How Do Images Move In And Out of the Mind?

by Steven Paglierani - Date: 2007-02-04 - Word Count: 906 Share This!

How do images move in and out of the mind? Begin with this. While at first glance, this question may seem deceptively simple to answer, in truth, it is anything but.

The short answer begins with the idea that the images themselves (and every thing else the mind stores) do not move in and out of the levels of consciousness. Only our access to these images changes, making it appear to us that these images move.

The longer explanation starts with the idea that scientists tell us that everything we experience, and all the related sensory information we take in, gets recorded and stored in us permanently. This includes every image we ever see.

So why can we not access all this information, including that we cannot access most of the images we record?

The answer to this question is rather simply really. While the mind stores the information on everything we experience, it indexes very little. In a sense then, the mind indexes only what it deems important.

So what makes the mind deem something as important? I'm not sure actually. I can only say that it is in some way related to how the mind indexes what it stores; it indexes things with visual "threads of similarity." More over, these threads seem to be the main structure with which the mind organizes its contents.

What is interesting to note here is, because this index is constructed mainly from visual threads-of-similarity and not from logical threads-of-similarity, seemingly unrelated (and at times, unimportant) images often get indexed together. For example, in this minute my mind has connected images from a second grade writing class to what I see on the top of a bowl of oatmeal two years earlier. Let's take a look at how.

In the first scene, which occurred when I was six, my ability to write in script got blocked. Years later, when I did the work to get this particular wounding scene to emerge, I saw myself sitting in a classroom looking at a manila-colored piece of paper on which I was to practice writing in script.

Now today, as I access this paper in my mind, I can see numerous images, both visually and logically related. For instance, I can see the color of the art paper I drew on in a high school art class; also manila. Here, it is easy to see why my mind would index these two papers together. Visually. And logically.

What is not so obvious, though, is the logical relationship between these two images and a third image which comes to mind. In this third image, I see the color of the brown sugar on top of a bowl of oatmeal when I was four.

Of course, the color here is the visual thread-of-similarity. However, that my mind connects two pieces of paper to a similarly-colored bowl of oatmeal, while at least mildly understandable, does little to explain how these three scenes relate as to their importance. Certainly, they are not similarly important, at least not to my logical mind. And to be honest, although I mentioned the oatmeal scene after the art class scene, the oatmeal scene actually came to mind first.

Here then is an example of a visual thread-of-similarity. It appears that the visual similarity of the images we record holds a higher priority in the mind's index than the logical, moral, ethical, or literal similarity.

Now use what I've just said about the mind's index to see how we gain and lose access to the images stored in our minds.

Wounding blocks our visual access to the images we see in wounding scenes because it shatters the visual threads-of-similarity for the events in which it occurs. In doing so, it destroys our mind's indexes, while leaving the images. More over, because our injuries vary in intensity, the degree to which these threads-of-similarity get destroyed also varies. Some parts of these threads may remain, while other parts get destroyed.

So how does all this relate to seeing these images in the various levels of consciousness?

The visual intensity of what we can access in our minds depends entirely on how many threads of similarity we have. In effect, the more threads-of-similarity which get attached to an image, the more intense the image becomes. And the more intense the image becomes, the more we can access this image, and visa versa.

Now imagine you are looking at the metaphoric lagoon of the mind mentioned in the article, the diagram wherein I show how the layers of personality relate to the depth of the lagoon. Obviously, the deeper the water, the less intense the images become until at least, they are so dim, you no longer can see them. In effect, you lose your visual access to them.

Wounding (submergence) and healing (emergence) alter our access to these images, not because these images move into different layers but rather because the visual intensity of the images in the wounding scene changes. This means that the visual intensity of every single image previously connected to this thread-of-similarity decreases, or increases, even images which by logic seem entirely unrelated.

My point is, because what changes is the intensity of the images and not their position, while the images never actually move, in a way, we interpret this decrease in visual intensity as that these images have moved, further away in fact. Hence my use of a Lagoon of the Mind as a way for us to visualize how this plays out inside of us.

Related Tags: mental images, how the mind stores things, visual threads of simularity

Steven Paglierani is a writer, teacher, personality theorist, and therapist whose work on human consciousness is read weekly by thousands all over the world. He is the author of Emergence Personality Theory, and his mission is to make the world better for children by restoring and deepening their love of learning.

He can be read or reached at his site,

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