Why we rather need imagination therapy to harmonize problems with speech
If we consider our memory as a bridge between perception and cognition, a consequence is, that ›time‹ gets a role as a transforming co-player. Walking over the time-bridge means to transform retained information inside of a system. The transformation happens, when information of perception turns into information of cognition. How does this happen? It happens, when a system works to building up internal concepts of received information. The concepts work as a code for cognition, enhancing all processes of re-cognition. When (re)-cognition gets back into the circle of inside-outside-communication with reality, it has to recall former perceptions via memory as well. Hereby, the actual transformation happens: Memorized perception and resulting cognition are simultaneously used to effect communication with and in the outer world through sensory-motoric actions. This process is realized by an ›embodiment‹ of the internal (memory induced) transformation of perception and cognition. How would such an sensory-motor ›embodiment‹ of perception/cognition then happen? It happens, after our concepts of cognition have been internally processed through and by ›imagination‹. Imagination means an ability to fuse the combined results of recalled perception and reminded cognition. But it is much more than just creatively using one’s own memory. It is an effective transformation of memory-processing into an imagery, followed by external sensory-motor actions, which, with the imagination in a feedback loop, lead to further cognitive progress.
« Darling, what about going out to a restaurant for supper? Are you hungry? » Jenny, the wife of a high-functional autistic man, thinks she has asked a completly harmless question to her husband John. John is very talented with languages. Of course he has instantly understood his wife’s words. He also knows, that Jenny loves to go our for dinner. Nevertheless, for him it is not easy at all to answer without inner stress. He feels a bit pressured, almost urged, although he has often experienced exactly this situation. He just doesn’t know, what he himself feels like in that moment. Somehow, he is overwhelmed by a simple request.
From a therapeutic point of view, there is at least one clear conjecture here. While John’s brain is perfectly able to understand thinks logically, there’s a difficulty with situational imagination. His ability to answer situations by a multi-sensory anticipating imagination is not developed enough to provide him with an easy and adequate reply. Possibly the cognitive memory and its capacity to fuse perceptions and cognitions into imagination work differently (or at least slower) in John’s brain. He has to sidestep, using additional cognitive “bridges“ to assure himself that he has made all these good experiences with restaurants to come to a positive reply for his wife. Still, for John the situation is not easy to handle.
Learning to cope with situational speech without inner stress needs a therapeutic intervention, that aims at an internal reorganization amongst our systemic co-players in speech-bound communication. Any effective intervention would require, first and foremost, that we understand language not merely and primarily as a tool of communication: For language was once created as an assisting messenger for the main sensory organs of human beings, i.e. eyes, ears and our motoric senses due to the newly-developed upright body position. Language, regarded like this, can be seen as a mediate sensory organ itself. It is a vocal-motoric sensory organ, that helps to process our cognitive memory functions by imagination. Internally, the process to imagination is driven by the necessarity to synchronize, adjust and orientate the past and actual multi-sensoric perceptions in our brain.
Imagination is the first processual step, the bridge to transform memorized perception into an outward-directed communication. But! – it is not so much about the information we carry to others. It is far much more about an alignement of our perception with the distinct perception of others. Our ancestors needed a visualizing and acoustical tool to report on their vital perceptions, to bring them into harmony with the vital perceptions of their fellow human beings and to adapt them. By means of vocalizing sounds, which should underscore their visualizing signal-paths, the imagination process was then followed by an “acoustically-visualizing“ performance, which only later on would lead to all kinds of communicative emergence. Such an emergence can be regarded as a cognitively modulated-outward-directed-realtime-perception, which is driven by the power of imagination. Additionally, it can be described as an acoustically “underscored“ memory performance, which is enacted by an emergent sensory organ. This organ has evolved into our language, millions of years ago.
And why can it happen, that we lack the full power of imagination? It can happen, when we have problems to synchronize our sensory-organs, especially while we are hearing and seeing in our environment. If we do not succeed to synchronize our perceptions, we can’t aligne our perceptions with other perceptions. As a consequence, we may not feel an impulse to communicate with others. This is why autistic persons often seem to have no interest in communication with others. But the truth is: They cannot feel the urge to align their perceptions with the perceptions of others, because their perceptions could not be internally synchronized.
What would they need, to synchronize their visual and acoustical per-ceptions? I think, the basic need for that is to become deeply anchored and orientated in time and space. The cognitive perception of humans must be oriented in time and space. Therefore, we must be able to determine our own position visually and acoustically in relation to the outside world. In order for this to work, our perception system needs acoustic and visual reference points, on the basis of which it can determine, how it has to adjust itself in a continuous process of alignment.
It may sound a bit hypothetical, but perhaps language was invented for that very reason. To enable humans to have visual, acoustic and spatial orientation in the environment. It was invented to stabilize our perceptual system by the complement of an emergent system, which was able to enacting our perceptions in the outer world. Communication was more a side-effect of this vital process.
From this perspective we can easily see the consequences for possible therapies using speech. Such a speech-therapy would be a therapy of and with perception and orientation rather than a communication or behavioural therapy. Moreover, to work on perception, it can be most effective to work on imagination. We move backwards to improve the process of moving forward from perception to imagination. In a speech-therapy aiming at a better social integration, we may use imagination to alter our perception of visual and acoustical information. And thus to ultimately change the perception of our own language and that of others.
