Until I was about 30, I could not see images in my head. When I closed my eyes, all I’d see was black nothingness. Due to random luck, that changed.
Before I learned the technique that I’m about to share with you, experimenting with photographic composition was a manual task. I had to physically stand in front of my subject and actually move things. That, or I would fetch a sketchbook & pencils and begin drawing my ideas on paper.
Frustratingly, many people at college told me they could see and manipulate bright, clear images in their “Mind’s Eye”. They could preplan their photo-shoots and improve their compositions just by closing their eyes and imagining what the photo might look like.
This made absolutely no sense to me. I could not imagine what that would be like. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was a reddy/brown, fuzzy nothingness.
Before I Was Taught This Technique
If I closed my eyes and tried to visualize, say, an elephant, this is my best shot at showing you what it looked like:
Can you see the elephant? No, nor could I.
All I could see was the back of my eyelids, with the reddy/brown color coming from what little light passed through them.
If I stood in front of a bright light with my eyes closed, I could see that the inside of my eyelids were a lighter brown/red. If I turned away, the inside of my eyelids would become darker. That’s as much as I can tell you about what I could see unless I had my eyes open and was actually looking at something real.
What I definitely could not see was any sort of shape, color or image.
What Is Aphantasia?
I’ve only recently heard the term ‘aphantasia.’ It is a neurological condition in which a person is unable to recall memories as pictures or create images in their imagination. I have no idea whether I would have been diagnosed with aphantasia, or whether what I went on to be taught is a cure.
All I know is that I was never able to see images in my mind’s eye. Now, after practicing the technique that I’m about to share with you, I can.
It’s also interesting that I was never able to recall dreams. I would tell people that I do not dream. Now, since practicing this technique, I regularly experience and recall strong, vivid dreams.
My Trip to London
Ten to fifteen years after leaving college I happened to attend an eight day training course in London, England. I didn’t go because I thought I had aphantasia (the term hadn’t even been invented then). The course was part of my regular personal development regimen.
Some of the techniques we were taught required us to close our eyes and make the images that we saw grow bigger or smaller, brighter or dimmer, and bring them closer to us or take them further away.
I couldn’t do this. It frustrated me. I mentioned to several of the assistant tutors that I couldn’t see images when I closed my eyes. They told me that I was wrong. ~They said that I could see images!
When I insisted, I was told that everyone sees pictures in their heads. One of them, trying to be helpful said, with a hypnotic tone in his voice, “Imagine what it would be like … if you could see images in your mind.” After a few minutes, he gave up. I had no comprehension of what it would be like.
Several days in to the course one of the Lead Tutors, a man named Michael Neill, asked whether there was anyone in the audience who couldn’t see images in their mind’s eye. Many hands when up—I wasn’t unusual after all!
Mr Neill invited a member of the audience to go up to the stage and started to explain and demonstrate a technique he called ‘Image Streaming‘.
I couldn’t wait to try it. After a few months of daily practice, this technique affected me in two ways:
- First, if I was aphantasic, Image Streaming cured it. I could see bright, vivid images in my head. I haven’t practiced the technique in years—but I still see beautifully clear images in my mind’s eye.
- Second, it improved my photography like nothing else I’d ever done. From that point on I didn’t need to construct a set, find models or leave the house to play with composition or photo ideas. I could just sit back, relax and close my eyes. Image Streaming helped me become a better photographer from the comfort of my armchair.
Today I can close my eyes and see detailed images that are pretty close to what I’d see if I had my eyes open and was looking at a TV or cinema screen. I can freeze motion, move props and models, add new items and change the lighting.
As someone who couldn’t ever do this before it still amazes me when I close my eyes and create something beautiful. This is something I’ve learned to do—I definitely wasn’t born with it.
And, as a bonus, a really useful side effect of Image Streaming is that it can help you fall asleep at night (more about that in the FAQ section below).
How to Image Stream
It’s easy to learn. Play this video to find out how.
One thing, before you do: I have found that many people give up. They try it once or twice and, when nothing happens, they decide it doesn’t work.
It took me about a month to get really good results (although I noticed changes earlier.) I would urge you to practice for 10 continuous minutes, at least once a day, for at least a month. It doesn’t work with everyone. If you’re one of the luck ones, you could soon be seeing images in your mind’s eye.
