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Do you want a support forum if you “cannot visualise”?

2010 September 10

(please read the FAQ page about what I mean: https://porillion.wordpress.com/visualisation-faqs/)

(This post is “sticky”, meaning it always appears at the top. Please scroll down for the latest post.)

I have not yet found an online forum for support for this problem, which I now feel given my complete lack of medical or other support I now need and so others may to. If you would like me to look into forming one then please comment on this post (you will have to give your e-mail address, but only I can see that). If enough people ask for it, then I will look into setting one up.

(Please state clearly that you are interested!)

Please note that although I ask you to leave your e-mail address when making your comment, it is not displayed and no-one but me can see it.

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34 comments

  1. I think non/low imagers need a forum. I hope it would be active, although a lot of people probably don’t understand that they are different.

    I was in my late thirties and (ironically) studying memory techniques, before I really understood that most people can see images in their heads. The Roman Room technique is never going to work for me, since I can’t visualize a room. That’s when I started poking around the Internet for a little more information.

    I’m sorry you have gotten so little support from the medical establishment.

    I got very frustrated in August, at a training given by staff from a very prominent teaching college. They were describing how to “teach” children to visualize what they were reading. I raised my hand and commented that some people, including myself, could not really visualize anything, no matter what. The trainer explained that that’s why they were training us…so we could teach children how to visualize! Duh!

    The denial of this problem is baffling. It’s the 21st century, for mercy’s sake.


    • Hi, Lina,

      Thank you for comments. I do find the trainer’s response baffling too. My guess is that s/he was previously unaware of the range of visualization (which has been objectively proven). Plus s/he has an interest in training using these techniques which may blinker his/her openness to the possibility that it may not work for everyone!

      Take care.


  2. I’ve been googling from time to time looking for information on my inability to visualize images or colors. Very unusual because I am a profoundly deaf 61 year old female. I learned sign language when I was 20 y/o but I continue to be very dependent on sounding out words in addition to seeing signs or print/text, instead of sign language only. If someone told me to “picture a waterfall”, I would HEAR in my head, “picture a waterfall” instead of seeing an image of a waterwall.

    We all dream every night but for several decades I have been UNable to recall any dreams. Maybe 1 to 3 times a year I will wake up with the feeling I was dreaming, maybe recall something but that was very rare. I did dream in pictures and voice as a child. I don’t remember when my recall of dreaming ceased. I have no trouble falling asleep–touch the pillow and I am out.

    While I was able to dream in pictures, I am pretty sure I was unable to visualize as a child. If anyone knows of any research going on in this area, I would appreciate the info.


    • Hi, Regina,

      Thank you for your comment. One thing I’m finding interesting is that several people with low/no visualization report some kind of unusual dreaming: Either very vivid dreams, no pictorial dreams at all or no dream recall. Unfortunately, with all these things, you’d need to know what’s “normal” in the whole population before drawing any conclusions for us. I haven’t looked at dreaming yet, but if memory is anything to go by, finding this stuff out for non-academics/non-medical people isn’t easy.

      Can I put you down as interested in having a support forum?

      Kind regards.


  3. A support forum for those of us, who “cannot visualize,” would be much appreciated.There’s only a handful of mentions of this phenomenon on any search engine, using most any synonym or arrangement of words that could describe our plight. Linking to autism, epilepsy, and LD-related sites might bring more traffic.

    Re: my own experiences with this problem:

    I have noticed that every firsthand account of the problem differs from all others and my own in major ways. As stated by a poster above, I have wildly vivid dreams, often remembering multiple dreams per night. During the day I have a completely dark inner dome.

    Aperceptive agnosia–the inability to copy shapes/ conceptualize shape– is perhaps related to the type of condition we’re discussing. Granted, I can copy drawings if I work hard at it. Even before I lost my ability to visualize, simple 3-D shapes in geometry were always difficult for me to picture.

    Unlike many others who report related prosopagnosia, I am always able to recognize people’s faces and see faces that are right in front of me, it’s simply that I cannot visualize a face when away from it. Instead my dark mind, which I have now decided uses abstract thought as a sort of extra sense, files away descriptors of a person like a police report would, while recalling an essence of a person, a voice, posture, etc. People become like characters in a novel.

