Visual Recording

Today on a hike, I tried to do what I think most other people are doing, take in a strong visual image of the locii and use that as the primary record. It’s a new hike and I’d just decided to make a Journey out of it so I thought to try this technique. Can’t. Visual input is absolutely overwhelming and I can’t deal with it. It’s a flood of information and it hurts. My brain says “ouch” and dumps everything. I don’t know why I forgot about this when I talked myself into it.

Same reason I can’t make eye contact with you - it’s too much. Too intense. I’ll take glances at you out of the side of my eye and build up a picture a lick at a time. If I look you in the eye, I cannot understand what you say to me. Too distracting. And that’s what I would do with the locii, a glance here, glance there and then these features are held together by a running narrative. Walking between the locii, I am barely looking at the scenery. If I visit an art gallery, it’s going to be one painting. I can spend two hours with it but I cannot tour the floors and I do not understand how other people can and still come away with something.

I am much slower than most people when I have to take in raw or unprocessed information. I have to “interpret” it to myself and with unfamiliar material this is slow. Sometimes one has to just “know” stuff before one is ready to understand it. Part of my interest in memory techniques is to counter this and it does help a lot. I do get to the same place in the end. Once I have grip on the basics, and I’m very persistent, I can usually soak up the rest at a reasonable rate. Everybody else has to do this work in the end but I have to do it up front and that’s not always the best strategy.

I did take pix. I’ll try doing some sketches from them. See what happens.

This was an interesting Journey in more than one way.

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Some of what you say sounds familiar to me, familiar enough for me to offer a suggestion. Instead of primarily collecting visual memories, try collecting footstep memories with length of stride and crunch of the ground underfoot. Allow a sense of direction for turns and bends in the path. Allow a memory of distances between self and the edges of the path or objects to either side of the path. Allow other elements to filter in as supplemental accents to perfect the realism of the memories you are collecting. I have a very ancient memory from a walk with my parents when I was about two years old. I can see patches of dappled sunlight filtered through tree leaves onto the dirt path; I can hear a few seconds of splashing stream water flowing over smooth rocks; I can feel the strength of my father’s hands as he agreed to carry me onto his shoulders for the walk back down the hillside.

Small steps, start with the comfortable memory and add onto that.

This was an experiment in trying to do something different.

In fact I form impressions of the locii very similar to what you are describing. I add depth and texture of all kinds, smell, emotion, history and what I retain is not primarily visual. I might spend some time there running my fingers through the loose dirt or crushing sage brush. This works very well for me. I don’t really feel a need to pay attention to the intervening walk. I don’t think I can. It’s too much information. But for me they link as a list in order and I just mentally step to the next. Eventually, I can access them directly w/o traversing the list. Do you retain information about the walk itself? What does that give you in terms of being able to recall memories?

After conversations here, I realized that most are depending heavily on their visual memories. I do not. I use a verbal narrative with pictures attached. Most of the information is in the voices. There is commentary and then things step up and talk about themselves. I thought I would try it their way and quickly discovered why I don’t do things their way.

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We have similarities. If I were to equate visual to walking as used for remembering a list and jogging memories then I would say that what I get from a remembered walk is, foremost, the syncopation. Another way to describe that is: those rhymes spoken by children jumping rope; those phases spoken by soldier recruits just learning how to march. Before the internet existed, when I was in middle-school, I found tables and numbers in an old navigation textbook showing forty decimal places of pi. I wrote it onto a paper book-cover, covering one of my schoolbooks, and every day I read aloud one, next one and two, next one and two and three of the digits, each day progressing one more. By time I reached the end of my notation, I found myself always speaking with the same syncopation and rarely able to recognize or remember without my added syncopation of speaking the numbers; although, I was able to recite from any point on by picking up and continuing with the attached memory of pace and stressed sound and familiar syncopation.

If I need to remember a grocery shopping list, sometimes I flash on a memory of it as a photograph and half the time or more I will feel the memory of my hand writing out the words with the memory attached to the linked memories of feeling and time, or, I’ll remember reaching for the grocery item and grasping empty space.

It is not just you trying to use “their” methods, as I also am attempting to branch out in order to better learn how I differ from the next person. I also am making an effort to use visual memory in “new” ways. When I learned that I don’t remember faces in the neurotypical way, I tried harder to remember my mother’s face, my father’s face, other family members, as anything more than a photograph on the mantle or part of one eyebrow or the left nostril or a curled lock of hair. With conscious practice, I was able to combine touch memories and assemble some of the pieces into larger chunks. Oh, I can recognize a face I am looking at, until I blink or leave the room, but I am feeling satisfied with what I managed through conscious mental practicing effort, and now more than a photograph, I do have small clips of movie-memories in addition to voice-memories of my family and friends (not all of them, but my favorites).

