
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    nellie
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    Ok this is fascinating although I don’t think I I have this problem. I can imagine a thing or place but it is sort of fuzzy not vivid like in a dream. But if you aren’t visualizing , what exactly is going on in your mind? Just thoughts? Like if someone says “red truck” for example, how do you conceptualize it? How do you distinguish it from a blue one?

    What about numbers? I started a thread about this ages ago that someone resurrected recently. Also how do you see the continuum of time? I see numbers in a linear form and other people see the actual number pop up in their head.

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    #111467
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    I’m pretty sure I have a math disorder, so that’s difficult for me to answer. I was talking about it with my husband last night, and I think many things are just a static memory (if that’s the right term, fixed in time). I know the number three looks like a bum turned sideways – adding a little humour here, but I need to get to the bottom of this 🙄 Numbers don’t really mean anything to me, they are things that I have to manipulate.

    I think my schooling started to deteriorate when education moved from memorizing and repeating what the teacher wanted to hear, to conceptualizing and whatever else came next. I coasted through school but I can’t remember anything I learned.

    I was reading a bit more online, mental imagery seems to be the more common term, but it’s hard to find stuff because when you use that as a keyboard, all you get are flakey sites promoting learning how to visualize yourself at a sport. Studies show that’s effective, more effective than actually practicing the sport, but if you can’t do the visualization in the first place, where do you start?

    Apparently people do have differing degrees of vividness of visualizations, it’s connected to the early visual cortex of the brain (basically that area is stimulated whether you are thinking of or doing the activity) and can be objectively measured according to one study. But that doesn’t help me relate it to myself and my specific brain disorders (sleep, learning, ADHD).

    Scattybird, the visualizations I’m supposed to be doing are dynamic (not fixed), not familiar places, people or events, and they are complex and get more complex and longer.

    I’d like to know what my problem is, who else has it, how I can work with it to improve it (ie no meds), or should I just give up?

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    #111468
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    nellie
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    This is fascinating to me albiet an obvious source of frustration for you. I’ve been googling since I read it instead of working :-)

    You probably read the Wikipedia entry on Mental imagery

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_imagery

    and the entry on visual memory

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_memory

    but I found the mention of the possible connection to sleep interesting:

    Sleep

    Findings surrounding sleep and visual memory have been mixed. Studies have reported performance increases after a bout of sleep compared with the same period of waking. The implications of this are that there is a slow, offline process during sleep that strengthens and enhances the memory trace.[14] Further studies have found that quiet rest has shown the same learning benefits as sleep. Replay has been found to occur during post-training quiet wakefulness as well as sleep. In a recent study where a visual search task was administered quiet rest or sleep is found to be necessary for increasing the amount of associations between configurations and target locations that can be learned within a day.[14] Reactivation in sleep was only observed after extensive training of rodents on familiar tasks. It rapidly dissipates; it also makes up a small proportion of total recorded activity in sleep.[14] It has also been found that there are gender differences between males and females in regards to visual memory and sleep. In a study done testing sleep and memory for pictures it was found that daytime sleep contributed to retention of source memory rather than item memory in females, females did not have recollection or familiarity influenced by daytime sleep, whereas males undergoing daytime sleep had a trend towards increased familiarity.[15] The reasons for this may be linked to different memory traces resulting from different encoding strategies, as well as with different electrophysiological changes during daytime sleep.[15]

    This is how I see the world:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

    If you hear a word how do you conceptualize it? I know my kids tell me they see a word in front of them whereas I see the object. But we all suck at math so don’t suppose that can be a connection :-)

    This seems really interesting but haven’t read it all:

    http://www.imagery-imagination.com/non-im.htm

    Have you seen this one?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511075032.htm

    sorry if this disjointed but I’m on the phone with my mom who called me in the middle of this post so should go concentrate on that now :-)

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    #111469
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    Hi Nellie, thanks so much for the links. I did look up the first two. I need more time to look at the others.

    As you know, I have recently been diagnosed with a sleep disorder and the issue is that (along with excessive daytime sleepiness and probable ADHD too), I have extremely fragmented sleep (spontaneous awakenings), so I never get past the 1st or 2nd stages of sleep or if I do, it’s very short. I have to have a sleep study again once the meds are sorted out (weaning off sedative starting this week). So there may be a connection there. I rarely dream, lately I had one or two dreams where I’m struggling to wake up – not surprising since the sedative is strong.