Many people have contacted me about this over the past few years. Here are answers to the most common questions:
Q. How long should I rub my eyes for and how hard?
Just a few seconds and not at all hard. Most people I’ve spoken to about this have experienced seeing ‘golden dots’ inside their eyelids after rubbing them for a few seconds. It’s something people sometimes do naturally after waking-up in the morning. The objective is to get you started—give you something to begin describing. If you don’t see the golden dots from gently rubbing your eyes, try one of the other 24 backup techniques mentioned in the link at the bottom of this page. You should NOT be rubbing your eyes for more than a few seconds.
Q. How long do I have to do Image Streaming for before I’ll see results?
Somebody on Reddit (link below) posted results saying that it worked for them within seven to nine days. If you read the comments (below) from readers of this page, you’ll see that some people see an improvement within 20 minutes. Others need a few weeks and, for some, it doesn’t work at all. I can’t promise a cure but I do feel that some people give-up too quickly. My suggestion is that you do it for at least 10 continuous minutes, at least once a day, for at least a month before deciding that it doesn’t work for you.
Q. Can I do Image Streaming without speaking the words out-loud?
Not if you want to be able to improve your ability to see images in your mind’s eye! As described further down this page, speaking inside your head while doing Image Streaming is likely to send you to sleep.
Q. All I see is black. How can I describe what I see when there’s nothing to see?
If you can’t see the ‘golden dots’ after rubbing your eyes gently for a couple of seconds, try some of the 24 backup techniques mentioned in the Further Reading section at the bottom of this article.
Q. If I use a voice recorder, do I have to listen back to what I’ve said?
No. I’m not going to pretend that I understand why but it seems that your mind just needs to know what the words are being recorded. You can, of course, listen to the recordings if you want to. Personally, I didn’t bother.
Q. By the time I’ve begun describing something, it’s gone and something else is there instead.
Yep, that’s exactly what happened to me at first. For me, there came a time when I could concentrate on the things I was seeing and I could make them stay. Until then, just keep up as best you can.
The Early Days
The sound clip that I’ve included within that video is from a very early Image Streaming session. I have become much better with practice. Images now come easily, clearly and quickly. For me, at least, it really has been worth the effort of dedicating time every day to practicing streaming images in my mind. (I don’t know whether it’s improved my IQ though.)
Do You Have Trouble Getting to Sleep?
There’s a super useful bonus reason to learn how to image stream. Not only can it improve your photography and potentially improve your intelligence it can help you fall sleep more easily!
To quickly and easily fall asleep, perform the technique in the way described in the video with one exception—rather than speaking the detailed descriptions of what you see out loud—say the words inside your head while you lie in your bed.
There’s no need for a voice recorder or friend! Doing image streaming in this way will send you to sleep quickly.
Can Image Streaming Cure Aphantasia?
If I had known that there is a ‘condition’ called aphantasia while I was college I would have asked to be tested for it. Its description seems to fit my experience.
However, the fact that I do now have a functioning mind’s eye means that either Image Streaming cured my aphantasia or I was never truly aphantasic. All I know is that I was never conscious of being able to see images in my mind’s eye until I practiced Image Streaming. Related or not, I was never conscious of dreaming when I was asleep either. I am now.
I’d love for this article to reach some true aphantasics and for them to practice the technique to see if it offers them any solutions. The great thing is that you don’t need to be able to see images to practice Image Streaming!
Michael Neill cited Win Wenger, PhD as the inventor of Image Streaming.
Here are links to the Image Streaming section of his website and to the 24 back-up techniques that he lists which can help those people who can’t see the ‘golden dots’ when rubbing their eyes. I’ve also included some other links that you may find interesting.
