Aphantasia and dependency on the unconscious

A couple of weeks ago Prof Joel Pearson asked A question on twitter about how one with Aphantasia recomized a familiar face in a crowd, and I responded ‘I just have a confidence that I will recognize the person I am looking for when I see them – and I do.’

And that led me to thinking about an old puzzle I have had in the back of my mind since I took an intro to psychology course in college and first heard about Freud’s theories of the unconscious, which were absurd to me, but even more absurd was the proposition that before the 1800’s people were were not even aware the had an unconscious.

You see I have always known I relied on parts of my mind that was not part of the stream of dialogue I consider my conscious.  The parts that instantly recognize an old friend in a crowd even if they have gained 50 pounds and grown a beard since I have last seen them.  The part that finds the book that I am looking for in the hodgepodge of thousands of old books I own, even when I haven’t thought about the book in years.  The part that knows the correct answer to those spatial IQ test, the one that take notice of the maps I study for a cross country trip and will navigate me to the correct location while I am busy writing short stories in my head and not giving  any thought to where I need to turn next, for I knew my unconscious knew and would direct me there. etc.

And now I am wondering  if  I, as an aphantasic, more dependent on my unconscious than most or am I just more aware of my dependency on my unconscious then most?

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You describe my experience well. I can’t picture faces; as I walk up to them I can’t remember their name; but as I say hello their name comes out with no problem.

I also have an excellent sense of direction even though I can’t visualise the map in my head.

Seems like we compensate in the same way.

Everyone is dependent on their subconscious. Visualization itself is not necessarily thought it is just something extra that many people get that floats up from their subconscious, they attribute the thinking to the visualization even though it’s actually the subconscious processes that are doing the work. Aphants having no visualization at all might be more aware of this and understand that we’re just really asking the hidden mind for answers and it provides them, we get used to that. I don’t think this process is substantially different in visualizers their conscious experience of it is however overpowered by the visualization so they never become aware that there must be that hidden mind doing all the actual work.

I’ve pondered this myself and I’m not sure but it does make sense to me especially in that I’m a multi sensory aphantasic that the quieter mind would make us more aware that our thinking is just something that happens in the background, we ‘think’ about something often in an unsymbolized form and the answer just pops in there, in my case usually in the form of a self answered question consisting of worded and partially worded thought and feelings but not inner speech, IE no perception of anything like sound in the mind, just language.

I’m fairly sure however that all people are actually dependent on their subconscious, our conscious thoughts simply do not contain enough content to explain how we come up with answers to things, I just think that heavy visualizers are so surrounded in sensory experience within their mind that the subconscious is never ‘noticed’ as a source because they have the sensory visualizations that they perceive as being the source of their thoughts. The subconscious is still doing all the work they just get a free show to go along with it.

This is personally the only way that I can comprehend how someone such as myself can be a fully functional human being even without any sensory content to their thought processes.

That being said we do think differently from visualizers in subtle ways so the visualizations that they experience I think obviously do feed back into the subconscious to some degree so it’s not a completly passive show, the show and how some may be able to manipulate it changes how their subconscious deals with it.

That’s interesting, because those experiences are ones I’ve had too, but I also need to put my thoughts into consciousness a lot of the time or else they don’t feel weird. Like, I’ll have a discussion with myself and even though my subconscious is running so much faster than my mouth talking to myself or my consciousness trying to put my thoughts into words, I feel as if I need to have those words before I can move on to something else, or else it didn’t truly exist.