    About words – I have a problem with poetry. It is meaningless to me. Abstract art is too. Doesn’t even trigger emotions other than “wtf was this person thinking of? (sorry for swearing). So I think I approach the world more intellectually than conceptually. Someone has told me this is an apple so that’s how I know. As a child, you learn not to question these things.

    More later, not supposed to be on the computer, meds wearing off so need another dose – back tonight.

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    #111470
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    Interesting article on synesthesia – I don’t have it, although I had photographic memory as a child and that may be how I learned in school.

    I have strong auditory memory, just the other day a song popped into my head without warning – when I looked it up, it turns out it was a popular hit in 1960 (I was about five years old), and associated with my dad. I hadn’t been thinking of either. But the song pops up, some of the lyrics, but the melody is very strong and accurate. I can’t usually hear lyrics in songs as I listen for the harmony and rhythm (I am a former classically-trained musician, dropped out of honours performance at uni in the mid-70s, thank you ADHD).

    This has happened a lot more recently, I am hypersensitive to sound. I couldn’t listen to the radio as they were already playing non-stop Christmas songs, I just had to hear one, and it would be playing in my head for days on end. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, full orchestration with choir of Handel’s Messiah (which I played years ago as a student in orchestras), Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, etc. TV commercials do the same thing, they are strongly embedded in my subconscious mind.

    I read the wiki on number lines, and I don’t think of numbers that way. A one or a seven or a minus 1 doesn’t mean anything to me, well it does sort of, but I have to think about it. I guess when someone says something to me, I “see it” as a written word since that’s the strongest association for me other than sound. Say apple, and I am likely to see the word, not think of a an apple. I was an excellent speller as a child.

    Saw the second last link this morning, he doesn’t seem to think people who don’t mentally visualize exist, so not much help there.

    I am thinking that I need to sort out how I DO learn and see the world, and come up with a strategy to make up the difference or deficit in visual mental imagery that I appear to have. I must have mental images or I wouldn’t recognize objects, I guess, but that’s different than making a whole movie happen in your mind’s eye.

    Let me know if you find anything else. Sorry to have distracted you from your mom’s phone call!

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    #111471
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    nellie
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    No distraction, ADHD multi focus :-)

    But perhaps your learning style is best suited to auditory methods. Sounds like your auditory sense is very strong.

    That connection was also mentioned in one of the WIkipedia articles. Of course not suggesting that wiki is an authority,but certainly an interesting starting point ( thought I had to throw that in there before someone blasts my lack of credible sources!)

    Oh too bad about the non-existance thing – I was on the phone when I found that one so haven’t read it yet :-)

    But what about the connection between forming mental images and vision problems? Found anything there?

    Oh by the way, you mentioned poetry – can;’ stand it! Way too slow for me somehow. And forget about long descriptive paragraphs in books – they drive me crazy!!! That must be an ADD impatience thing.

    The fact that you mention having photographic memory as a child but now say you have a strong auditory memory. According to this article – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eidetic_memory

    it’s sort of part and parcel of the same sort of thing:

    Eidetic memory ( /aɪˈdɛtɪk/), commonly referred to as photographic memory, is a medical term, popularly defined as the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme precision and in abundant volume.

    But it also mentions that there is a controversy as to whether eidetic memory actually exists

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    #111472
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    I think we’ve done some sort of eidetic imagery, I can sort of recall an event, but there’s little emotion or meaning to it. I have to kind of fake it. Very frustrating.

    I read up a bit more on photographic memory and learning disabilities. I think I’m more confused now. Hypersensitive to sound, thank goodness for my ear protectors!

    I did read one study where a person (male) couldn’t visualize something with his eyes closed, but with his eyes open, he had no problem. Apparently the brain works the same whether you are imagining or actually looking at something.

    I’ve had an experience where a movie-like image appeared, in black and white, very detailed. it didn’t last long, maybe 10-20 seconds. I was at a 7 day retreat at the time, usually this sort of thing is dismissed as a “makyo” or something that the mind makes up to amuse itself. But I really wonder now what it was. I do get migraine auras periodically.

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