- Dr Wenger’s website page explaining Image-Streaming
- Dr Wenger’s 24 Tested Back-Up Techniques to Help Start a Flow of Images
- Aphantasia article on Wikipedia
- A discussion on aphantasia (including James Somerset’s contribution) on Quora
- Someone on Reddit sharing their experience of learning Image Streaming from this page
62 thoughts on “How to See Bright, Vivid Images in Your Mind’s Eye”
Hello Mr. Somerset,
Have you ever tried lucid dreaming? It’s a passion of mine. I tried your visualization technique and it worked quite well for me. I noticed too that as my visualization ability improves my ability to recall dreams seems to improve in a proportional way. Thank you for posting such an interesting subject. Based upon my own experimentation with lucid dreaming, the higher the no. of dreams that one can recall, the greater the odds are that one will experience a lucid dream. I’m presently working on a technique that utilizes visualization for help with falling asleep as in your blog but it’s involved in a rather tricky way with a lucid dreaming technique called WILD (Wake Induced Lucid Dream). It’s tricky because one must fall back asleep at a time that’s late enough in the morning for one’s REM cycles to be at their longest which also happens to be close to the time when one is waking up for the day ahead. One must try to fall back asleep after having been awake for an hour after having slept for 6 or 7 hours. I’m not sure if any of this will even make sense but if it does, I’d like to further explain my technique to you and see if you have anymore useful suggestions.
Hey, I can’t picture images when my eyes are closed but when they’re open, I can’t see images perfectly but it’s there. It’s kinda like daydreaming, so is this a part of aphantasia?
I am a french aphant, so please excuse my english 😉
Your article is a light of hope in my life. To think that being possible of seeing images in my mind one day is amazing.
I have a few questions for you. Do you think your new capacity make your life better? Is it incredible to see vivid images after years of blindness? Do this hard training worth it afterall?
I started the exercices a week ago. I rub my eyes for a couple of seconds, then I see the phosphenes. But when I try to describe them, they vanished very quicly, and I can’t make them last. What can I do the raise the duration?
Thanks for your time. You’re such a great person.
I am a french aphantasic, so please apologize my english 🙂
Your article makes the effect of a bomb in my mind. In a good way obviously.
It makes me realize that we were more than I thought, and that together, we could share and make changes.
I discovered my aphantasia almost 2 monts ago, and it was weird to think that, everything I thought as normal to me, well… actually I was the exception among people. Knowing that the majority could effectively create images in their mind… depressed me a little, to be honest. But you created this article. And now I am here, writting down this message. So thank you.
I have a few questions about the Image Streaming and one about you.
When I rub my eyes gently, the phosphenes starting to appear. This parts is ok, I have the phosphenes, yeepee!! But then, when I stop rubbing, the sparkles vanish, and I can’t maintain their presence. Do I have to decribe them even if they are vanished? Do you have any tip?
And the question about you is, do you have memories now? And do you have access to the old memories before your training with Image Streaming?
Thank you for your time.
dude, so when i am practicing? I just describe what i see? THATS IT? everyday till i see results?
Hi. Thanks for the question. Basically, yes. As per the video, you need to describe what you see to a friend or into a voice recorder. You need to use as much detail as possible. But, yes, just describe what you see and the images you see in your head may become more bright, clear, colorful, and in focus.
I’am really happy to have been driven to your post. And I thanks you a lot for your share. 45 years old, I realised 3 months ago that people were really seeing thing when talking about visualization. The first purpose that really matter for me is to be able to remember the faces of my sons. So I am particing for a week now and had some little success. I had a vision of sharp clouds while trying in front of the sun (be carefull) and one time before sleeping (without doing the exercise but just tryning to see) a 5 branches star then a 6 branches star drawned like with a sharpe pen. I will carry on. I am motivated. Most of the time I see like wide spots of pale colors moving around. Sorry for my English, not practissing for years. Thanks again.
Hey, whenever I’m in a lighted room I sometime barely see blurred splotches of white. They feel like an after-image, they’re usually in a shape of something I already been looking at, but they never change. Do I need to focus on those things, or my focus needs to be focused more internally? I’m not really sure how to do it, since when other people say they visualize, they emphasized that it’s not like seeing after-images.
I’ve been trying for some months (inconsistently), but haven’t had any luck.
WHAT THE ….!!!
This can’t be true! i did this technique until i was like 12 – every day, looking at colors and all, pressing my eyes!
and my mother told me to stop, and i got aphantasia! / or, i had it before and cured it with the technique as a child. Now i can’t see anything. Will start again! Thank you so much!
By the way: I’m a photographer and photographed for ‘the new yorker’ <3 <3 – photography and aphantasia is very connected for me.
