Picture is worth a thousand words? Not always


By David Joel Miller

Picture or Words?

Sometimes pictures work better than words, but sometimes pictures have a decided disadvantage.

When we need which and how to keep these two memory systems in balance is one of the challenges in building a happy recovered life.

So do you really think a picture is worth a thousand words?

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence Picture?

Declaration of Independence Painting

Declaration of Independence Painting

OR

What do you think would have been the result of Lincoln unveiling the Gettysburg Picture?

Anyone want to go to court and plead the “Fifth Picture?”

Memory of pictures and memory of words.

Humans appear to have at least two different memory systems. One, the emotional intuitive system, largely uses emotional sensory data. The other system is the rational word-based system.

Feelings can be conveyed well by pictures, often better than by words. I can write thousands of words about cute but that single picture of the baby or the kitten and puppies, those pictures tell you instantly what cute is at the most basic emotional level.

More complicated things, those need words to map out the concept. Abstracts like ethics and justice those need words.

Some of us get all up in our heads and we forget to make use of our feelings. In a past post I wrote about the value of intuition based on experiences in making good decisions.

When it comes to figuring out right and wrong those emotional pictures do not seem so dependable. That’s where we need to use our reasoning and thoughts some of the time.

We therapists, like everyone else struggle with this dichotomy. One school of counseling says you need to talk about your feelings, get in touch with how you feel and have someone genuinely hear what is going on in side you. Those therapists spend a lot of time asking you “How do you feel about that?” Some people really can’t answer that question as they are way out of touch with their feelings.

Other therapists, me included, tend to believe that the way to be most helpful is to help you find the flaws in your thinking, get a new viewpoint and your feelings will begin to change.

A good therapeutic connection is about the relationship and that means we need to provide you with the thing that you need.

People are not required to pick one thinking style over the other. Some people are high in one style, maybe logic, maybe intuition, and they are low in the other way of thinking. There are those folks who are high in using both rational thought and in intuitive thinking. Other people appear to be low in using both forms of thought.

Which works best for you – trust your instincts or think it through carefully? Are their times you switch up and use the other approach? Or are you one of those people who just tries to avoid thinking about things and making decisions period?

In the posts to come I plan to change it up, offer you some in-the-head logical reasons that you are the way you are and also offer you times to get comfortable with your feelings. Let me know which works for you and what you think of the possibilities using the other approach might open up to you.

Photos courtesy of Flickr

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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