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January 15, 2014 10:10 pm  #1

What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

Mind Map/Palace/Room/Attic - What's it like?
So, for those of you who don’t know me - I’m a high functioning Autistic with BPD (borderline personality disorder) - not a sociopath, though I’ve been accused of that before to.

I naturally have a mind palace, I didn’t build it - it was already there.  I personally just call it my ‘brain’ and leave it at that.  Most people have no idea how a mind palace works, never mind what it ‘feels’ like, and while I don’t know if I can give an accurate description, I’m going to try.

Let me just say - no I’m not a genius, and if I ever met Sherlock I would feel like an utter idiot in his presence and would run and hide.  I also can’t do deductions, though like a lot of Sherlockians, I do try.  I do acknowledge that I learn very quickly and I have good observation and retention skills.

I can recall 150 dog breeds, behavioral patterns and standards at any given time.  It’s a ‘stress’ room for me.  Oddly enough, a picture of a needle is how I access that room, because that’s usually when I go into it.  I have a needle phobia, and my husband at the time, would tell me to list dogs in alphabetical order to keep me calm.  However; that room is vastly different from Sherlock’s Redbeard room.  Redbeard was a repressed memory, a very happy and sad memory that he had locked away.  We all have memories like that, memories that we keep locked up and we acknowledge they’re there, but we never truly think about them.  It was his emergency button, literally stored there to keep him calm.  These memories can actually stop you from going into shock.  They tend to be very powerful, memories that if you accidentally think about, make you cry.  I’m not sure what mine would be, but if I had to guess, it would have been when I used to dance as a child, in traditional native dress.  

It’s not just the memory though, it’s reliving that memory, and fully experiencing it.  That’s what the rooms do - you become immersed - and sometimes you get completely locked out of reality.  This is why Sherlock would ‘blank out’.  It’s why I often blank out completely and actually have worried a lot of people before.

I also don’t see ‘rooms’ or ‘doors’, but rather I associate a subject with an object, phrase, colour, scent…  it depends.  Math I tend to think of a calculator or a black board, numbers and equations, thinks like that.  I love mathematics, always have.  I’m not good at it, but I understand the basic structure of the various types, and I like to make up my own equations for fun.  I associate warm colours with it, like reds and oranges, and for some reason it reminds me of Christmas.  Science I think of the periodic table, shades of blue and yellow, chemical scents and a lab.  I’m rubbish at it, completely stupid, but I still love it, and every now and then I’ll go in, look for a subject I’m not very good at and try to fill in the blanks.  I love to learn.

A mind map is like a day dream, you don’t realize it’s really there, but once you do - you can go anywhere.  If mine was better built, there’s no doubt I could use it to solve difficult problems.  I have used it to solve minor ones - I volunteer at the local SPCA - so having extensive knowledge on dog breeds is a huge advantage.  Not only can I look at a dog and tell what it’s main mix is, it also helps with understanding their temperament and needs.  I’ve actually been requested personally by new dog owners to sit and talk to me about their new dog - even if I haven’t worked with it before.  I’m not a trainer, I just sorta understand them. 

CAM’s mind palace is a good example of using objects as landmarkers.  It looks like it’s full of junk, but each one of those objects are extremely important in his filing system.  He also has a filing system for quick access of the idea of where it would be.  It almost seems too hard to be able to relate to, so I’m going to give you an example of what that’s like.

You’re walking along the street, and suddenly you’re hit with a familiar scent.  A perfume, food, or something really gross… but instead of focusing on what that scent is - it takes you back to a memory.  Childhood, a trauma, a happy event - and for that split second, you find yourself lost in thought over it.  That’s what CAM’s palace is - every object is associated with a memory.  That memory can be used to track down another memory, and so on until he finds what he’s looking for.  

I can’t tell you how to build one, but maybe this can help you understand what it’s like.  Those with Autism often think with visual cues and memories, rather than individual thoughts.  I, for the most part, think with individual thoughts like most people.  However; I can think visually just as easily if I choose to.  I can’t do both at the same time.  I’m pretty sure Sherlock can. 

Now, before you go and thinking your stupid because you have trouble thinking visually - Mycroft thinks individual thoughts.  He’s smarter than Sherlock.  He, as far as I can tell, shows no signs of aspergers or anything like that.  So I’m not here to call people stupid, or accidentally insult people - I just want people to understand how my thinking pattern works.  I’m not a genius, I’m tired of people assuming I am - this is just how I see the world.

So when I tell people I ‘relate’ to Sherlock - this is one of the reasons why I do.  This only scratches the surface though.  His personality is very similar to mine as well - though I like to consider myself a Molly as far as that goes. 


January 15, 2014 10:51 pm  #2

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

Hi STD! (Erm...)

It sounds like some form of ideaesthesia that you have. Associating sensory inputs with memories and experiences is common with the varying types there are. Usually only one or two sensory inputs establish associative memories but it sounds like you have more.

For people who don't have your abilities creating a virtual space in which to place memories usually requires them to have fantastical objects or situations which they can recall easily due to their absurdity. The 'mind palace' is simply a way of retaining specific memories through a practised technique. I think your ideaesthesia allows you to do some of this without much effort.