    Up until about the age of eighteen I could visualize at will. I was in fact a very advanced visualizer (daydreamer). I honestly didn’t notice much when this ability began to fade. One day it occurred to me that it had been years since I had seen a mental image.

    I recently tried to take a physics course, something I would have done okay with before my loss of visualization, and I was just hopeless with understanding the highly visio-spatial concepts. Math has become more difficult too, since I have noticed most rote math learning was stored in my memory in a sort of visual spreadsheet that is now blacked out.

    My command of art, however, seems to have improved since the loss of visualization–my interest in painting, filmmaking, and descriptive writing constantly growing. Holding onto imagery from my dreams until a flicker of an image invades has become very important in trying to train myself back into visualization. That never succeeds for more than a second.

    Psychological or recreational drugs, a seemingly not serious head injury, or perhaps undiagnosed epilepsy may be responsible for my cognitive decline.

    I have read that our condition can be a result of dementia or a tumor. Other related things: I’m naturally ambidextrous, almost certainly of the rare right-brain dominant language function, and have dysgraphia and am a poor dancer.

    Wiki once said that total inability to mentally visualize is present in less than 2% of the population. If so many other groups with small populations can have excellent support forums, then why can’t this one?

    Thanks for getting the word out about this possible visualization disorder.


    • Hi, Kate,

      Thank you for your kind comment and your support. Most of all, thank you for your detail on how you experience low/no visualization. One of the things I’ve picked up when reviewing the posts so far, as part of the process of updating this site, is the range of experiences. To my mind this suggests that “Persistent Visualization Deficit” (PVD), as I have labelled the experience, is more likely to be either linked to a number of other conditions or simply the low visualization extreme of the general population, than it is to be a single syndrome in itself. I will write more on that when I am ready to update the site!

      Would you be able to post or e-mail me links to where you read “total inability to mentally visualize is present in less than 2% of the population”, and regarding the link to dementia and tumor, please?

      Take care.


  4. Thank god… someone else out there is looking for answers to this problem!
    I discovered about 3 years ago that the majority of the human population seems to have the ability to create visual mental images, and I couldn’t!. I had no idea until this time that, rather than this ability being confined to a minority gifted with some kind of psychic power, I was in fact part of a minority… In fact I suddenly felt like I was completely alone in a world full of aliens. An extreme reaction I know, but to discover that people have, in effect, a sixth sense, i.e. the ability to see their thoughts, shook the very foundations of my world and I sank into a depression. I was mentally blind.
    What made all of this worse was that people almost ridiculed my claims accusing me of being deluded. It seems that it was harder for people to accept that I could think without the pictures than for me to accept everyone else could.
    Like many of the fellow commentors here, I trawled the web in an attepmt to find answers or solutions but, so overwhelming is the acceptance that everyone can mental image, I found nothing but website after website suggesting ways of using this “basic” ability to enhance their lives, excel in sport, self heal etc..
    I found a couple of sites where people shared advice, and one place suggested that I take up drawing to develop my imaging….. I’m a professional artist so, good suggestion but not entirely helpful…. although my revelation about being an artist did blow a few peoples pet theories on mental imaging out of the water:D.
    All in all, the attitude of most people is one of me needing a good slap around the face to snap me out of the idea that I can’t mental image. Even some of the scientific community seem to take the approach that cognition can’t be achieved without mental images.
    The lack of mental imaging is not a life threatening problem, but it does have its consequences. Memory is the big one for me. I can’t readily put names to faces and as for remembering directions… without the ability to recall a visual route finder, I’m always taking the wrong turning.
    Mental imaging is also seen as vital in a lot of motivational techniques. It’s an essential element in the world of sport, often meaning the difference to winning or not.
    Unlike some of the contributors here, I can never remember ever being able to visualise so its not like I’ve lost something – that would be devasting -but I’m determined to discover if it’s possible to cultivate the ability, so a forum would be a brilliant idea.
    I already run a forum about manifesting… I started it before I discovered my “affliction”. On it I ran a poll on peoples ability to mental image. Interestingly, there are various degrees of the ability with some seeing all singing, all dancing, full technicolour and in 3d, whereas others only perceive very dim and fuzzy images. It would appear that others have been able to improve their experiences with practice, but without ever having the slightest handle on what it should be like, I don’t even have a starting point for reference.
    Keep me informed about anything you discover and please go ahead and start the forum – I’ll join like a shot 🙂


