When you have Aphantasia you do not possess a functioning mind’s eye and can’t voluntarily visualize an image. It has been largely unstudied and wasn’t even labelled until 2015.
People often live on the surface of things. If I wasn’t an Aphant, I wouldn’t have put much thought into it myself, even though I always knew I was different from many people around me.
There are a variety of ways in which we are different, from our upbringings to our genetics, from our mind’s eye to the sound of our laugh. This incredible list goes on.
Like many things, it’s a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, people can have hyper visualization. On the other end, they can visualize nothing. It’s nothing but darkness. There are also plenty of in-between levels from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some people may see clear, beautiful images where another may see interesting shapes or a cool fuzzy TV-like image. Many individuals can also imagine sound, taste, touch, and smell in different ways and to different extremes. They may relive the sensation and experience it again within their own mind.
On the spectrum, I am a 0, as far as I can tell. Not only do I have zero visibility within my mind’s eye, I can’t hear sounds the way I experience them in real time. I can’t recreate smells, textures, or tastes either.
Counting sheep and picturing myself on a sunny beach somewhere warm has never been possible for me. Recently, I learned that my experience has a name and that it extends beyond visualization and imagery. I learned that Aphantasia includes all the other senses as well. It left me in a brief existential crisis, as it came as a shock. I had such a hard time understanding what others were experiencing. I felt like I was missing out on something. I juggled with the idea that maybe I was boring and not as creative as I thought I was. I sat with a feeling that I wasn’t as capable. I felt disconnected from people. Thankfully, I process things quickly, so that feeling did not last.
If you have Aphantasia, I want you to know what it’s been like for me on the other side of the initial shock.
It’s been beautiful.
There’s a theory that we use a completely different network of brain activity and pathways to imagination. We’re just taking a different path.
I like to think that while most people have a video or a picture in their mind, I have a library. We have a library of knowledge.
I just know things. I don’t need to reference a mental image to know it. I can close my eyes and tell you the lay out of the room I am in. I can point and show you where everything is. I can tell you the colors and the shapes. We just know things.
What I lack in my mind’s eye, I make up for in analytical skills, auditory processing, and memory. I have found other avenues to accomplish the same things as everyone else, and so have you. Look at how it’s gone unnoticed for so long. It’s clearly not an issue. We do not have an issue.
I am in tune with my surroundings and the energies within my environment.
I can’t experience the past or the future, I can only think about it. I am very much present. People spend money to live their lives in a way that I am already living naturally.
I’m comfortable being alone. I think this stems from spending so much time with an internal monologue.
I have an imagination. I can imagine my mother’s face—not visually, but if asked to describe her, I can give you an accurate description. I just can’t “picture” her.
I’m the type of person that’s always in love with the sky, no matter the weather. Maybe it’s because I can never picture it. I’m in love with beautiful scenery and experiencing things for the first time too.
We have an opportunity to see things in a different light now and to learn something new about ourselves and others. We can see the strengths in which we were given, strengths that have gotten us this far without us even realizing it.