I think you are right to try new methods. I think you can use what you learn, even if you use it in individual ways. I had Asperger’s until the new DSM recategorized it as autism; a QEEG test confirmed it.


I can recall faces of people I don’t know. When I know someone well and I look at his face, I see something completely different. I see the face as a person. I can form an image of the actual face but it’s an effort. The image has been replaced by something more abstract - a personality. I might have found her very beautiful at first or been put off by some disfigurement but all that fades. I have no trouble recognizing them, I certainly do know his face, his gait, voice etc but it’s not how I think about him.

But I find this is the case for other memories too. I may plant them with a strong image but over time, if I use this memory and know it well, something else is being retained and the image is faint with little detail.

Do you feel better now that your Aspergers is gone? :slight_smile:

I have no patience for that field anymore. I’ve spent too many years in the hands of those bunglers and known too many psychologists personally. They have little credibility left with me. It seems to have almost zero predictive power.

Yes, the rhythm of the words is very important. I hear people saying they want short mnemonics but I will often stretch it out until it has a good beat and that’s what I’ll hear when I recall it.

I used to think that I could only retain material that I understood, that made sense to me. Memory work was a significant discovery - turns out, I don’t need to really understand it, I just need a story to explain why it’s there and a fantasy tale works well too. That’s been a big move forward.

I’m a big believer in not letting oneself get too comfortable. It’s also easy to be lazy. To rely one what came easily when perhaps with a little effort, other techniques might have something to offer. While this attempt didn’t work, it showed me something about the way I do things and why.

I’m not done. I shouldn’t be so afraid of looking at the landscape. Perhaps some filtering techniques will make this manageable. Nobody is seeing it all, anyway and I should be able to retain more.

Thanks, yes, and I agree this is also true for me. (Chuckle) no, the first fifty-two years of my life were spent thinking that I was normal and that some people I would meet had sadly poor memories. A chance meeting of someone calling himself “an Aspie” introduced me to the possibility that I wasn’t average. I was thrilled to get a diagnosis of having an exceptional memory and an actual named-condition to explain why I was meeting so many people with poor memories. Well, the manual naming conditions was changed the following year, so Aspergers is now lumped in with autism and all of this is turning into the equivalent of a “hobby” for me to enjoy comparing my experience to what “other people” write of more average experiences. I have “a story to explain” why other people are strange.

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Yes, it’s been something of a shock, reading this forum and realizing everybody else is doing it wrong!:grin:

I don’t have an amazing memory but it’s very good if I’ve really paid attention. I am also trained in the habit of taking mental notes when I know it really matters. This is a big problem in disagreements because the other person is relying on an erratic memory and I knew this was going to matter so I “made notes”. I get very uncomfortable with this. I feel I am being ‘gaslighted’. I check almost everything people tell me about the world. It really bothers me that they didn’t check before opening their mouths and now in 30secs on Wikipedia I see they were talking ■■■■■■■■.

Did you need morse code for a Ham Radio license? I heard they did away with that requirement a while back. Almost seems a pity. I played with a Morse Key as a boy when I was interested in electronics but I never put in the work to be fluent. I was fascinated by the fact that even though it was digital, it was still idiosyncratic and people recognized each other’s style.

No, you’re correct, the Technician+code license I got is anymore merely offered as a Technician license, although I think one still needs to pass the code test for a Basic license since there’s no voice on those frequencies (or maybe after 28-years my memory is fading).

Back to visual recording topic: Today I am mentally attacking some clutter before I physically separate much-too-much stuff out of cupboards and closets for re-organizing stuff into useful groups. For example: why on earth are these cake decorating things next to my photo albums and how did that folding chair end up in front of the stack!? I’m going to visually see what I want to pull out then I’m going to go downstairs and pull those things together to where they can be used, enjoyed, or donated!

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Of course these days you can do it all with the computer. Perhaps that’s the justification. I’ve written code to generate and intepret MC back and forth from text. But here’s the thing, you can make a crude transmitter out of almost anything. I think mine, as a kid, was just a cap a battery and a surplus WW2 key. Amplification was still mysterious. And a receiver with a cat’s whisker or diode is trivial too as I’m sure you know. But the point is, it’s damn hard to stop a man from transmitting and receiving MC if he’s determined. Because it’s so ‘primitive’ it’s very robust.

But I think I’m a curmudgeon, I hate to see these old skills get lost. Handwriting, knot tying, arithmetic, sewing, knitting ( When I was a boy almost every married woman was carrying some knitting around to work on in a free moment ) … I do woodworking by hand with old hand tools from the turn of the 20th century. I do appreciate modern amenities but there’s joy in those skills and having your hands right on it. As you earlier described your engagement with walking which I totally understand. It would be a real loss if you were forced to drive those stretches because you didn’t have the conditioning.