Intrusive visualizations

How is that not fascinating?

Do you sometimes see specific objects move in a specific way even when they are no longer there, even with your eyes open? For instance, a volleyball moving back and forth? And can you do nothing to make this appear or disappear, it just goes on for as long as it wills? That is what I mean by intrusive visualization. I suppose it is a sub-category of flashback, but I have never heard of anyone describing it the same way I have experienced it.

Some days ago I read about a just barely successful rescue operation where a young autistic man had gotten lost in the wilderness. The psychological expert of the rescue operation decided to search along the river (where they eventually found him) because autistic people are fascinated by running water. My reaction was pretty much: Neurotypicals are not fascinated by running water??

Some years ago, during a heavy rainfall, I stood for a good while and watched a small stream of rainwater erode sand and pebbles and move them downstream in that particular way running water will do. After I left, I began seeing intrusive visualizations of running water moving sand and pebbles. This lasted for a good while, I am not sure but an hour or two perhaps. The image of the water working with sand and pebbles appeared overlaid on my normal day vision, half transparent, neither blocking my view or the real world nor getting blocked by it. It was as if my brain was seeing through two different sets of eyes at the same time. I had no control of what I was seeing, although I could control how much I focused on it.

This was not my first time experiencing such intrusive visualizations. The previous time was after I had practiced hard at the computer game Black & White (which is, incidentally, not in black and white, but is an interactive course in being a small god in a fantasy world). Then I would watch characteristic movements from the game for more than a day. That is the only time I can remember it has lasted that long. Then again, I had practiced for quite a while too.

Before that, several years before I had an online journal, I had the same experience with volleyball. I could see the volleyball move back and forth in the trajectories typical of a certain style of hitting used for passing the ball between team mates. This was after I had been practicing volleyball for some length during the same day with friends.

Before that, I know I had the same experience when I practiced touch typing. I think this was in high school. If it happened during my childhood, I have forgotten it, but I have forgotten most of my childhood, except for things that had to do with sex. There was not a lot of that, luckily, but that means I have forgotten most of my childhood. So I don’t know whether I had intrusive visualizations then.

By “flashback”, I tend to imagine a very short experience where you feel you are actually in your past, having again an experience you had back then. Then the flashback ends and you are back in the present. This is not that. It lasts for typically more than half an hour, at least – I am not sure I have had any less than one hour, and one came off and on for more than one day. I am fully conscious of not being in the past. Only one and a half of my senses are involved – vision and kinesthetic. I am wide awake and have my usual personality, but I am also aware that I am watching a transparent visual hallucination that I have no control over, and that basically plays back (perhaps in a slightly idealized form) something from my recent past.

The experience is not traumatic or scary, although it certainly weirds me out. I have assumed that my subconscious replays these movements in order to help consolidate a new skill. That was certainly the case the first times. But does this mean that my subconscious wants me to learn the skill of being a river and eroding sand? What does this say about me? Somehow, even if you believe in reincarnation, I really doubt I am the rebirth of a river!


2 thoughts on “Intrusive visualizations

  1. I agree with the statement about the water. It may be due to the scarcity of it here, but I love watching water flow. I particularly love watching it when a heavy rain has just fallen and you can see all the areas that are higher and lower in relation to each other that don’t appear to have that much difference when dry. I don’t live in a land of fjords, of course. I live on the plains, mostly, with a bit of the Texas Hill Country to the south of us. And I am _happy_ to be back on the plains since I was raised in such a geographical area. We have SOIL! There is FARMLAND! I love it!

    The funny part of what I wanted to say is that I think I know what you’re talking about, and I have also never come across anyone who sees it that way. When I was a junior in high school (16 years old), I took a shorthand course. It changed my mind forever. I’ve always been a speller, and for a while there I was . . . challenged, I guess. It wasn’t that I didn’t still spell things correctly, but having been taught to listen for sounds that I’d record with a phonetic symbol, it really messed with my mind. I quite literally dreamt it for months. To this day, a zillion years later, I still “see” shorthand. If I am only half-way listening to something someone is saying, I’m more visualizing the sounds they’re making than the words they’re saying. It is also helpful, because when I’ve been so rude as to “tune out” someone who’s less than interesting, I still can quickly “read back” what I’ve been thinking and have at least some clue as how to respond or reply. Even when I am listening carefully, I often catch my foot moving as if it is taking down in shorthand what the person to whom I’m listening has said. Learning to type did this a bit, but not as visually . . . I just found myself drumming my fingers in a more organized manner! In the case of shorthand, though, that class still has me “seeing things”! I suppose you could call it intrusive, but I really don’t mind it. By now I’ve spent more of my life WITH this happening than without it!

  2. Fascinating about the shorthand visualization and how this has stuck with you for years afterward. Not the same thing I experienced, but I guess it show that non-crazy neurological differences may be more common than expected. It’s a bit like what I talked with my former boss about, that there are individuals out there who have extraordinary experiences that may be useful or scary depending on how one reacts to them.

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