“A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” This idiom is applicable to Mental Imagery-a mental movie of linked mental snapshots serving ‘as if’ it is an analog of a real world scene. Eidetic Image snapshots each possess unusually vivid images from featuring near-real and fresh characteristics of the actual sense-perceptions giving rise to its mental imagery. Today, “Vivid,” refers to animated, vigorous, and lively images. But this lacks the full scope of its original meaning.
To ancient Eastern Philosophers, “Vivid” referred to the Cosmic-Spirit—the life-force energy (Universal Energy or Ch’i, Ether, Prana) that penetrates, pervades, and enlivens all things. By being essential to life it conveys the idea of freshness in whatever is full of life inside or outside the mind.
For example, good emotions, self-protective emotions, or “bad” emotions which evoke life-like mental images bubble with the vigor and freshness contained in the immediate sense experience. In this context, “Vivid’s” ‘umbrella’ definition is whatever conveys strong, intense, clear, and distinctive mental pictures with the power of force, concentration, and dramatic representation.
Thus, the clarity and close-to-real-life accuracy of each mental picture in ones mental movie is called ‘thinking-in-vivid-images’ (TIVI). By contrast, as increasing lapses occur between the original sense-perceptions and recalling of its mirroring mental images, those images have converted into Ideas fading with clarity and nearing a ‘zombie’-like state.
Only injecting these Ideas with supernatural powers will resuscitate them with sufficient life and vitality for them to be used for mental imagery. Still, these Ideas represent weak links in the mental imagery chain. Such is called ‘thinking-in-ideas’ (TII).
Compared to TIVI, TII makes many more mistakes, or at least a significant mistake, because one has vague recall of accurate details needing to be applied to achieve precision for the task at hand. A large part of the potential for success in the planning stage of a project is to have such vitality in each mental ‘snapshot’ as for it to carry a ‘payload’ that sets off a ‘chain-reaction’-a 1930s term of chemistry and nuclear physics. It refers to a situation involving a series of events in which each event, powered by created energy or products, causes another event to evolve into further reactions without additional energy input from outside. To illustrate, an initiating neutron sent into a lump of fairly pure uranium produces fission in a given nucleus.
After splitting into two roughly equal parts, each nuclear fragment flies away at great speed and eventually settles down to form a new atom. A given ‘snapshot’ in TIVI can act similarly to give clarity for decisions or insights. So how can TII be reactivated into “aliveness” or how can the “aliveness” in TIVI be enhanced? The answer is to inject them, wherever appropriate, with as many as possible of the 12 senses-color, sound, smell, taste, balance, motion, direction, heat, cold, weight, tactility, and pressure.
To illustrate, as an orthopedic surgical resident, the way I created TIVI for each up-coming operation was to gather all pertinent reading materials-then start with those having the clearest discussions for forming mental pictures. Once there was a “skeletal” mental image for every part of the operation, each was elaborated on by the rest of the reading material.
First, all selected information was condensed on one sheet of paper-writing in different colored ink each major point concerning the operation. Second, certain points were underlined one, two, or three times, depending upon the significance. Third, ‘stars’ were put next to whatever needed constant review. Fourth, pictures were drawn of specifics difficult to conceive. Fifth was going over every step of the operation, mentally seeing each part before doing anything else. Sixth was mentally performing each aspect of every part. Finally, I visualized the results of a successful completion.
In short, success is likely by beginning with testing every idea, thought, or judgment of one’s plan by TIVI and enhancing each with the 12 senses. TIVI aids an efficient arrival at success by eliminating useless directions, things, or movements as well as by compelling one’s mind to see details, distinctions, and similarities. Such leads one to decide wisely; helps create insights; and prepares one for the unexpected. To completely ‘re-see’ in mental pictures what is planned out and its conclusion is TIVI; to only be able to think about it is TII.
Joseph A. Bailey II, MD, FACS, was reared in Wilson and Greensboro, North Carolina where he became an Eagle Scout (twice). Then he attended the University of Michigan, Morehouse College, and Meharry Medical School; interned at Los Angeles County General Hospital; and as a USA Air Force captain in the Philippines was chief of the Family Practice Clinic in charge of 10,000 troops and their families. On off-duty hours he helped care for wounded soldiers flown in from Viet Nam.