Imagination, Take Me Somewhere Good, Not Paranoia Land

The word of the day in UU Lent is imagination. Great, I thought, I already wrote a lot about this in my post about mind blindedness. I’m going to repeat a section from that post at the end of this one, because it explains a lot about my childhood and development.

Day-dreaming of beautiful and peaceful places…a fantastic use of imagination, right? Photo by @jesslowcher via Twenty20

My imagination has been my constant companion, sanity saver, and comfort zone my whole life. It’s almost as if I’ve lived in two worlds, the one I physically walk around in and the one in my imagination and dreams. Guess which one I prefer (even the weirdest of my weird dreams are at least fascinating!)?

Cautions – Too Much Imagination Can Be Damaging to Your Health

While using one’s imagination for temporary escapes from either too much stress or too little going on can be a good thing, I’ve sure seen a lot of times where too much imagination (or maybe it’s more like conjecture) can have some unpleasant consequences.

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.

I used to have someone very close to me who had an issue with paranoia. He would experience something, and then use his vivid imagination to come up with consequences, motivations of others, and their effect on him. I can remember a two-hour conversation about how a higher-up didn’t say hello to him, which meant his entire career was in jeopardy, she had something against him…blah blah. I just kept repeating, “Maybe she was just thinking about her own shit.” I wasted many hours and much energy on this.

I didn’t hear from this guy for 20 years, so when Facebook showed up, we re-connected. He immediately launched into how his current employers were out to get him. I did not engage.

Or course, I’ve dealt with this kind of thing myself from time to time. Mostly it’s when someone suddenly drops out of my life, which happens to me periodically. I’ve spent way to much of my energy imagining possible things I said or did to offend people, or things that might have been going on with them that could have led to it.

Has any of that helped the situation even one little bit? Well, maybe, if I would have stuck to the imaginary scenarios where I’m a totally innocent victim of some huge misunderstanding and I’m better off without the person I formerly cared deeply about. But, no, I’ve spent way too much of my energy and time imagining less pro-Suna scenarios.

Two moms and three young women. In good news, Pouri and Ellie still speak to me. I wish all of them a good life, though!

What’s helped is that I’ve been training myself to live with ambiguity. I’d rather have that than to find out the paranoid truth. I think I’d rather have not known why Edie and Leigh (two young women who lived with our family when they were having problems) both suddenly went off on me and told me everything I did was for selfish reasons, they’d never loved me, and they’d hated being in my family temporarily. Like my old friend, they were twisted in knots with things they came up with in their heads, and it made me sad. But in both cases, I just listened, knowing my actual motivations and that I loved them anyway. They weren’t interested in my perspective; they must have needed to make a break for their own reasons. I just moved on.

I hate dredging it all up, but I wanted to share how painful over-imagining things can be to others. I don’t want to do it.

So now, I’m okay not knowing what other people’s imaginations have interpreted my actions and motives to be. Everyone has their own perspective, and if anyone wants to talk to me about it, I’ll listen, but I won’t endure abuse. I’ll move on. And I am consciously refraining from imagining why others might be thinking or doing what they do. It’s not helpful to me, and I end up much more mentally healthy and with lots more time for all the things I enjoy.

Instagram of the day,

From now going forward, I’m using my imagination to design dream homes, take mental trips to interesting places, conjure up a nation and world where differences are celebrated, and remember my departed loved ones.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

John Lennon

My Imagination and Me, from February 11

In case you were wondering about me, I’m one of the 2% on the extremely vivid mental imagery side. I’ve always been that way, so I never knew any different. My mom said as a toddler, I was always wandering around talking to a tree. When she asked why, I said I was talking to Jose, who lived up there. Where this little Anglo girl got that name is beyond me. So, either I was seeing fairies, or I had a vivid imagination. It’s all the same to me.

Don’t shut the car door on meeeee!

I had an imaginary gang of cartoon characters that went with me everywhere, too. My parents loved to tell the story of the time Mom shut the car door on Theodore of the singing chipmunks. I apparently didn’t take it well. I was also a Highly Sensitive Person, ha ha.

My whole life I played stories in my head. It helped pass the time, since I was not the most popular child, and certainly not the most popular during the early teen years! I had an entire life I lived during the time between going to bed and actually falling asleep. In this soap opera, I was strong, smart, and always said the right thing. What a nice world. I also had very cute boyfriends, especially the one from the comic books who was the smartest guy in the universe, and also green.

