For most of my life, I assumed that everyone’s memory worked the same as mine and that “visualisation” was just a figure of speech, or that making a picture in your mind only existed in Fantasy novels.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I read an article online about Aphantasia, and I realised the way my memory works wasn’t normal.
For those that don’t know, Aphantasia is an inability to create a mental image. Apparently the severity varies a great deal, as some people can kinda visualise shapes or can’t think in colour or remember details.
But for me personally, there’s just nothing. You can’t even say it’s black really, there’s just nothing. I don’t think in pictures at all, visualisation sounds like straight-up magic to me.
I also can’t imagine sounds in my head, I don’t have an inner voice and I don’t think in words, I don’t get earworms. Again, I thought that getting a song stuck in your head was just a metaphor.
I started to feel like I was missing out, like I’d been denied something incredible.
But it’s not a handicap for me. It’s so easy to think that it is, but really, I got along just fine before I knew (more than 30 years). I didn’t know any different and it doesn’t seem to affect me negatively in any significant way.
My mind just processes things in a different way, and seems to handle it all pretty much as well as anyone else.
My theory: While I can’t consciously visualise, I believe my subconscious can, it just kind of hides the working out, so to speak. So the information is all in there, I just don’t consciously make use of it.
If you asked me to describe someone from memory, I’d only be able to give you the most obvious details but when I see them, I can still recognise people by their look, the way the move, ther fashion, the sound of their voice, the things they say, etc.
I can remember directions or find my way after looking at a map. I have a strong sense of direction and can always tell which way is north and while I can’t create a map as a mental image, I know which way to go, when to turn and how far away I am from my destination. It’s almost instinctive.
I have a surprisingly accurate internal clock, I’m rarely off by more than 15-20 minutes. I’m not even sure how that works but if someone asks, I just know the time even if I haven’t seen a clock for several hours.
Solving three dimensional puzzles is a breeze, I shouldn’t know what’s on the pieces that are out of my view, but somehow it all comes together.
I do struggle creatively though. I’ve dabbled in art and music but there are things I just can’t do.
I can draw a very technically good picture if I have a source image or a model, but I can’t draw freehand, the shapes just don’t come together for me. And faces… let’s not go there. I can’t get proportions right from memory so I can’t always get the idea I want onto the page.
And I’m completely tone-deaf. I can sing along to a song if it’s on in the background, but turn the the music off and I can’t recreate the tune, even if I’ve memorised the lyrics.
I had a hard time time learning instruments, I just can’t wrap my head around it without a backing track.
And I don’t remember my dreams. Not sure if my dreams are just too abstract or my conscious mind is just unable to make sense of them, but at the very best, and only occasionally, I get a vague impression of the emotion I was feeling but no hint of whatever evoked it.
But overall, I’ve never felt like I’ve been at a disadvantage, it’s not like it’s a hardship, it’s just different. It just is how it is and there’s no point brooding on something I can’t change.
About the Creator
Doing my best to keep on keeping on. I’m a quiet guy with a quiet life and I like it that way.
I like spending time with my family, cooking, fantasy fiction, video games, anime and archery.
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