It’s taken me all my life to get to the point where I can express what I understand visually with words that have some hope of communicating what I see. This is probably true of many. Since conventional communication is usually in words, the intelligence of the visual minded often goes unnoticed. People are often unaware of the depth and breath of their personal intelligence when insight is perceptual, as most insight is. The culture’s emphasis on words can give the mistaken impression that not-verbal is not-intelligent. From the very beginning our information was visual, reading and mimicking facial expressions finely tuned to understand the danger or safety of our surroundings. Before we knew what we were seeing, we knew what others felt about what we were seeing, understanding the meaning of vigilance in the body, the whole flow of readiness, apprehension and every shade of expectancy as our bodymind registers the meaning of our place in unfolding events.
Years ago I had a friend who was very wise about human emotions and the dramas we could build around ourselves. After sharing his perspective on some problem I’d confided he would end with, “I’m just reminding you of something you already know”. It’s a strange truth. There are many things we see and understand but never put into words. And saying it is realizing it in a different way. It sets the realization out in front to be contemplated. Having a representation allows it to be reinforced in memory as a symbol. Always it felt like he was right but that I’d never before articulated what had always been a visual understanding. There is so much we all know but don’t consciously express in words. Insight is seeing what’s important in a big picture and can be present without ever being described or narrated. There’s a day-to-day wisdom that never gets verbalized even inwardly.
So much of our inner life is imagery yet people don’t think of themselves as imaginative.
Daydreaming is a form of planning. A vague posing of possibilities, and though sometimes it may be verbal thoughts and prayers, more often it’s envisioning ourselves doing something wonderful, having a romantic evening, making a discovery, being in the spotlight, real or metaphoric. Our inner world is a stage. Sometimes we’re re-enacting scenes from our past, sometimes dramatizing a possible future.
Words are deceptive by their very nature, extract a sliver of a situation and impose a judgment about importance by that choice and what’s left out. Images depend on context, the meaning in the action, what’s going on, not how we label and describe it. This is why evolving more visual mindedness will help us make better decisions. Relationships can be shown. Meaningful qualities illuminated. For example, if you make a diagram of your personal solar system with you as the sun and planets distributed according to emotional closeness, and the size of the planet, representing importance. It’s easy because its all stuff we know subconsciously. Just by making those choices you get a perspective that you knew inside but didn’t represent as a structure. Looking at art trains sensitivity to structure. As philosopher Susanne Langer wrote, “Art looks like feelings feel.” And since feelings are connected to the whole circumstance, art tunes our sensitivity to meaning in the whole, develops that hemisphere of the brain that is in the gestalt.