Recently, and unfortunately I can’t find the page that I read it on, I found an article which discussed visual and verbal thinking.
Research by Child Development Theorist Linda Kreger Silverman suggests that less than 30% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, another 45% uses both visual/spatial thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25% thinks exclusively in words.” (Source: Wikipedia)
This amazed me, because I’m part of the minority that thinks only in words. Visualising something is really hard work for me, and has to have words with it, from which I can draw the picture. Most of the time I walk around with a conversation in my head about things, it is rarely quiet up there.
I asked my parents, partners and friends how they thought, to test the hypothesis… most people thought in pictures and words, I was the only one I knew at the time who thought in words. My mother thought solely in pictures and was most distressed that I didn’t have images in my brain like she did – though it adds to the reasons we don’t communicate well.
Until I read this article, I assumed that everyone else was like me, that they had only words in their heads, that they held conversations with themselves and others all the time. Of course, I should have known better, I’ve been learning all my adult life that everyone is different and that our tastes, colour perceptions, enjoyment of sensation, and tolerances for things are different.
James likes to be touched firmly, a light touch or caress annoys him. Scott loves to be caressed lightly for days at a time, his brain turns off and he relaxes into it, my girlfriend and a few other friends I know are the same. I can tolerate a repetitive touch for a little bit before it has to stop or the caresser will lose their limb. Every one of us likes different things, or subsets of the same things, but in different places or with different textures.
One of my sisters swears my car is more yellow than green, I tell her its more green than yellow. Each of us see the same vehicle, but due to quirks of nature, we see colours slightly differently and texture differently and each of us goes around thinking that the world looks the same to everyone – because we all think we’re the same and why wouldn’t we? Its not like we can see or feel through someone else’s body and in a big way we know we’re all part of the same species, we have the same bodies more or less… but we don’t really. We’re mostly shaped the same, but our nervous system mapping is always slightly different – hence the different enjoyment in sensations.
I think I started to realise this a long time after reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, specifically:
“[The horse] slowly surveyed the whole field, and then decided to plan out a nice relaxed day for itself. A little trot later on, it thought, maybe around threeish. After that a bit of a lie down over on the east side of the field where the grass was thicker. It looked like a suitable spot to think about supper in.
Lunch, it rather fancied, could be taken at the south end of the field where a small stream ran. Lunch by a stream, for heaven’s sake. This was bliss.
It also quite liked the notion of spending half an hour walking alternative a little bit to the left and then a little bit to the right, for no apparent reason. It didn’t know whether the time between two and three would be best spent wishing its tail or mulling things over.
Of course, it could always do both, if it so wished, and go for its trot a little later. And it had just spotted what looked like a fine piece of hedge for watching things over, and that would easily while away a pleasant pre-prandial hour or two.
An excellent plan.
And the best thing about it was that having made it the horse could now completely and utterly ignore it. It went instead for a leisurely stand under the only tree in the field.
I thought that Mr Adams might actually have an idea about happiness, and specifically how to be happy – in this instance by making plans for the sake of making them and then letting them go. I’m a big organiser, I can’t help myself, but I thought maybe I’d be happy if I made plans – because that’d make me happy – and then ignored them. It failed miserably. I felt like I achieved nothing I set out to achieve and just got more miserable. Then I realised what was wrong. Douglas Adams knows what makes Douglas Adams happy, he doesn’t know what makes me happy. He is not like me and I am not like him. Despite our physical similarities, we’re very different inside, in the way we think, feel and act.
Everyone is different from everyone else and this is not a bad thing, but it is a very important thing to understand. Just because someone does or doesn’t like something that you like, doesn’t mean that they are less of a person or more of a person as a result.