Visual Thinking - The Afterimage Technique

Why would you want to think visually?

Well for starters it is considerably faster than thinking verbally. We can only think verbally about as fast as we can talk. However when we do visual thinking, we are thinking at the level of the unconscious. We are now processing information at the brains natural speed. It has been estimated that the human brain can process 4 quadrillion bits of information per second (4,000,000,000,000,000 bits/sec).

Also, visual thinking is the natural ‘language’ of the subconscious mind. It is much easier to bypass the critical conscious mind and access the vast resources of the subconscious, which allows for improved creativity and problem solving.

How to improve your Visualisation Ability - The Afterimage Technique

First you will need a partner or, if you are working on your own, an audio recorder. Most computers and mobile devices would record just fine for this. Speaking aloud to a listener (even if it is an imagined listener as with your audio recorder) involves additional sections of the brain, which will accelerate your progress.

For 30 seconds, stare at a light, window, or part of the room that has a strong contrast; any striking colour against a white background works well. Do not use the sun, a light brighter than about 40 Watt, or anything else very bright as this can damage your eyes.

Now close your eyes, you will momentary see an afterimage of whatever you were looking at. Afterimages are leftover prints of light on the retina at the back of the eye. You may see a floating blob of light or colour or perhaps a few lines in a similar shape to whatever you were just looking at. If it was a complicated pattern or object, you may just see the outline/silhouette of this object.

Describe aloud to your partner or into your recorder what you see in as much detail as possible. Continue describing what you can see it changes colour and shape.

At first your afterimages will probably fade fairly quickly. Unreinforced afterimages tend to last for only a few seconds. However with practice, and when reinforced by attention and description, your afterimage can last for minutes at a time. To begin with if yours fades after a few moments, just go back to staring at the light/object and repeat the process.

At some point while describing your afterimages, you may begin to notice other kinds of images flash up in your minds eye. These might be vague impressions of a face, a landscape, some random object, or even a short scene like a mini movie or animation. As soon as you become aware of an image, describe it.

Describe the image in the present tense, as if you still see it, even if you caught a glimpse for a moment before it faded away. With your attention focused on the description of the object, you will often find it comes back into view, and with more detail. As you continue to do this you will find the image will change and more images will start to appear.

To take this technique to the next level, and to unlock some of the great insights your subconscious mind can bring, see our article on Image Streaming.


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