    • Hi, Robb,

      Thank you for your insightful and interesting comments. Your experience seems similar to others who have commented here (and my own). I think I’ve read (I’m reading far too much to get too little in an attempt to update the site) this “theory” that cognition is impossible without mental imagery. This is obviously wrong to you and I, but not to “normal visualizers” it seems. I also suffer something called complicated migraine. This example reminds me of another pet theory that consciousness and cognition relies on language (i.e., animals who have no language cannot therefore have consciousness, or something like that). Well, I had a migraine once when I lost all language – my own in my head and understanding others. Does that mean I lost consciousness? No! I could still “think”, but not in a linguistic way. So I suppose that would be as hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t lost their language for a while!? Anyway.

      I’m about to put a post up regarding my progress on my research and the offer of a forum…


  5. My Jack Russell Terrier might have to disagree about animals not having the ability to mental image… he seems to be on a constant chase with rabbits in his dreams judging by his antics and the stifled barks he makes in his sleep!
    Science seems to be full of sweeping statements, especially when it comes to discussing cognition. You, I and a whole group of other people would hopefully be proof that cognition without mental imaging is possible. I often get looked at as though Im sadly deluded when I say I don’t see mental images so I’m not surprised when these sort of comments are published as fact.


    • 🙂

      There really should be (is there?) a quick acronym for “tell me about it” (TMAI?) just like there is “laughs out loud” (LOL) or “in my humble opinion” (IMHO).

      So, TMAI.

      Anyway, we now know we are not alone at least.

      Take care.


  6. I too have searched for info on my inability to visualise. I can draw and paint to a high level (I have been commissioned to draw portraits of people and pets), have had a long career in a technical IT role, and suffer from no other nuerological conditions (I did suffer from epileptic seizures as a child).

    If I try to form any image in my mind, I get, at very best a fleeting, blurred image, which I cannot focus, or “zoom” into in any way – almost like an out of focus image on frosted glass. I do dream, but my dreams are almost exclusively non visual – I feel emotions like fear or exhilaration. I do, very rarely (4 or 5 times in my life that I can recall) have dreams that are visual, and this makes the knowledge that my mind has the ability to do this, but won’t allow me to, all the harder to deal with.

    I also have a similar inability to mentally visualise music – if I try to recall a song, it appears in my minds eye (ear?) as a monophonic “humming”, like somebody is humming a melody. I play guitar, and I can improvise, but it is entirely on a technical level, i.e. I do not “imagine” what I want to play, but rather, play according to the rules of scales etc.

    I would love to share my experiences, and find any way to improve/gain the ability to visualise, and would welcome a forum for people who suffer from this problem. To my mind, we are labouring under a great disadvantage, in many ways, without any recognition of such. Thank you for attempting to bring this to greater attention.


    • Hi, Ricky,

      Thank you for your comments. I am struck by the range of experiences that people with PVD (as one contributor suggested we call ourselves “low/no visualizers”!) have. The early results of my research suggest no obvious common thread. Some disorders may have a visualization and/or memory deficit component. It is also possible that there is a spectrum of visualization which does not mean any given person has any other health issues. I will publish my research here once I have finished it and written it up – together with the raw notes and sources. I expect this to be no earlier than June.

      We are getting close to the minimum of ten interested persons in the forum, at which point I will start looking into possible hosts.

      Take care.


  7. Very interested in any kind of support group for this affliction. My 22 year old son could be called a member of the “club”. Totally unable to see anything but darkness when he closes his eyes. No fantasy. No images. No memories of good times.


    • Hi, Steve,

      Thank you for your comment. I have replied to your e-mail to me.

      Take care.


  8. I found this site whilst researching thi issue. It would appear that it is not an issue that has been really investigated by the scientific community – mainly due to the fact that our descriptions are “introspective”, and are very difficult for scientists to measure. This guy has written some interesting stuff about imagination and mental imagery though – well wort reading

    http://www.imagery-imagination.com/index.htm#my


    • Hi, Ricky,

      Thanks for your kind comment. I am updating the information on the site at the moment, and will look at this link as part of that process.

      Take care.


  9. Hi,

    I have come across your site whilst looking for ways (as most people already here) to try and understand and/or overcome my inability to visualise.