Teen superheroes make for a fun imaginary life. Hey, don’t judge. All my human heart-throbs died.

This internal life was very vivid and had touch and smell, as well as visual aspects. I now fall asleep without my “dreams,” for the most part. I think it lessened so dramatically when I started anti-anxiety medication. I will gladly exchange that loss for my mental clarity and ability to handle things more calmly.

I still can enjoy a little mental vacation by imagining things, like what’s going on in the towns I drive through, or what animals and plants may be perceiving. I find that fun. No wonder I’m not bored easily (if ever).

Currently imagining what I will do with this future stairwell and landing when it’s done.

Is your imagination your friend or your enemy? Are you imaginative? Where do you go in your imagination?

Mind Blind? On the Contrary!

A bunch of my Facebook buds have been posting a link to a BBC article that came out in 2015. Go read it; I’ll wait.

Oh, okay, it’s about the fact that a significant number of humans do not picture scenes in their minds when thinking. It’s called mind blindness, or aphantasia. I have to admit that, in all my endless reading about how brains work, I had never realized that this is as common as it is. Apparently it affects 2% of the population!

What do you mean, some of us see stuff others don’t!? From chiller856 via Twenty20 (original and appropriate caption: The eyes are useless when the mind is blind…💀

When someone posted a link to the article and said they were mind blind, I was really surprised. I’d never have guessed. Later, people said they found out their spouses were that way and they’d never known. I got suspicious, and asked my own spouse, whose perceptions have sometimes baffled me. Yep, he has it at least to some extent, and definitely has the related issue of being face blind (THAT explains why he found me attractive!). Well, huh. I knew he was color blind (try picking out paint with that guy), but I hadn’t known this!

The article goes on to say some people become upset when they find out other people have movies going on in their heads. I don’t know; I think if I was born a certain way, it would feel normal, like being short, or prone to being gassy.

I also wonder if there’s research to show that people who are mind blind prefer to read nonfiction over fiction, as an anecdote in the article suggested. I guess it’s nice that if these folks read a book and see a movie, they aren’t bothered that the characters don’t look how they pictured them!

This also makes me wonder if some other traits correlate to mind blindness. Some of my friends have suggested their attention-deficit traits and/or social skills issues associated with the autism spectrum may go along with this. However, many people I know don’t report this. I want more research! (Here’s an article with more research, but not on my questions.)

The Other Side

What’s going on in there?

Why was I not surprised to learn that there’s another way of perceiving things called hyperphantasia, or super-visualizers. These folks have very detailed mental images and can describe what they see easily. They are folks who have been termed to have “very vivid imaginations.” According to the researcher in the article, people usually fall somewhere in between aphantasia and hyperphantasia. That makes sense, knowing how mental traits tend to work out.

Continue reading “Mind Blind? On the Contrary!”

Look Up!

Yes, look up and you can see all sorts of new things. I need to tell myself this often, since I spent an awful lot of my time looking DOWN, to see what kinds of plants, bugs, odd items and such are below my feet.

Pipes make a nice grid, plus bring the ever-popular “pop of color” to the ceiling in my office building.

But, by always looking down, I realize I do miss a lot, like the tin ceiling in my favorite restaurant, Dutch Towne. Or, like I found out last night, I miss the patterns cast by the mod light fixture in the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut the past few months.

The light fixture has bloomed into a flower.

It’s a good thing I looked up last night, since I won’t be going back to that location again.

I decided to see what I could see by looking up at my Austin office. It’s one of those open offices with unpainted concrete floors and no drop ceilings, so you see all the infrastructure. That’s supposed to appeal to millenials, you see. They like the industrial look, I’m told.

They’ve missed a big model train environment in these wire cages that hold all the wiring.

I have to admit you see some things that you can have fun using your imagination on. I keep wishing they’d put a model train track on these long tracks of wired that go all over the place.

Mmm, cozy pillows. Except they are full of fiberglass.

And the giant air conditioning duct that makes the very loud “white noise” we enjoy daily looks like it would make a very nice pillow.

This makes me dizzy. Maybe it’s a quilt pattern.

And while I admit that I looked straight ahead to see this, I keep wanting to turn the acoustical foam tiles in the recording studio into a game board.

So, if you are somewhere that doesn’t excite you visually, just look up! There may be a pattern, a shape, or an object that sparks your creativity right over your head.