Back to John. How could he learn to perceive the received speech of others rather like a three-dimensional “soundscape“ than like a two-dimensional puzzle of sound-bits? Well, first, he should learn, that his perception is eventually too much orientated to linguistical structure and too less orientated towards his own body position in time and space. He could learn to re-orientate his perception towards his perceiving sensory organs. There are lots of motor-sensory body exercises helping to change the body perception. But at the end, we could end up with just nice gymnastics, if we do not support our perception via imagination. We have to consider, how we can perceive ourselves and simultaneously imagine, that we are the ones, who are watching our perception.
When past perceptions are starting to work in us, while we are receiving actual perception, a fusion of memorized perception and enhanced cognition is needed. This can lead to a re-conceptualization of what we experience and what we have experienced. Only our renewed internal concepts carry us to imagination, when the cognitive fusion has recalled our multi-sensory perceptions during an active process of reminding. Again, this process is followed by a re-integration of reminded perceptions into our actual realtime-perceiving and the corresponding cognitive categorization. By cognitive re-integration, we aligne and adjust any reminded perception with the process of actual perceiving. Thus we get to imagination. Imagination is happening, when memorized and actual perception are being compared and aligned in a multi-sensory-cognitive-perception-processing. It is an active intervention of the reminded past into the presence of a perceived reality: Past visual and acoustic images come to an internal “enacting“ in an imagined presence. An Example: The questioning words “What about going out?“ can be understood utterly “logical“: One knows what “going“ and what “out“ means etc.. So the grasped message does not necessarily need a three-dimensional inner imagery, how it would feel now, to go out. The internal concept of “going“ and “out“ can replace a quasi-realistic imagination of the requested procedure. Via cognition we simply know what the questioner meant without having to imagine it. Our cognition, after millions of years, is so enormously fast in the categorization that we can use it without having to imagine the related things in every detail at every moment. Nevertheless, the truth is most porbably, that we need our imagination in every little second of our cognitively inspired life. It can be pushed back by cognitive processes that do not need the three-demsional space of imagination so much, but it cannot be turned off because it is the original force of our ability to speak.
It is this kind of imagined presence, which makes our bodies move in actions like dancing, painting, calling, speaking. No matter, if these are sensomotoric movements by our hands, our feet or our voice, it is a process of an embodiment, which guides us human beings to altered concepts of emergent perception. We may paint or we may dance or we may speak: All these are emergent perceptions rather than desperate efforts to communicate. We may communicate our perceptions, but it is the emergent perception, that causes us to communicate in our embodied actions.
So, we have to imagine language as a three-dimensional perception. It’s about our imagination much more than about any communication. Are we able to imagine the full “soundscape“ of language, instead of communicating within a two-dimensional orientation to a virtual content? I guess, first of all we have to admit, that a sole word is a quasi two-dimensional event. It’s just a sound with a link to possible information or message, as it seems. Which is true, if the link does not open a three-dimensional world to inner pictures of what a ›supper‹ could imply. It may cause us to develop inner multi-sensory pictures of a meal or a noisy restaurant or even arise the memory of comfortable and tasty supper in our past. But in John’s world, the word is simply lost within the request or even in an uncomfortable appellation by his own nickname. This is due to a simple misunderstanding on John’s side. He believes, his wife mainly wants to communicate with him or provide him with a pleasant offer. Which is true, but still a misunderstanding. His wife Jenny wants to harmonize her own hunger and desire with John's feelings. « Are you hungry, too? Do you feel like going out, too? » The focus is on matching the sensory experience, not on transmitting a message. So, what John has to learn, is not to adapt his communicative behaviour. That would be completely pointless, because his wife would feel at any time that John was just training his answers and not expressing his own need. John has to learn to reconnect his ability to speak with his ability to imagine his past and actual perceptions. He can learn to do this by focusing his attention on single words of a message, which make it easier for him to associate an inner imagery and to transform it into imagination. ›Supper‹ and ›Restaurant‹ are certainly words, which most people can combine with multi-sensory imagination. Such visually intense words can be used as anchors to create sensory access to their content.
In everday life, our usage of language normally is quite functional. We do not ›perceive‹ language, because we understand the content of words in a functional manner. Speech directs us into a communicative functionality. Thus, we normally do not ›imagine‹, what words could mean, nor do we perceive the sensual surface of “onomatopoetic“ sound-bodies. We have learned to communicate with words, but we have forgotten for long, what the original purposes of human communication might have been. The calm self-orientation through inner images, underlaid with sounds, has given way to a functional subjugation to sounds that are meant to control our behaviour. Moreover, and unfortunately enough, the notion of ›behavior‹ is nebulously connected with the one of ›communication‹, rather than with a self-efficacious orientation both in our inside and outside world.
Moreover, what can we do to re-synchronize our visual with our acoustical sense of speech-perception? How can we re-learn to appreciate the sonic wonders of language, instead of overhasty reactions and trained answers? We can do that in a first step, when we realize that our mind’s concepts can be linked to imagery as to sound as well. A second step would be to experience, that every inner picture can be underscored with a sonic landscape. This landscape can use wordings or verses or even an onomatopoetic approach. It is crucial to combine visual and acoustic stimuli in a new way, whether with abstract sounds or with word structures that are as context-free as feasible.