I would like help with first steps in Visualization

[This post turned out a bit longer than I expected, adding formatting and sectioning it]

I have read through many of the visualization threads on here, but they all seem to skim the process of actually going from zero-visualization (no impressions, no feelings, no sounds, nothing); to something vague or “sense” of something.

I have no vague “sense” or “impression” of memories, or of objects when I focus on them and close my eyes.

I have a strong ability to remember/recall abstract facts, but have not a clue how to remember physical sensory input of any kind (visual, auditory, olfactory, etc)

To me, thinking is solely verbal description. Nothing more, nothing less. How does one expand this to use other senses? (Yes, I can go one-way, take smells of spices, and remember what they corresond to, and no notice minor details between similar spices; but going the other way – trying to imaging what cinnamon smells like is impossible. I have no words to describe scents, and thus can’t even recall any aspect of the smell)


  • How would one get started learning to visualise/imagine anything?
  • Any techniques that would help in figuring out how to visualize?
  • What do you think about if you wanted to visualize, say, an orange?
  • How do you go about thinking of something you want to visualize?

Detailed Background:
Recall of house/room/windows: factual only
When someone asks me how many windows are in my bedroom, or on my house; I would normally grab a pencil, or start listing out wall by wall what windows are where… I still get it wrong at times. :expressionless:

Recall of friends/family members appearance: none
I cannot recall what colour hair any of my friends have, or what the faces of family members even remotely look like off the top of my head. For example, rright now I have no idea what general facial features (shape, size, skin tone, etc) they have. But, give me a photo, and I’m like, “Oh yea!”

Closed eye contemplating of an orange
If I sit and think about an orange, about the texture, the scent – nothing comes to mind, no colours, no scents, no sensations – just general blackness, with a less-black (very dark grey) spots that seem to correspond to where my pupils press against my eye-lids – at least, they move when I move my eyes under the closed eyelids.

Factual recall
In order to recall facts – it’s just in my consciousness, kind of like speaking. There’s no real effort to recall, unless, like an underused word, an underused fact just needs some time before it’s suddenly recalled.

I can recall facts about events, but not anything visual, auditory, or smell-ory. So, Ican re-describe people, places, but not what colour shirts they wear, or sounds or smells.

Trataka / Candle gazing
I have spent a few months doing candle staring: Stare at a candle and notice the colours, the shape, the heat, the translucency. I can describe a candle flame well, and sketch it out on paper – but it’s all at a verbal/linguistic level. I close my eyes, and look at the bright circular afterimage – But I have yet to figure out how to hold it (if that’s even possible), or how to make it be anthing other than a relatively bright 40% white diffuse “sphere” (it’s flat and fuzzy), that just fades away.

When I stare at the candle and close my eyes and try to “see” the afterimage, I usually, move my eyes, in a vain attempt to actually see something (though the eyes obviously can’t see that afterimage); and do various tensing of my upper-ears, mid-back ear, temples, and outer upper forehead. Trying to relax, the after image almost instantly fades away.

Now if anyone asks – yes, I do dream; I sometimes have amazingly vivid dreams; and occasionally lucid dreams (that dissolve after 5-10 seconds )

Also, my mind is pretty quiet in there. There usually isn’t any stray throughts, no internal monologue unless I’m actively thinking in my head (internal voice).
I have no idea what people are talking about when they refer to distracted thoughts, or stray thoughts going through their head, or such. Either I’ve never experienced this, or I’ve never been sensitive enough to be aware of such things and thus it’s just silence.

Abstract/Verbal memory
I do have a good memory for facts/logic/left-brain things- Physics, math, analysis, software programming, logic, memorizing random associated factual items (phone numbers, credit cards, etc)

Visual/Creative outlays
I can also draw to some extent (i majored in fine arts). I write a fair bit. Though I have to make heavy use of paper notes to determine character traits like gait, height, description, etc.

I think that I just have no idea how to think visually. Seeing as I have never done so before.

For instance, to think about an orange, my process would be as follows.

… I don’t know. I can close my eyes, and describe an orange. How the light bounces off the sperical surface, that’s rutted from growing a thick rind; colour being a medium orange-yellow, low saturation. It would be 2-3 inches around, with ruts around. All basic facts that I learned about an orange, about it’s physiology, and just brute memorizing from hours of still life classes. It’s recollection of learned facts, rather than any sort of active recall of memory.

I think that’s the problem. I know how to remember/learn abstract facts, but not how to actively recall more concrete items.

I would love to be able to learn to memorize a book, or quotations, or foreign languages in a manner other than rote writing out; rote repetition, and deconstruction (ie: to take the sentence, draw out the parse-trees (abstract syntax trees), label parts of speech and referents, etc), and otherwise analyse/repeat it until I can actively recall it.

Advice? Questions?

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Search the forums for “aphantasia” (not sure of spelling). Your description of not being able to visualize, say, an orange, seems to match the symptoms of aphantasia, if I’m recalling them correctly.

Fun fact: Prosopagnosia (again not sure of spelling), or face blindness, is when you only have aphantasia for faces.

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I used to have difficulty with recalling faces. I couldn’t recall even my parents’ faces. I eventually realized that I could recall photographs of people though. So I spent time on a couple of exercises:

  • I would practice recalling the photographs and then trying to shift my mind from the photographs to some other kinds of visual impression of them.
  • I used to look at strangers' faces for a moment when I walked down the street. As soon as I passed, I would close my eyes and try to hold that visual impression in my mind as I kept walking. Eventually, I got better at it, and I can now recall people's faces..

Have you experimented with anything like that for faces? It might be worth trying.

That’s interesting. I might be the opposite in that aspect of thinking – my thoughts are usually running like an uncontrollable firehose, and I have to occupy my mind with complicated tasks or it gets to be overwhelming. :slight_smile:

Very interesting. I also have some background in fine arts, but I still had problems with visualizing faces. I still have some problems with face blindness – not so bad that I can’t recognize my family, but bad enough that it has damaged relationships when I didn’t recognize people who I was supposed to know.

If you would like to meet on Google Hangouts, we could try a few techniques together and see if some of them work better than others for you.

For me process of visualisation is very mysyerious, its not exactly visual. In a sense that i see it through my eyes. Its appear directly in my mind, its more about feeling of having experience of seeing something. My process would be like. Closing my eyes, then relaxing them like i would prepare to sleep and then try to remember sensation and visuals, but not controling it too much. You can try imagining moving your hands, scratching your nose as a base.