    I have no memory of ever being able to visualise and it wasn’t until I tried some NLP CDs to try and improve my memory and confidence that I realised that it is taken for granted that people can perform this feat. I have struggled massively through my life with retention of details and academics and just really find it difficult to learn and recall information. I struggle to play the guitar (I’ve been trying to learn on and off for many years but I get frustrated that after months of practice and trying I get no better so I stopped for a while, feeling angry with myself). I cannot see people’s faces or forms, even those closest to me. I would have to use physically known descriptors such as she has brown hair, it’s long, she’s about this high and use a point on my body where I think this person would come up to.
    I enjoy reading fiction and fantasy books but see nothing in my ‘minds eye’ and when discussing this with people I meet the same as mentioned previously, the distrust, the disbelief and the stubborn ‘of course you can, everyone can’ type of answers. I have even got quite a heated response from a friend who spent a very animated and angry five to ten minutes TELLING me that I COULD see images in my head.

    Basically I think I’m trying to say that I would love some kind of forum with feedback from people like me and professionals and hopefully we can find some way of maybe improving our situations. I share many similarities with what other people have mentioned, such as the lack of fully functioning memory and other things mentioned above so I would definately find this interesting and useful.

    Good luck with everything!


    • Hi, Alan,

      Thanks for your comments. I have added your name to the list of people interested in a support forum. I will begin work on this as soon as possible, but I ask that everyone be patient as I suffer intermittent chronic illness and often cannot do any work. I’ll let you (and everyone else who has expressed an interest) know by e-mail when it is ready (don’t worry, no-one else can see your e-mail address!).

      Your story seems typical of many who visit here; except that yours is the first I’ve consciously noticed say, if I understand right, that they have a problem with factual memory.

      Take care.


  10. Hello,

    It is at least interesting to find others who cannot visualize. My mother also could not. I didn’t really identify this until a few years ago. I would say I have never had a good memory for certain things. I am a registered nurse of 30 years, very good at my job. But when I took anatomy in college I had to take it twice just to pass. That type of memorization is difficult. I have some difficulty in social situations because (I feel) I remember things slowly… then the conversation is already on the next subject! So, I became a good listener! I think I have a poor visual recall. I cannot picture in my mind a person’s face, yet I know them when I see them. I can look at, for example, a lamp in a store- but I cannot “see” how it would look in my living room 1)because while not in my living room I cannot recall an image of it in my mind to place the lamp into, and 2) once I am back in my living room I cannot clearly see that lamp. I have to physically buy it and take it home to see it. I don’t want to take up any more space- but thank you for investigating this- good to know there are others!


    • Hi, Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment and insights. You may like to know that I am putting together a support forum as well as more deeply researching this issue. I’ll post more on this site as things progress.

      Take care.


  11. I’m glad I found this thread because I am unable to create mental images too. I don’t remember if I was ever able to. I had no dream recall for probably 20 years until I tried an antidepressant my mom was taking called Surmontil. What a change, I have great sleep and great dreams. I think there may be some studies on how Surmontil affects dreaming, it is an older drug, not really that effective for my depression. But I still cannot create mental images. The closest I found to advice for helping with this was at
    http://ezinearticles.com/?Tips-for-Mastering-Visualization-Techniques&id=15315
    where it was recommended to look at an object, close your eyes, try to visualize, and repeat, opening and closing your eyes until you start to get a mental image. I’m still trying, if anyone has success with this, let us know


    • Thank, George.

      Take care.


  12. I just ran across this place while searching for reasons why I’m unable to visualize. If there’s a support forum or anything dealing with the ability to talk with others about this, then I’m in.

    I’ll be 40 this month, and have never been able to visualize anything in my life. No picture…no sound…no color…no texture…nothing! It’s not from the lack of trying. I’ve researched meditation and everything I could to help me. I’m at a loss and I feel like a ‘defect’ because I’m unable to do so. I now see there are others that have the same issues. I can’t draw worth a darn, but my memory is usually more then adequate. I can remember word for word, things my college professor said 20 years ago. If you get something going, I would love to be a part of it. If there is anyway to help or any suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated.


    • I forgot to add that I have never dreamed in pictures or colors or anything either. It’s very frustrating.


    • Thanks, David,

      Unfortunately, at the moment, I have a family crisis and I may also have to lose Internet for a while, so it doesn’t seem fair to continue with the forum project if it could fail so early. Hopefully the crisis will get resolved and I’ll be able to continue then.