Will do more work on this topic in the future.
When i tried rubbing my eyes and describing the dots i saw, i couldn’t, to be honest i just saw one circle and that was it.
I’ve tried the exercises mentioned above for bout a week and no progress whatsoever I don’t know if I’m doing it wrong or what but every time I try the exercise I still see nothing just the back of my eyelids and nothing else so I think I need extra help but I’m flat broke so I can’t pay money for progress because I don’t have any money.so for any ideas?
Nothing I do seems to work
I’m able see Clearly images in my dreams but I can’t control what I see and when I’m awake and I close my eyes I see either pitch black or brown with white dots every other spot the only time I see images is by after images or if I am playing a video game for more than a few hours the movements and whatnot gets stuck there for bout maybe a couple hours then I see nothing also I have a roommate and I’d prefer to try verbally describe what I see in secret or private but I can’t because I have a roommate
It works! I’ve been doing it for two weeks, and I can see things now. It’s still mostly black and white and I can’t always control it, but I’m getting better at it. Now I can close my eyes and see the beach 😀 (and my dreams got way more vivid too) Thank you!!!
Hey, can I ask what you did exactly for it to work? What I have been doing for some weeks are looking on images, describing them as after-images appear and then when it’s going doing the same all over again. But I barely describe because I barely see. Do you describe also if you don’t really see it but get the impression of it? Because I’m trying to describe only what I see even though I get an impression.
I’d be happy if you reply, but I’ll be thankful if you return to this page and see my reply.
Hey, can you share the progress you went through? I tried to do it, but I haven’t succeed.
Did you just practice with after-images?
I’m not sure if I’m doing this right.
When I’m near a lighted room I can sometime see splotches of white stuff, is this where I need to put my attention to? Or I’m supposed to feel it more internally?
Hey, i have been doing IS now for some weeks but i can’t notice any progress.
I imagine myself in a place and start describing as fast as i can. But the problem is i can’t see anything. It’s just concept. It is really hard to describe it, all i see is black but i have like the idea of what it looks like but i think this is the wrong way to start IS.
So how did you do it? Did you really just describe the colour dots you got from rubbing your eyes and stuff like this?
Do you have any tips and how long did it take to see results?
Yes, I really did do it the way I describe in the article! If you are describing concepts, you are not describing what you’re SEEING. You need to describe what you are SEEING. So – gently – rub your eyes for a few seconds, stop and describe the patterns you see. Describe any shades of black you see – it isn’t all black when you close your eyes: if there’s a window to your left, the left side of your eyelids will be a kinda reddy-brown color. If, just before you closed your eyes, you had looked at a window or a light buld or a candle, you will see an after image for a few seconds. Whether you’re describing after images or the dancing dots, there will be patterns. They will be hard to describe at first but, if you have vision (ie if your eyes can pick out the shades of light passing through your eyelids) there are patterns and shapes.
Thank you for your reply!
So today i started with the eye rubbing technique and i am also looking at different shapes on my laptop and afterwards i am describing the after image. So i look at it, close my eyes, describe the different colors, shapes, dots and when i can not see anything anymore i repeat it. Does this sound right?
And how am i supposed to add other senses like smell, touch and stuff like that?
What you describe you are doing is EXACTLY how I did it 🙂 Good luck! Please let us know how it goes. As for other senses, I don’t know. I’ve never tried. I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you to research those.
Yes, I am using my iphone recorder! Should be enough hopefully!
I’ve been trying to get started with image streaming, but whatever visual perceptions I get (flashing lights, fuzzy circles, whatever) often change completely more than once per second — WAY too fast to describe them. I’ll keep trying, but so far I can’t seem to get past that issue.
Yes, I’ve experienced this. All I did was begin describing the most prominent image and continue to describe it even when it had gone. When it seemed appropriate I began describing the next prominent image. There came a point where images would stay around for longer. Also, I became able to control the images – adding new things, moving things, changing color and viewpoint. I hope that helps.
