Photographic (Eidetic) Memory IV
Bill Long 11/15/07
More Questions for Julie
Before I presented my next series of questions for Julie, she answered an earlier one I raised about whether she thought she had Asperger's Syndrome. I will write some essays on this pheonomenon on my "Autism" page when I have some time. Her response:
"First of all, in answer to your question about “Asperger’s Syndrome,” and if I have it, I don’t believe so. I did some research on the subject and although I do lack good verbal communication, I don’t think I meet the criteria for this syndrome."
She also told me why she was deciding to "go public" with this video-cam ability of hers at this time...
"Perhaps writing about eidetic imagery will bring more people forward, so that they can express and share what they know about a visual mind. In Mr. Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural speech, there is a paragraph I particularly like. 'Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.'"
In other words, she was tired of "shrinking" from attention regarding this special gift. Now is the time to make it "public."
Julie's approach is that there probably are several adults with eidetic memories (laying aside, for a minute, how precisely to define the term), but they don't "come forward" for a number of reasons. One of those reasons may be the kind of ridicule even from scholars that they might encounter. For example, the Wikipedia article on "Eidetic Memory" rather brazenly states, "it is unlikely that true eidetic memory, if it exists at all, is found in adults." Well, I suppose the author can use that squirly word "true" in a squishy way, but I asked Julie what she thought of that statement. She said she burst out laughing. But I think that such persons with camcorder minds (perhaps that is a good way to put it) in our midst probably realize that they ought to keep a "low profile" since if the so-called experts doubt and implicitly ridicule you, what hope can you have for acceptance?
Because I don't have the need to say that something like a camcorder mind doesn't exist, I continued to ask Julie questions. Here is the next batch:
1. How were you misunderstood by others because of this gift? I understand how it could have been painful for you to "take a picture" of an event without being able to let the trauma out of your mind, but I don't yet understand how others TREATED you because of it.
"I should elaborate a little about being misunderstood by people. I rarely engage in conversation with people, and for some very good reasons. First of all, during an encounter with someone, there are certain things that are triggered off inside my brain. The first thing is that my camcorder-like brain is always turned on and running. This process is automatic. So when a person comes up to me, it’s like a television reporter standing in front of their assistant holding the video camera. The reporter looks into the camera and says, “Are we on? Are we running?” As soon as a person comes within my visual range, that person is being automatically filmed. Live coverage. Secondly, the audio system inside my brain runs simultaneously, so I’m recording the conversation. Then a lot of other factors come into play; facial expression, body language, tone of voice, degree of intellect, appearance and approach. My brain is registering what I see and if the situation is safe or not. Because of my traumatic history [Note--more of that later], I’ve been conditioned and trained to be alert to my environment. Unfortunately, this is how many survivors of trauma react. It’s a defense mechanism that goes beyond the fight or flight mode, which I refer to as being in “high gear.” As long as the situation is safe, I’ll stay put and carry on a conversation with someone. But not for very long. Not because the person is eating up a lot of megabytes of memory space, but because I begin to slip into a trance. I’ve been prone to hypnotic trances my entire life, and any direct eye contact with someone usually triggers off this process. A change takes place in my demeanor. Nothing drastic, just a lazy, hazy sleepy-like quality that settles into my veins. Sometimes, a person picks up on this change in me and I get strange looks. That’s usually when the conversation comes to an end and I leave. A common misunderstanding that takes place is that when a person speaks to me, I’m automatically visualizing the scene according to their descriptive words. That person may be thinking, or seeing, one thing while I’m seeing something entirely different. When I digest someone’s words, the picture in my mind may not match what the person is trying to communicate to me. Our versions of something may be very different and then there is a misunderstanding. (no two minds work alike).
Another problem I sometimes encounter involves the memory department. Quite often, I will remember something that a person did or said, but that person doesn’t. I have to remind myself that “no one remembers exactly the way you do except you yourself.”
My psychology teacher taught me that and I try to keep that in mind in order to avoid memory battles. It’s one thing to jog a person’s memory, but it’s a waste of time (and emotion) to argue with someone over whose memory is more accurate. Just because the evidence shows up on film inside my mind, I can’t expect a person to take my word for it."
2. You suggested that (your gift) is a kind of genius but suggested also that everyone else, if they let their genius out, could be special in some way. Do you believe that your gift is the "equivalent" of someone else's ability to do something well--such as carve birds, or be compassionate--or do you think your gift is sort of a "super special" thing?
"I should clarify my version of “genius.” I don’t measure or compare one’s level of intelligence or intellect. I’ve learned to accept a person no matter where they stand on any graph or chart or scale. I consider all human beings as “learning creatures” who acquire certain amounts of knowledge during their life span. To me, genius in an individual is when one accumulates an abundance of knowledge in a certain area of interest. I have a variety of interests, but I chose to concentrate on the imagination and its use in creativity. While I excel in this area, I’m weak in certain other areas; such as mathematics. But I do believe everyone has their own unique type of genius. I think it’s built into our make-up as a human being. Unfortunately, life’s demands allow us little time for leisure and exploration of ourselves. Self-discovery comes with reflection. Sometimes one needs to turn away from the rituals of reality and travel their own path in life. Great thinkers become great thinkers when they’re allowed to think!
-do I think my gift is sort of a “super-special” thing? Of course not, but it comes in handy.
3. Now, turning back to the eidetic memory. Do you also have this ability with texts? That is, can you "memorize" a text by just looking at the page or reading it once? Have you ever done so?
"I’ve never strained my neurons to remember texts, but it happens occasionally. During the trance state of mind, everything intensifies and is more deeply ingrained upon my mind. Then my own journal writing shows up inside my eyelids. It’s like downloading data. The longer I remain in a trance, the more powerful the print. I did resort to filming indexcards while in college, so I could pass my exams. Tricks of the trade."
I need another essay now to continue with my questions to Julie. I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am....
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long