Aphantasia– a Strength, not a Handicap


I am a visual aphant. I consider myself a success– I have a good relationship with my family, have a Masters in a science related field, and make 300K+ a year. 

Because I’ve learned many people consider the inability to visualize as a handicap or a disability, I’d like to present an alternate view. Having aphantasia has never slowed me down, and indeed is likely to have contributed to my success.  Keep in mind this reflects MY experience as an aphant, and some of this is no doubt just who am I as a person. 

* I have fewer assumptions. When visualizers hear a description, they unconsciously fill in the blanks in their images, sometimes incorrectly. My brain doesn’t work like that. If you tell me “apple” I don’t automatically assume it is a red, yellow, or green apple– I just think of the concept ‘apple’. While visualizers can revise these images as new information comes in, I feel this would lead to a lot of false assumptions initially, that could impact decisions unconsciously.

* I don’t have as much trouble “letting go” of traumatic events. I remember having a song stuck in my head for three days. It was AWFUL. I can’t imagine having a visual of a tragic moment return to me without my conscious consent. I was in the military for four years– plenty of stuff I’m glad I don’t relive.  It also makes sense to me why so many people are afraid of being embarrassed.  After an ‘event’ is over, I can almost always immediately ‘let go’ of it, so I’m not afraid of making a fool of myself. 

* I have weaker emotional reaction to images. I believe studies show this is a common trait in aphants. I know some ‘feelers’ who would list strong emotions as a strength. Personally, I’m a ‘thinker’ over ‘feeler’ and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I can still empathize and sympathize, but I don’t want to be controlled by my emotions, and see those who are as easy to manipulate and irrational in their behavior.

* I don’t get distracted as easily. I have far more focus than my peers– is it because images aren’t randomly popping into my head?

*I live more in the moment. When I am having a conversation with you, you don’t need to wonder if I am secretly undressing you, or imagining stabbing you, or imagining I’m somewhere else, or doing something else with someone else mentally.

* I don’t waste a lot of time fantasizing. Some people promote fantasizing/visualizing to reach their goals. But as an aphant I find this behavior questionable, even ridiculous. It seems like a better use of time would be actually planning and doing the things needed to achieve your goals, rather than creating mental pictures of them. It seems visualizers images ‘help’ them somehow, but I think it also possible fantasies are a crutch to begin with, and learning how to focus the fantasy is simply a way of making them LESS of a crutch.

*I am very well organized.  Maybe this is because I naturally think in terms of concepts and connectors– my brain is a database, and my memory a series of metadata.  Or maybe it is because being well organized means I need to memorize less information. 

I’d like to hear from others: What advantages do you think many aphants have?

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