I recently recognized that I have aphantasia with visuals. I realized that this is why I could never remember how to light a backpacking stove, read a map, or remember how to make a figure 8 knot for tying into a climbing harness for rock-climbing – all kinds of things.
Interestingly though, I have always had excellent spatial, kinesthetic, and tactile abilities. For example, if I think about what is in my desk drawer, I can tactilely remember what is in my desk drawer.
The other day, it dawned on me that if my tactile memory is so accurate, maybe I can “see” through touch. I experimented with this by closing my eyes and feeling the parts of my MSR Dragonfly camping stove. I found amazing, and I mean amazing!, success with this technique.
I finally had a breakthrough, and I can absolutely and completely remember how my stove works now! I became very encouraged and have been trying this tactile memory technique with everything! I now understand and remember how my Katadyn water filter for backpacking works too. I could never, ever remember things before like this. Never.
Before, all my visuals were like mental blobs. I knew that there was a chair or a stove or whatever in a room, but it was just a vague blob of a visual concept. (Also, weirdly, I can draw what I see very, very well, like many artists with aphantasia. But no memory. I just can’t call up a visual in that way).
I did also realize that if I use language that my understanding of a visual also becomes more accurate. If I label and describe things, I can conceptualize them, so I can say, regarding my camping stove, “The wick is at the base of the burner cup.” The language has to be very accurate and specific for me to really see clearly through language descriptions.
Anyway, I discovered that if I combine tactile memory and language that I can absolutely compensate for my lack of visual memory. I am very excited because now I feel so much more secure about taking backpacking trips — and, of course, to do many different activities that I felt unable to manage before — like remembering how to change a flat tire — all kinds of things!
The last thing I would like to say is that I could probably orient myself while backpacking if I had a 3d map of the trip to understand the layout of the area I plan to visit. I discovered that there are places that print 3d maps.
I am very excited about using 3d technology for learning about science and about all kinds of things, and I am also excited about haptic technologies as well. I know these are being developed for people with blindness and low vision. I wonder if there are others in the aphantasia community that would benefit from this?
I know aphantasia can affect many modalities, so I know that there will be people unable to use tactile memory to compensate either. I just wonder how many other compensatory techniques might be out there that I have not even thought of. I know I need to spend time reading the discussion panels to find out. But this is my direct question.
My question to others is to ask if any of you have discovered compensatory techniques such as tactile, language, whatever that compensate for visual aphantasia memory issues? Do you find your techniques to be so good that you can actually become excellent at remembering things you could not manage remembering before?
Thanks for listening.