Hi, its really really weird about effects of image streaming. I am doing image streaming becouse of iq. And ! My memory never was like yesterday and today little too, so poor and bad. Unbelievable i clearly see results but reverse. When i am doing it i see little colored patterns which durning session is gaining more and more colors, stronger patterns, and as i see its going in right direction. As i see its really going to be stronger and sharper and i believe it will transform into so powerful images. But why my mind works as bad as never. Its maybe something like tired mind, and i hope this low border of mind power will be higher and higher. Its 10 days from start. And my imagination maybe is better i Don’t know becouse imagination sometimes is stronger and weaker depends of day. I will report later too. I am curious where its going and i hope my nonprogressive mind (5months visualisation) finally broke this border.
Best regards Tomasz.
I discovered I have “aphantasia” seven years ago, and it was devastating. I visualize while asleep, or in a hynagogic state, so I know the capacity exists in me. I am convinced that if there is a way to overcome aphantasia, it is through exercises like this. I have tried it before, but never continued for as long as I should have. How long should this typically take? I have noticed a general defeatism among those with the condition.
Continue for more than just few days, after maybe 2 weeks or earlier you will see progress, but as i think this depends of person. Someone will see progress after 6 days and somone after one month. If you have aphantasia as i think it could take more time. Just practise you will see and back here again and say what you get, dont forget. Bye
Ok. What progress did you see, and how long did it take? Just curious, thanks.
My progress is really weird, i am practising looking at my mind (darkness) 25 days but i didnt describing. I started doing this with describing 10 days now, and! My progress is like reverse, yesterday i realised my mind worked horrible, dramatical memory, zero focus. Today is better but still not good. I believe this is something like tired mind and effect of this technique and now will be better and better. And no idea about imagination progress becouse visualisation working different through days and i can say only after bigger progress. Anyway my imagination works nice through this days. I am looking at this darkness when i close my eyes. I see colors, patterns which durning the session change to stronger fiolet and green patterns and sometimes this is stronger and i see storm of this colors, but i didnt reach realistic pictures yet. And sometimes my pictures are really intresting, this color storm have been transforming into more realistic views, but i saw it just once, i hope this will be stronger, better and more realistic with time.
Thank you for this brilliant article and video. I came across this page by Googling “aphantasia cure”. I’ve been on this page for 20 minutes and have already made very small, but also very interesting, progress! I see nothing but do see a light when I close my eyes after looking at a light and then the light disappears after a few seconds. For 10 minutes I’ve been looking at the light, then closing my eyes and describing what I see. The light blob has a few times turned into very small and vague patterns and a few times into objects for a few seconds, such as a smiling face (almost like the Nivana smile), a hand and a strange tunnel pattern. Both not very detailed at all but to me, after a life of nothing, is very strange indeed. The smiling face appeared after I described the blob as happy. I have no idea why I chose that word – but then the smile appeared. It’s freaking me out I want to continue properly with the technique you mentioned. I’ll report back with how it goes.
Hey Tom – it sounds like you’re making great progress. I know what you mean about it feeling strange. And I also recognize how the choice of words you use seems to affect the pictures you see. Please let me (us) know how it goes 🙂
I practised simple visualisation for 5 months daily-
– zero results, so now i am practising backup procedure of IS – worth describing – every day 13 days now.
When i am closing my eyes i see fiolet storm and green patterns or fiolet bloobs of color or fiolet patterns its weird and hard to describe.
IS that the same what you get with time ?
Would you describe in steps what you saw ? Thanks for all, i will leave a coment after more time
YES! Keep practicing. It sounds to me as if you’re making progress. Remember that you MUST describe what you are seeing. Learn to find the words. Describe the patterns and colors. Try to make your friend (or voice recorder) understand what is that you can see. The better you analyze and describe what you are ‘seeing’, the faster your progress.
What I saw was vague patterns that kinda resembled things but they quickly changed or disappeared completely. Sometimes there would be colors, sometimes not. Sometimes all I’d see is clouds of color (like you). Sometimes it would be just shapes. Eventually the images became stronger such that they took precedence over the insides of my eyelids. That was the point at which I felt I had truly learned to visualize.
I look forward to hearing how you get on 🙂
I’ll report you about my progress for sure its so so so important for me. 💪🏼😠
Can you use this to accurately recall past events, faces of friends or family members, etc.? Basically has it given you a “visual memory,” or only the ability to imagine more creatively?
