Are You a Visualizer or Verbalizer?

Are You a Visualizer or Verbalizer?

Runa's Oracle ♥

"Everything in life, what I see, experience, and think, ends up turning into me."
~Fernando Pessoa

Verbal vs. Visual

Visualization is a natural skill that people use all the time, but most of us would probably argue that words come easier. It used to be thought that people were either a visualizer or a verbalizer, and unfortunately that thought prevails in spite of evidence to the contrary.

It is true that you may favor one over the other, but it is much less likely that you are one or the other. Psychologists now believe that people generally use both modes of thought.

There's a saying you've probably heard, "a picture is worth a thousand words," but in my work, I have found that a word is often worth a thousand pictures, when one taps into the power of the imagination.

For example, take the word "bird" or the word "dinner." Think of all the images, memories or otherwise, that come to mind with one simple word.

What this means is that we have an exponentially huge capacity for making meaning and for understanding. The flip side to this is that if we "rabbit hole," we also have a huge capacity for straying far away from what serves our life and living.

Visualization isn't just an "artistic" ability. We can assume that artists (illustrators and painters, etc.) have a tendency to "see" more than other people, especially if we don't classify ourselves as artists. Writers, especially fiction writers, also have the ability to see, and they help us to see with their words, even if we aren't exactly "visualizing" as we read their works.

Verbal skills are prized in our modern society. Pen and paper, and keyboards, are far more ubiquitous than watercolor paper, inks, and digital styluses. Homework in school, and reports at work focus on the written word, and far too often if you ask me, focus on concepts that defy visualization. Michael Samuels, MD, echoes this sentiment in Seeing With the Mind's Eye, saying that formal education's focus lies in "goal-oriented verbal thought." I think this puts us at a severe disadvantage when it comes to using the inherent powers of our whole brain.

The word eidetic according to Oxford Languages means "relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible." A quick inquiry at shows that eidetic, and idea originate in the same root *weydstos. Interestingly, idea, which tends toward the verbal comes from a root which means "to see." There is ultimately a link between the visual and the verbal.

Why Improve Visualization?

You might be wondering what benefits could come from improving visualization when the world is so obviously geared to the verbal. I used to be primarily verbal. I would read words and completely miss the nuances of accompanying imagery. I was also a consumer of words and ideas, but generally did not find ways to integrate this data into my life, converting it into knowledge and wisdom. Until I returned to my creative life. Then, everything changed.

  1. Stimulate the imagination.
  2. Improve creativity, in both the visual and the verbal arts.
  3. Increase intuitive and psychic skills.
  4. Explore techniques for physical healing.
  5. Improve awareness in everyday life.
  6. Prompt personal growth.
  7. Aid in relaxation, stress-relief, and more...

Improving Visualization Skills

If you feel like you are unable to visualize, there are a few things you can do to increase your ability to hold an image in your mind. This is a state that you can take advantage of to be aware of your inner processes. You might find this to be the axiom of "Know Thyself."

1 Relax. Find a quiet physical space and then find a quiet mental space, the latter implying that you put aside, as far as possible, ordinary concerns.
Relaxation is a being, an allowing, more than it is a doing. The more we "try" to relax, the more relaxation eludes us.
Use breathing techniques and/or counting backwards to aid you in your relaxation.

2 Concentrate. To effectively visualize, you must be able to fix your mind on one thought image and hold it there. It may be easier if you focus on an external object first, like a candle, a rock, a piece of fruit, or a pencil. Keep your eyes open and think only of this object as you view it, perhaps noticing the size, shape, color, texture, or parts of the object. When your mind wanders, simply return to the object in front of you.

3 See within. Take the image of this object to your mind's eye. Close your eyes and try to picture the rock or the pencil. Allow your inner senses to fill in details for you, even if you can't literally "see" the object. Pay attention to what you feel, regarding emotions, and also a "feeling of seeing." This feeling of seeing is a way of experiencing the object from within, without the use of our external senses. We can't see it now, we can't touch it, but we can feel as if we can see and touch it.

4 Describe the object based on this feeling of seeing. Has it changed? Is it bigger, smaller, harder, softer? Try zooming in or out and see how it changes. Pay attention to your actual senses to see if you taste, smell, or hear something for example.

This is a simple 4 step exercise for improving visualization skills. If this is challenging, try again at a later time. Try multiple times. Practice makes improvements.

If this comes easy, develop a scene around your object. Imagine in a background. Additionally, you might turn it into a moving picture. Play with it, without expectations.

Make the Verbal Visual

Here is another way to begin to increase your visual skills, especially when you aren't in a place to relax and do the the concentration exercise above.

Doodle. Turn words into symbols, images, markings, of any kind. Stick figures are fine, so are spirals and circles and squares, oh my! The doodles don't necessarily have to resemble the words you are hearing, be they from a lecture, a TV show, a song, or other...

verbal and visual

I used to teach a class called Doodles and Daydreams where the participants would doodle to a guided meditation. It was a great experience that added a level of experience not generally felt with guided meditations.

I hope you'll give these exercises a try! They are basic, and there is so much more to gain from an imagery practice, but they can be done by practically anyone, almost anywhere.

What are your experiences with the verbal and the visual? How do you use visualization in your daily life? Respond to this email or let me know in the comments below! I'd love to continue the conversation!

♥ Runa

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