I have Aphantasia
Some of you may know that I have something that is called Aphantasia. It isn’t something that most people know about, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you about Aphantasia and how it affects me on a day to day basis.
Aphan-what? Aphantasia. Pronounced ay-fan-tay-sia.
Aphantasia is a phenomenon in which people are unable to visualize imagery. People with aphantasia are unable to call up images in their mind’s eye, or can pull up only very limited images.
So what does that mean?
It seems that most people when asked to picture an apple, can call up an actual picture of an apple in their mind. Some can call up a very sharp image, and some can call up images with less detail – or “fuzzier.” For people with aphantasia, they don’t see any image of an apple at all.
Some people with aphantasia can call up very limited images, I cannot.
So what happens when someone asks me to picture an apple? Nothing. I can tell you a list of characteristics I know to be true about apples. But I don’t actually see any image at all.
Working on mindfulness exercise once I was asked to close your my and imagine your worries going by in boxes on a conveyer belt, and just…..let them go by. I started laughing. I then explained that I can’t picture things, and was asked what I saw when I closed my eyes and tried to imagine, my response was, “the back of my eyelids.” (Also, I couldn’t help but wonder who would pick up the boxes of worries when they fell on the floor.)
How does having Aphantasia impact my daily life?
It doesn’t have any impact on physical health or intellectual health. For me, the biggest negative thing about it is that I can’t pull up pictures in my head of loved ones. Especially those who have passed on.
I am obsessed with taking photographs and it’s likely because of this. When my kids were small, I worried that I wouldn’t remember what they were wearing if I needed to.
I can’t “picture” where I put things. I have a hard time imagining things like – how to decorate a house or paint a room because I can’t imagine it first. I suck at memory games and puzzles, but am great at word games. When asked to picture or describe something, I do it in words and lists.
Interestingly I, like some other folks, do occasionally see images in my dreams. Most of the time I dream in narration – like a running dialogue. But once in a while I get a few images.
There are probably some other ways it impacts me, but because this is how I can always remember being, it took a while to start figuring out what things were related to the aphantasia. Every once in a while I realize a new thing about it.
So that is what Aphantasia is, and how it impacts me. Please let me know if you have any questions!