So, first I should say I have a TERRIBLE memory. I also have a TERRIFIC memory! Past events: no, Image Streaming doesn’t seem to have helped that at all. My memory for past events has always been pretty pathetic. I can remember some things – events that stand out – but most of my past is ‘dark’. If you asked about something that happened yesterday: what he said, what she said, what they were wearing – I’d make a poor witness. I can recall general concepts and feelings but not visual detail. I can visualize friends’ faces – that’s new since Image Streaming. But … where Image Streaming has really helped is in using mnemonic techniques (using mental images to link items together in the ways taught by Harry Lorayne and Tony Buzan). With an hour or two of practice I could recite Pi to hundreds of decimal places. I can quote entire pages from my favorite books. I can remember a phone number reliably and easily (weeks later) after hearing it said just once. Mnemonics is all about using mental pictures to encode the information you want to learn. I’ve been trying to do it since I was a teenager. Only after Image Streaming did I make any real progress.
Thanks for the detailed reply! The one thing that bothers me about my aphantasia (which I have no doubt I have) is that I absolutely cannot recall the faces of my loved ones. If my wife, mother, kids, etc., were to die, all I’d have left of them is their photographs, and not anything approaching a visual reminder of the “little” things about their personalities that snapshots don’t (usually) capture. I would dearly love to be able to store away pictures in my mind for that purpose.
Mnemonics is something I’ve also struggled with since grade school. Everyone used to say how easy it was to memorize things that way, but to me, all it did was give me MORE things to remember!
Looks like Image Streaming could be well worth the time and effort. I’ll give it a shot!
Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m an illustrator and I’ve been struggling all my life because I can’t see things clearly in my mind, so I draw and I draw and I draw and can’t really seem to memorize anything. So I read about this aphantasia thing and suddenly everything made sense. And because of this I was completely unmotivated and felt like giving up on art, which is the most important thing in my life, but this article gave me hope. I’m definitely gonna try this technique and return here to tell you how it went.
Hey, I just stumbled upon this article today but I’ve already forgotten how. Anyway, I’m going to start practicing this tonight, June 30th 2017. I’ll check back in a few months from now and let everyone know of my progress. I’m completely aphantastic (No sound, images, feelings, nothing) so if this does work for me, it has to work for everyone else. It just has to.. And even if it doesn’t- have hope guys, this condition does not define us. It does not mean the end for us or our humanity in the slightest. Good luck to you all!
So how’s Image Streaming going for you? Any progress?
Ha I said all that but completely gave up like 3 days in.. I’m back here because I was thinking of starting it up again but I have my own theory. I’m going to try to lucid dream first for some reason it feels right, then once I get the hang of that I’m going to work on my waking state visualization.
how did the lucid dreaming go? 🙂
Thanks for the video, James! I’m eager to try this later today. I wonder if you can help me out, here: I’ve been able to imagine scenes in novels and can conjure up an image (though I hesitate to call it that, because it seems almost transparent or hollow) at will, but I have a hard time doing this with my eyes closed. When they are closed, I’m distracted by the image of my eyelids, and the mental image seems less real. So, when you “see” an image during visualization, does it cover the image of your eyelids? Or can you still literally see your eyelids? I know this is not super clearly written, but this sort of thing is tough to capture. Maybe the best way to describe it is that when I try to visualize, the imagery happens “higher up” than my eyes?
Hey! I am so sorry that I haven’t replied already – I must have missed the the email that told me you’d commented. So – to answer your question – yes, you can still see the inside of your eyelids. However, as the images grow stronger, you soon learn to ignore your eyelids. It’s a bit like the fact that you can see the world around you through from the corners of your eyes (peripheral vision) but when you’re focused on something in front of you, you don’t notice the sides. Or how if you focus on a friend in a crowd, the others around you become unimportant.
Hi James, it’s day two of trying the image streaming you describe. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid pace. I feel as though I have long periods of nothing in between light images. At first, I was thinking of things and then trying to imagine them. But after reading up on image streaming again it seems like you are supposed to describe what’s happening instead on thinking about something and Then describing it. Is this correct? Any advice on how to increase the flow so I’m moving at a faster pace? Also, are you supposed to listen back on your recordings after your done with the excersise? Thanks for sharing this!
