Images are significant parts of our lives as they confine and define all that is familiar to us. Human mind has a tendency to associate feelings with images. Each feeling has a face; our fears, contemplations, pleasure, hope, failure etc. , all have a face. So vivid are these faces that as soon as an emotion or thought sprouts in the mind, an image flashes to gratify our senses; so strong is the grip of these images that we keep relating and projecting our thoughts, feelings and memories with them.
We see an example of this in R. L. Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, where the personality of Mr. Hyde becomes active as soon as his Dr. Jekyll’s thoughts change. For this reason, something that is unknown always causes a feeling of discomfort as it has no visual representation. Our entire lives revolve around familiar and unfamiliar images. The conscious part of our mind always relies on these images to identify our world. Thus, images influence us strongly, sometimes manipulating us, while at other times, playing tricks upon us, like ceiling fan and motion pictures, as demonstrated by Oliver Sack in “In the Rivers of Consciousness”.
Our perceptions sometimes makes us prisoner of our thoughts, binding us into bouts of endless torment. Society often slots our actions into bold categories of good and bad, which forces people to lead dual lives, becoming unwittingly, victim of these images. Dr. Jekyll from the “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is one such person who is suffering from this inner conflict of maintaining a good image in the society (R. L. Stevenson). Due to this obsession he undertakes the task of transforming his personality chemically. “A change had come over me.
It was no longer the fear of gallows, it was the horror of being Hyde that racked me. ” (430). In an attempt to get rid of the evil side of his personality, Dr. Jekyll drinks a potion he creates, which brings out the personality of Mr. Hyde. However to his horror, he discovers that Mr. Hyde becomes more and more monstrous as days go by. This really bothers him because ironically Mr. Hyde had turned out to be totally opposite to what he had imagined. It becomes very difficult for him to keep this side of his personality hidden any longer and this fear of being discovered ultimately with a negative image causes him to kill himself.
Tormented by his thoughts of wanting a good image for himself, Dr. Jekyll carried out a dangerous experiment which turned out to be a disaster. Here we see how images created in the mind can manipulate a person to create a harmony between the bigger image created by the society, making him a prisoner of his thoughts. In case of Dr. Jekyll, we also observe that thoughts, for example, of good and evil which translates into an image of moral stance, become more powerful when suppressed. “By then, Freud emphasized, the wish maybe disguised to the point of being unrecognizable.
Things might even appear their opposites: pleasure as pain, desire as fear. ” (Gelman, Dreams on the Couch). Here we take a look at Freud’s explanation of seemingly weird dreams. He goes on to explain that something which is like a social taboo, gets suppressed in the mind to an extent where it seems to be exact opposite. Such an image, due to getting suppressed becomes more powerful. “Thus there are two forces operating: the wish, and a defense against it, a censor. ” (133). The wish or desire being a social taboo, causes the dreamer to dream exact opposite of what he desires.
But this is not always the case, as argued by many other analysts. “There is no need to assume dreams have a latent content”, says Harry Fiss…” (134). The images or memories which have been very significant to the dreamer must be taken into consideration as they remain in subconscious and influence our thought process. Thus, we see how the image created by the society influences the images created in the minds of people. Human mind works in a complex way to decipher the images which it keeps viewing, creating and transforming.
Sometimes the captured image puts the mind into a trancelike state and at other times tricking the mind to cause an illusion. “Freed from inhibitions of verbal communication, it seems, we respond to visual imagery that may have been our earliest mode of thinking- one reason, perhaps, why the language of poetry can stir us as it does. That may explain, too, why some dreams can haunt us with a power more persuasive even than that of poetry, shimmering in the mind like lost cities or leaving us, for hours afterward, with an unaccountable feeling of terror.
” (Gelman, Dreams on the Couch). A moment which might have been very significant in a person’s life lays hidden in the subconscious layers of the mind. Constant storage of images in our minds, sometimes cause them to jumble up. That’s why our dreams are made of up of images that sometimes make sense and very often do not, explaining why we sometimes have pleasant dreams and at other times suffer from nightmares. “When the analyst asked the patient if he associated anything with the “Malarial Area”, he decided, after some thought, that the phrase could be an anagram.
” (137). Here we see how the patient’s long forgotten childhood memories distorted his dreams. “In this patient, whom they call Mrs. M. , there were “freeze frames” lasting several seconds, during which Mrs. M. would see a prolonged, motionless image and be visually unaware of any movement around her, though her flow of thought and perception was otherwise normal. ” (Sacks, In the Rivers of Consciousness). Here we see Mrs. M. getting caught in a frozen moment. The similarity between these situations is how images manipulate these two patients to be caught in the moment.
The interesting difference here is how perception creates an image, which one remembers in his dream with his eyes closed, and the other doesn’t with her eyes open. Images sometimes play a trick of optical illusion, causing the brain to believe and perceive motions differently. When we see a series of still images in quick succession, there is an illusion which leads us to believe that we are in fact looking at one continuous motion picture. This optical illusion tricks the mind into believing that which is not the case.
“Another striking example of perceptual standstill could be demonstrated with a common visual illusion, that of the Necker cube. Normally, when we look at this ambiguous perspective drawing of a cube, it switches perspective every few seconds, first seeming to project, then to recede, and no effort of will suffices to prevent this switching back and forth. ” (Sacks, In the Rivers of Consciousness). This perspective switching portrays an image which keeps changing and is not still. This is in huge contrast with the case of Mrs. M.
, who experiences a standstill trance like state, where she perceives the image in front of her to be motionless. Her perspective doesn’t change for elongated periods of time, until perhaps someone interrupts her. Similarly, ceiling fan sometimes seems to be going in the forward direction, while at other times in the opposite direction. Further, as Sacks goes on to explain how people who suffer from migraine perceive what they see. The migraine patients in their delirium see flickering images, which accelerate to restore normal motion.
In all these case, we see how moving images are perceived by the brain, sometimes rushing and causing fluid like motion. At other times, freezing and causing a trance like state. This concept has today advanced into the making of motion pictures, advanced imaging devices etc. From prehistoric times, man has given immense importance to images. This is confirmed by the ancient cave paintings. We see that drawing or creating images fulfills a deeper aspect of human personality, as it offers a very strong medium of self expression. Sometimes images form a pattern in the mind, locking us in that moment, as we see in the case of Mrs.
M. “In the River of Consciousness” by Oliver Sacks. Sometimes they offer a familiar territory to which we are used to, while at other times, they act as agents in visual communication. Images take on a variety of forms and functions. They create patterns in our minds which make us happy, sad and fearful, as we keep relying upon them subconsciously. Often, we don’t realize how much our lives are influenced by them. The way we dress, work, live, are all influenced by the perceived images which we have created in our minds ever since we were born.
This is a never ending process which continues as long as we live. Images rule our conscious and sub conscious, also influencing our dreams, as we observe in “Dreams on the Couch” by David Gelman. Living in a society, where images and appearances are very important, we often perform actions which do not always leave us happy. R. L. Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a classic example of this. In such situations, our suppressed desires sometimes try to overcome our sensibility, till there comes a point where we are forced to look at the bigger picture.
Are we truly what we portray ourselves to be or we pretend to be someone who we want to be? Whatever be the case, one cannot deny the impact that images have on our lives, positive or negative. Man, being a social animal adapts himself to put on various images sometimes for himself, sometimes for the society he lives in; sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly. Works Cited Stevenson, R. L. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 1886. (Gelman, Dreams on the Couch) (Sacks, In the Rivers of Consciousness)
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