Personally I can't do mind maps. I find the idea ludicrous, my brain just isn't built for external visual aids. We are all different in our brain morphologies though and we each will find a way which will work for us. Yours seems uncommonly unique though, it sounds like you appreciate it too 


And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

January 16, 2014 12:22 am  #3

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

SherlockianToDeath wrote:

CAM’s mind palace is a good example of using objects as landmarkers.  It looks like it’s full of junk, but each one of those objects are extremely important in his filing system. 

 That’s what CAM’s palace is - every object is associated with a memory.  That memory can be used to track down another memory, and so on until he finds what he’s looking for.  

Oh!  So that's the explanation for all those odd-looking objects in CAM's mind palace!  I'd been wondering, so thank you very much.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.  -- Helen Keller

January 16, 2014 12:32 am  #4

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

For me, senses seem to trigger the strongest memories...smells, taste and especially sounds (like music)...I can often recall with great clarity where I was when I encountered those, no matter what age.

It's not a mind palace, but I study better when I'm listening to music because I can recall things when I replay it in my mind.  I have no idea if that's normal or not XD

__________________________________________________________________Bigby: Will you shut up?
Colin: Well, maybe if my throat wasn’t so parched, I wouldn’t have to keep talking.
Bigby: Wait, that doesn’t make se-
Coline: Just give me a drink, please.

January 16, 2014 11:12 am  #5

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

Hi Sherlockian,
I like your post very much because it gives an unique insight.
I think you are right with your perception of Redbeard. It might stand for a memory that was a happy and at the same time a sad one. The context when Mycroft mentions Redbeard indicates that Sherlock once experienced something very painful and was not able to cope with it. Maybe his pet dog died or was killed and Sherlock was inconsolable and heartbroken.
On the other hand I don't think that Sherlock would really totally shut himself off from any emotions afterwards. He might just be aware of them and tries to "manage" them intellectually to be able to work.


January 16, 2014 2:12 pm  #6

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

Thank you so much for sharing.  My son is also on the high functioning autistic scale and it's always fascinating to read about how others experiance things.

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"Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not".
 -Vaclav Havel 
"Life is full of wonder, Love is never wrong."   Melissa Ethridge

I ship it harder than Mrs. Hudson.

February 1, 2014 9:03 pm  #7

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

I'm not sure I have a Mind Palace since I never set out to build one and don't use any 'techniques' of associating an object or idea with something that I want to remember. I'm just sticking this in here for comparison.

I was going to a Sherlock Holmes meeting which was having a quiz and one of the questions in advance was to be name as many actors playing Holmes as possible..just as a challenge. So I got a website page on my pc and began learning them. At the meeting I recalled the visual image of the web page in its alphabetical order. I recalled sitting at my pc seeing the page. Trying to block everything else out to see the page.

Now when I think of the page it takes me to the meeting, recalling faces, who I was with, where we sat, walked, what we spoke about, what we did, feelings, what some people wore. That takes me to the journey there, sounds, tastes, what we ate, music etc. Not I hasten to add EVERYTHING. 

I have a good memory I think. It's often for random bits of info which are important to me or are just 'there'. All sorts sticks in my head. Date a book was published for example.

I can keep several 'pictures' of info a picture of words, in the air at one time, like a deduction cloud of words, and pick them down and put them back up again in the cloud. Everything else is outside that usually it might as well not be there. But sometimes I'm aware of everything as normal. I don't have to actually use my fingers to pick a visual word or phrase down.

Also I can visulaise the word Redbeard which takes me to places where I've seen it before or as a link back to my childhood dog, the room, people, events and so on.

Now I just feel like I've been wierd telling people what the inside of my head looks like.

We solve crimes, I blog about it and he forgets his pants, so I wouldn’t hold out too much hope. (Scandal in Belgravia)

I asked you for one more miracle. I asked you to stop being dead..........I heard you.(The Empty Hearse)

February 9, 2014 4:10 am  #8

Re: What's it Like to Have a Mind Palace? - My answer to this question

Having a mind palace, to my understanding, is a method of loci. It's a place to store particular events, information etc, so that one can call on that information, remember it and then use it for whatever purpose. Usually one attaches the memory/information/thing to an object in the palace/house/corridor etc. Say you are trying to remember a map, you might attach the memory of the map as you see it in your head and file it away or stick it on a wall or put it in a room.

I never knew what I did was a method of loci until I met a sherlockian mentalist who wished me to promote his book and we got to talking about sherlock holmes and then it turned to mind palaces. It seemed I was subconciously remembering things by attaching them to an image/event/etc in order to remember them later. I can even remember doing this but not knowing that was a method of loci.

I can now recall maps of places if I venture into another room in my, well idk if it's a palace, and I can see the map in my head, particularly if theres an important landmark. I've always been able to remember trivia that way, numbers are the only thing I can't seem to attach something to, but I remember them anyway!

Idk, it's hrd to explain if you've never done it before. My memory is a bit photographic, short term memory is shite, hence the palace, but long term memory is ridiculous. My earliest memory is being two years old and I can tell you where i was standing, who with, what side of them, that i was holding their hand and what was going on in front of me.

(I have two others from that age but I have been told this is the earliest one)

Anyway... yeah.


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