Hi @cmj123:disqus. I think it’s pretty normal (in the early days of image streaming) to have these long gaps of nothingness (at least, that was my experience). Stick with it. Until I made this video, I have never made any serious attempt at listening back to my recordings. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to – your brain just needs to know what ‘someone’ is taking notice while you are actually doing the talking. Hope that helps 🙂
Wow, I spent all last night googling information on this and really appreciate your article. So now, through this technique, can you visualize all the time..or just when focusing on an object or doing the image streaming?
I’ve been doing a lot of guided meditation lately through yoga and other workshops, and this is when I realized I may have this issue of aphantasia. I close my eyes and find myself so frustrated that I can’t do a simple visualization that my teachers are asking for. The most frustrating thing is I’m a very visual learner, so I really would love to include visualization in my meditation to take things a bit deeper. But I just can’t. Just black! I tried this last night by rubbing my eyes and looking for specks, but they went away so fast all I could say was, ” black circle with a green rim around it”. That was literally it. Any suggestions for working on this?
Hi Angie – the specks do go away quickly (within seconds). What they do is give you something to focus on. You begin describing what you can see. You’ll notice patterns/shapes within the specks. Talk out loud about them. By concentrating on the patterns, they will hang around for longer. At this stage what you’re seeing is not the specks but very faint images created by your brain. It’s those images that you want to train your brain to see. As you train, you’ll be able to pull brighter, bigger, more detailed images from that part of your brain.
Learned I was an aphant (before there was a name for it) about 10 years ago, when I was in my mid 30’s. I had been working an extremely long shift that had been mentally and physically grueling… I was exhausted. Suddenly, like someone flipped a switch, my mind shifted from aphant style thinking, to purely visual thinking. Because it was so surreal and shocking, the best way I can describe it in words, is “lucid dreaming.” It was so easy to process “thinking” this way and I didn’t want it to stop. I could, not only see pictures in my mind, but could control them. I was dumbfounded. And even more so as I learned that everyone else I asked, could do this on command, ALL THE TIME! In fact, if I asked them to think about something WITHOUT using mental imagery, they could not.
Sadly, when I woke the next morning, it was gone, I could not bring it back. Over time, I had noticed that just before falling asleep, occasionally I can have mental images, but I cannot control them, I can only “watch” them. If I have trouble falling asleep, I will often try to visualize a simple object like an orange. Typically, I cannot even conjure the color orange, let alone the texture or shadows of an orange. But it does tend to “knock” me right out. My guess is that the effort required to focus, quiets everything else in the mind.
I’m looking forward to trying this out. If I could add just a small bit of mental visualization into my waking self, I can see many uses. Thank you for sharing this approach.
Wow! That’s a totally new take on it for me. Thanks for taking the trouble to write all of that 🙂 James
I am 59 years old, and up until one hour ago I had never heard of the word aphantasia.
Earlier this evening, I was talking with my wife about how poorly I visualize (I can actually visualize tiny bits and piece of images, usually without color, but that’s it). Within the past hour I learned that there are people who can visualize nothing at all … which oddly enough makes me feel a little better about my condition.
I’m very good at imagining sounds. Under certain circumstances, I can hear entire orchestras or bands, sometimes being able to differentiate individual instruments in my mind’s eye.
I’m pretty good at imagining touch, too.
So I appreciate you taking the time to explain how you do image streaming, because I have long wished that I could have that skill as well.
I had already found the Win Wenger article, and I’ve printed it out with the intention of asking my wife to work with me on it.
I also found a website at http://aphant.asia/ that has a forum full of people who experience aphantasia. I was alarmed to discover that there are a lot of people with the condition who are frightened or otherwise unwilling to even want to visualize effectively, while there are others who (like me) feel sad that they lack the ability.
But I refused to be put off by their negativity. Within minutes, I found Wenger and your article.
That’s my long-winded way of saying “thank you” for writing it.
