I recently discovered that I have this 'condition' called Aphantasia. It means that when I close my eyes and attempt to visualize anything—my
mother's face, childhood bedroom, my favorite vacation spot, an ex-lover—I see absolutely *NOTHING*. It’s complete blackness. The lights do not
turn on and within the wiring of my mind there exists no cognitive toolset to model, visualize or abstract anything at all. No movies, pictures, text,
letters, numbers, colors. Nothing.
Nothing, nothing, and nothing. Only the blackness of an empty movie theater, but with the screen, running lights and exit lights all shut off. For one
with Aphantasia, this is a life-long condition. If I paint, I do not see what it is that I want to create. If I write (or spell) I do not see any
words before I type them out. No smell, no taste, no feeling that can be abstracted or recalled.
Apparently ~1% of the world's population have this condition and nearly all of us are completely oblivious to this being a fundamental difference in
how our brain works compared to the rest of the human race. As you are growing up, you constantly hear phrases like "imagine sheep jumping over a
fence; count them to fall asleep" or "picture your dream house, what color is it, is there a fence" or "picture yourself on a beach" or "visualize
yourself in where you want to be in 5 years’ time" and so on and so on...
Every time we hear this, as an Aphantasiac, we just assume that this is a *metaphorical* exercise. We have *no* idea that people can actually *do*
this. Even now, I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be able to visualize at will--how could you ever even fall asleep at night if this
were possible??? That when you read a book, you are actually playing-out for yourself a movie...wow, I can't even imagine (*literally*).
I’ve been in love with four women in my life, and I can’t even tell you the color of their eyes! Why? Not because I'm flippant or insensitive, but
because such a significant part of a human beings’ memory function is intrinsically tied to visual-recall. Incidentally, this also means that
Aphantasiacs are strongly correlated to experiencing SDAM (Severally Deficient Autobiographical Memory).
Basically, this means that if you have Aphantasia, you probably do not remember much about your childhood. For myself, this means that my first true
grouping of ‘memories’ (database entries in my invisible spreadsheet) start clumping together around the age of 12-13 (about the time of puberty).
Essentially, this means that I don’t remember *being* a child, and my existence just seems to occur around the time that I'm becoming a teenager.
As an aside, if you would like to read more about this condition (do we even call it a ‘condition’ haha?) I suggest you check out this post.
Superbly written and a very enjoyable read for even those of you ‘normies’ with fully-functioning built-in movie production and editing
Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be
Blind In Your Mind
Then how *does* my brain work? Well, it’s like having a excel spreadsheet or database that holds facts and data-chunks. These are associated with
everything by being ‘tagged’ by category. If I don’t apply a ‘tag’ to something, then I won't have that recall ability (like the color of my
lovers’ eyes). But, of course, this database is invisible—it’s just *there* and it is how my mind works.
I’ve found this to be a helpful image showing some differences in how people think using a red apple as the target:
So, because Aphantasia is so strongly connected to how people form, store and recall memories, it can affect your personality and development in a
myriad of unusual ways. One of the most significant that I’ve identified for myself, was this complete void or lack of spirituality or any type of
spiritual feeling. You can imagine (if you’re a 99%-er that is) that if you are unable to visualize and project in all your five senses, then
listening to fantastical stories about god, gods, angels, miracles, magic, and other imaginative concepts would not hold any level of attractiveness
to your psyche.
Think about being a child in church, temple or mosque, and you hear the story about a burning bush that speaks to humans from the Creator. This lesson
is being shared with you from an accepted authority figure, with everyone you love sitting next to you and accepting it as truth and fact. While the
authority figure is speaking, passing down this ancient oral tradition, you could then imagine the scenes playing out for you, and this may even be
accompanied by other strange sensations and emotions. This will probably put its hooks into you and could be a formative milestone on your path to
connecting to spirituality; to *feeling* and therefore *knowing* that there is more to this world and this life.
I never had that, but I what I did have was a feeling of being somewhat like an android or a robot. I could exercise a seemingly higher level of
discipline over my behavior and personality to mold myself into who or what I thought I *should* be. But it’s always felt quite empty, like a
soulless automaton. And because of this void, for years I carried with me a strong pull to make myself explore meditation. Meaning that it was forever
at the top of one of my invisible “To Do” list spreadsheets; I needed to check off that box to confirm to myself that there, indeed, was nothing
to that either, and then sort it into the column of other failed spiritual concepts that bounced off of me.
This void pulling on me, asking me to test and confirm that there is (or isn’t) more to life than living as an organic meat bag that eventually, one
day, is buried in the dirt or spread, as ashes, to end as carbon dusted across a little patch of earth. So this is the *WHY* of why I had to get in
and wrap my hands around the whole ‘Meditation’ thingy. But let’s return to this in a moment.
I’ve found from my recent interactions with Aphantasiacs (it appears to be a trait that is *strongly* genetically inherited) and from participating
in the reddit subforum on Aphantasia that we will show a preference for being agnostic and are disproportionally weighted in the STEM and computer
programming fields. Also, possibly sorting into a higher representation as INTJ in the Myers Briggs personality matrix (INTJ here, reporting for
Note, if you think you have Aphantasia, go here to learn more and connect with others. Your reaction will probably mirror mine and the hundreds before
me: you are stunned that your mind works so different and feel an overwhelming sadness for several days that you have been missing out on a large part
of the human experience. I cried for three days straight. Don’t carry the sadness, there is beauty in the differences of how you experience life and
edit on 10-9-2018 by Justshrug because: updated Blake Ross link
edit on 10-9-2018 by Justshrug because: trying to get first
link to work