OPENING THE MIND'S EYE: How Images and Language Teach Us to See

Ian Robertson, Author . St. Martin's $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-30657-1

Following up on his debut, Mind Sculpture, Trinity College psychology professor Robertson argues that most of us have been taught to think about the world through the limiting confines of the "cool web of language," as poet Robert Graves called it. Touching on a variety of topics, including hypnosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, synesthesia, addiction and chronic worrying, Robertson encourages readers to develop their visual acuity, to "picture" concepts and ideas as images, rather than simply articulating them through words. To this end, Robertson gives readers a variety of simple, imagery-based exercises designed to stimulate creativity, improve memory and generally relax the mind. He even cites studies demonstrating that children experiencing chronic migraines can use their ability to envision "pleasant" images––such as a koala bear–– to ease their suffering. But, Robertson warns, "the blessing of powerful mental imagery can turn to a curse when it comes to reliving trauma," as is made evident in his discussion of Vietnam vets haunted by all-too-realistic images of death, or Three Mile Island residents whose recurring visions of nuclear disaster made them vulnerable, decades later, to chronic stress and physical debilitation. More mundanely, the perils of imagination can be seen in the intense fear many people feel when they merely picture themselves going to the dentist. Some of Robertson's enticing yet unsubstantiated claims (e.g., "Worry is primarily a language-based mental activity, where imagery is kept to a minimum") may frustrate readers otherwise eager to use his techniques. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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