I am confused, after I close my eye, I see 2 type of image, one is just dark, which is what i see behind my eye lid; another one is the image in my mind (not in front of my closed eye), which is some movies/images that i have just watched. Which image should i observe? Thank you
Hi Lee – thanks for your question. You concentrate on the images in your mind; ignore the back of your eye lids.
hey thanks for writing this up. in a sea of “we dunno/can’t be helped/you are special be happy” i read after finding out that most people mean picturing things literally, your experience gives me hope i may be able to learn…… someday.
i have been trying for about 2 months now, every evening before i go to sleep, sometimes in the morning/day. the only way i have been able to start seeing anything is with after images/phosphenes. i tried a lot of variations with how i describe them, how much i allow myself to imagine without pictures, etc, etc. so far i can’t get further than the after images/phosphenes themself. they either fade away to nothingness, or in case of phosphenes if i can still keep focus on seeing them while describing, they just keep on rapidly changing into mostly indescribable shapes.
now for the good parts. in the 2nd week, when observing phosphenes i think i may actually have imagined a weird V shape. it looked like a phosphene, but it stayed observable for what felt like about 10 seconds. every other phosphene i see either flashes really quickly, a split second, or is continuously morphing into other shapes. this V was static, it was big enough that i was able to look at each corner separately and when i realized that, my heart rate jumped like crazy and i lost focus. after that for about another week i was barely able to even observe phosphenes. i think i tried to hard, with renewed enthusiasm that i may be able to learn after all. couple more weeks rolled by and i told myself more and more it may just have been another phosphene, just a for me rare static one. now a couple days ago, i believe the same thing happened again. but this time it was small enough that i could see everything at once. i had enough time to describe the outline with “maybe 2 fingers, index and middle finger like from a hand resting flat on a table” after which either the shape changed or i realized i’m seeing more detail, the outline for fingernails and a thumb. while describing those my heart rate rocketed again, and again i’m having a hard time to just observe the phosphenes since.
so i’m really not sure if i actually imagined something those 2 times because they still looked like phosphenes, shapes made from contrast or outlines. but it definitely was something different than all other times.
i tried it with after images as well, but those only ever fade away and never sparked something new.
i will continue to try, even if i may never be able to actually picture things, i believe my ability to recall dreams and my normal “blind” way of imagining things is getting better.
Hey Berthold, this is really positive. Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed description of your experience. The “weird V shape [that] stayed observable” and looked more-or-less like phosphenes is very much like my early Image Streaming sessions. It sounds to me as if you’re making good progress. Keep at it! In my experience, it works. (Can I just check that when you Image Stream before bed, you are doing
so out loud using your real voice rather than the voice inside your
Do you keep rubbing your eyes for the entire 10 minutes ? 🙂
Hi @disqus_M8g5WhIGT7:disqus — my apologies for taking so long to reply (I’ve been away on a shoot in the South of England). No, you don’t keep rubbing your eyes the entire time. You rub them only for a few seconds at the start. As soon as you see the bright dots of light, you stop rubbing and start describing what you see. What you may find is that once you are aware of the dots you begin to see other shapes and patterns forming. These will probably be vapid and indistinct at first. Just keep practicing. If you find that you don’t see any patterns or shapes after rubbing your eyes, try one of the other ‘back-up’ techniques (see the link at the end of the article). By-the-way: I had saw an absolutely stunning image last night as I was in bed trying to fall asleep. One of the best I’ve ever seen. Detailed, complex and stunning — and I haven’t image streamed in years (so it shows that the technique can have long-lasting effects). Please let me know how you get on. With kind regards, James.
I hope this works, though I cannot help but feel pessimistic. Image streaming has been used as a dubious method to increase intelligence, but maybe this is a more useful application. I also cannot literally think in words, because I cannot imagine sounds: I literally have to express in sound or writing to even think, which causes trouble in situations where I have to be quiet.
Hi M! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please let me know how you get on. The results I’ve had with Image Streaming have been so good that I’m keen to share it with others. So far my experience is limited to myself. I’d love to know whether (or not) it works for other people.
Hey @singinglark:disqus , have you any news? Did you try the technique for any significant time? Have you noticed any improvements/results?
Thanks for sharing your experience, i will trying it out, i wish it worked for me.
once again, thank you very much
Thanks for writing this, James! I am really happy to hear that you were able to develop this ability, and I’m really looking forward to trying it out! I’ll let you know if it worked for me.
Hi Matt—thanks, I’d be really interested in hearing back from you. Also, if you learn anything that isn’t covered in the video or my text, I’d be grateful if you’d post that here too. J