      Take care.


  13. Hi porillion,sorry to hear of crisis and hope it is resolved.
    I also cant visualize and have diffilculty explaining this to people who do.
    Recently a television program(sixty minites) showed a documentary about several middle aged people who got Encephalitis (inflamation of the brain).
    The people lost most of thier memory and now have a small vidio camera which they record the events of the day and review later.
    Encephalitis can be caused by several viruses,chicken pox, measles and even cold sores.
    I think that the fact that the patients contacted the illness later on in life meant that the loss of visualization-memory was more noticable than would be for a young child or infant who have a life time to develop new memory techniques.
    I hope that some readers will find comfort in knowing a possible cause for thier dissability and perhaps if the cause is known a cure can be found.
    sincerely Peter


    • Hi, Peter,

      Thank you. Unfortunately nothing looks like being resolved soon.

      Encephalitis is not a cause my research had suggested. But what I had done until I had to stop suggests the likelihood of a number of causes, rather than any single condition. Given that people’s ability to visualize seems to sit on a spectrum and isn’t necessarily associated with episodic memory problems, it may even be that some degree of inability to visualize is “normal”. But there are some suggestions that the more extreme difficulties (such as the ones I have) may be pathological. Given that I’m not going to be able to work on this for some time it seems, I’m considering publishing my raw notes – though it wouldn’t make for easy reading!

      Thanks for offering another suggestion as to cause.
      Take care.


  14. Hi 🙂 I hope you got your crisis resolved…
    Well just in case i want to say I’m totally in on this if it is continued!!!
    I am 18.5 yrs old. I know that sounds young compared to these other posters… but i thought id share anyway. 18.5yrs is STILL a long time to go without any mental imagery. People usually just think I’m crazy when i try to describe how i think!! Although i can’t see, i can hear in my mind. Songs, television, conversations… i can recall sounds clearly. I dream sort of in images but not clearly, its like its all a blur visually but the plots are longwinded and detailed. I cannot see a face in the dream i just somehow know who it is. I have no problem recognizing faces of those i know, i just can’t recall or describe it when i am away. I thought i might also add i am an artist, and i draw with photo realism. My lack of ability to see actually kinda helps because i draw only what i see. I notice things in the physical world that most would never even notice. every light, shadow, angle, curve, etc. I am also an excellent speller because i i can “feel” myself doing motions on my mind kind of.. like if i am trying to remember how to spell i just remember how it felt to write that word before and imitate the motion with my hand, and then the word is spelled correctly. I can’t recall smells either just saying although i am not sure if others can either!! For directional things i try to imagine, i “feel” myself making those turns and going in those directions but i cannot produce a visual map… I study several foreign languages as well and i tend to pick them up a little faster because the way i think is completely made for language. I can feel words and hear the sounds associated. Perfect for learning a language. NOT HELPFUL for the “imagine you are in your happy place…” So anyway please make the support group and continue your research!!! I am super curious and very excited!!


    • i like just found out about your fiancee after this was posted… i don’t mean to appear insensitive… I’m very sorry.


      • It’s OK, Mandy, you didn’t know when you posted. Perhaps one day in the future, I’ll feel able to pick up this project again.
        Take care.


  15. First off, my sincere condolences for your loss. I believe that this project that you have started is very important to a number of people. It is a mitzvah.

    Would you consider getting some assistance with this web site? I’m in Boston and my 22 year old son has this unusual syndrome. I would be happy to help you if you would consider it.

    Steve
    Boston, MA


    • Hi, Steve,

      Thank you. When I feel ready to continue, I would be grateful for any assistance anyone feels able to offer. But I’m not sure how long off that may be.

      Take care.


  16. Hello, I am interested in any help on this issue. It took some time to realize that I am unable to visualize. Most everyone says “you can but just don’t know you are doing it” I have been able to visualize at times, but as soon as I am aware that I am doing it, It shuts off. I don’t know if that adds to the discussion or not, but at least it is a clear distinction between what is actually happinging.

    Thanks for your effort.
    Brian


    • Hi, Brian,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, due to the loss of my fiancee recently I’m unable to work on this project for the moment. Can I suggest checking back in a few weeks to see if I’m feeling up to restarting it?

      Take care.



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