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One of my favorite things to do on a warm, breezy summer day, is lie down in the grass and watch clouds pass overhead. I watch for those that remind me of animals. Sometimes a turtle, an elephant, or dragon. They change quickly as they move across the sky and it’s interesting how the things I see dissolve into something else or nothing at all.

I’m not alone in being a person who sees images and especially faces in inanimate objects. There are many of us  and it’s called Pareidolia. This capability has been with me since I was a child. My mother also saw these images and I suppose it could be that I learned it from her or it might have been passed down to me genetically. A new study in Japan found that those you see faces like the ones I see in the photo above are neurotic.

What? Me neurotic? Well, maybe. Aren’t most of us? If you look up the definition of neurosis you’ll find that it’s defined as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.” So maybe it’s true that I am neurotic. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, after all. But thankfully I’m in recovery. I’ve slowed my pace and do a lot of self-care … taking naps, meditating, writing, walking, gardening, reading, and listening to music. My stress levels have greatly diminished and I’m feeling like a new woman.

Do you see the rabbit in this one?

But thankfully those creatures and faces I see in the tiles on my shower wall are still with me. I think of them as my “shower friends” and have always enjoyed seeing them. They remind me of cartoon characters and I see them as happy and funny.

I’ve always attributed this ability of mine to my creative bent and what helps to make me an artist. I’m a very visual person. Give me written directions on how to do something, and it will take me forever to figure it out. Show me how to do something, and I’m there with you, ready to go. That’s how I learned to knit, weave, spin sheep’s wool into yarn, paint, and cook delicious food, among other things.

So, neurotic or not, I’m glad for whatever causes me to be able to do this. How about you? Do you see faces or animals in inanimate objects? What do you see in photographs of the tiles I’ve included here?


  1. I’d like to think of Pareidolia (a new word for me) as originating from imagination rather than neuroses. In my last blog post I pictured my Aunt flying as a wee, wispy cloud between two large pillowy ones. I certainly own up to a touch of the neurotic, but at my best, like you, I’m creative.

    Three cheers for self-care. I’m enjoying a small breather between house clearings, a funeral, and yesterday, scalp surgery to remove a cyst. Today I’m moving slowly and doing dumb things, which I’m chalking up to residual anesthesia in my system, not neurosis – ha!

    Your readers can always count on you for candor and creativity, which you have in spades – thank you, Joan.

  2. Wow, Marion, you’ve had a lot going on. I hope the surgery is healing well. Thanks for your wonderful comments that make my head swell a bit! I’m with you about it being more about creativity than neurosis.

  3. I agree with Marion – it is a good imagination.
    I love the face in the first tile – it jumped out at me as soon as I looked at it. I had built-in wall-to-wall pine cupboards in a previous home, & I was really engaged with the animals and other faces I saw in the knots and grain of the wood.
    I love clouds for the pictures they contain, but also because they can be so beautifully shaped generally. Have you noticed that there seem to be more cloud varieties now that there were when we were younger?

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks so much, Linda. It’s so nice to know others who see things in unexpected places.
      Pine, full of knots and it’s obvious grain is a great place to seek out images. And yes I think there are more cloud varieties now, but it just may be my eye is well trained now!

  4. Joan — I third the motion: “Pareidolia” is a good imagination.

  5. Joan, I never knew there was a word for seeing images so thank you for enlightening me. I agree with Laurie that imagination plays a big role in what you see. I also agree with you that creativity comes into play. The two go hand in hand. I am forever looking up at the clouds and seeing different images, mostly animals. I see the partial image of a cat’s face in your picture!

    • Joan Rough says:

      I didn’t know either until recently, Kathy. It’s fascinating to me. I wonder how many people out there see those images and don’t call themselves creative or imaginative.