Your visual imagery gives insight into your motivation for action and emotion

If you’re like me, you have subtle mental imagery flashing through your mind all the time, as you’re thinking, or writing, or doing tasks, or making a decision, or otherwise being a human. But by default, it is to quick (or something?) and you don’t notice it.

I claim that learning to notice these flashes can be super useful.

Two examples:


A few months ago, I was triggered and frustrated at CFAR about something, and I was writing from my trigger.

(Side note: when I am triggered about something, I will often write from the triggeredness, and get it all out on paper, just trying to articulate the force of my frustration, without trying to be charitable or whatever. And then, having gotten it out, from a more  I’ll go through in a more composed frame of mind, and assess which parts of what I’m saying seem true, and further, what plans to make regarding the situation. This allows me to get more clarity about what the triggered part of me is trying to protect, but allows me to adopt more strategic strategies than “be triggered about it.”)

I was writing from my trigger about how CFAR is bad in this particular way, and I noticed that I kept having mental flashes of [redacted CFAR staff member]. I realized the things I was frustrated with were basically just [redacted], but I had been painting all of CFAR with that brush. This is helpful to notice.


Or more recently, I was making tentative plans to run a weekend workshop on some advanced content. I had gotten as far as drawing up an invite list and starting to compose an invite / interest-checking email when I noticed that my mental imagery of the event was all centering on one person.

I realized that I was mostly interested in impressing that person, and the way I was going to do it was spend 3 days, and involve 20 other people. This was cause for me to stop and goal-factor.

[Yes. It might still be cool for me to run that workshop. But if my goal was to impress [different redacted] this was a very inefficient way to do it.]

How to learn this?

I don’t think that I have this down super-reliably, so I’m probably not the best person to tell you how to train it. But to the extent that I have this skill, I learned it from doing Physical-Auditory-Visual meditation, where you spend x-minutes just paying attention to the sensations in your body, then x-minutes paying attention to your verbal thoughts, and then x-minutes paying attention to your mental imagery.

This meditation is described in more detail in a bunch of meditation resources, but I believe I first encountered it via Shinzen Young’s The Science of Enlightenment.

One thought on “Your visual imagery gives insight into your motivation for action and emotion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s