I’m really confused. Maybe a little bit scared even? I’m not even sure. I just want to share my story. I have this obsessive need to talk about this. It’s blowing my mind.
Last night I found out that aphantasia is a thing. I am 29. I was watching some interesting video about people who do not have an inner monologue. This baffled me. How could someone think without talking to themselves in their head? Then the guy said (implying that this was even more unusual) that some people can’t even visualize images in their mind. Hold up. People actually SEE imagery in their minds? Nah, it’s just an exaggeration or something, right?
Well, many hours and a sleepless night later, after reading and watching countless things online, I finally accepted that these people exist and how I think may not be the norm. And to my astonishment, the “image” in imagination is actually literal!?
Quite tired from lack of sleep, I headed off to work in the morning. I read that people with aphantasia tend to think more logically or excel at logic based tasks and often end up being computer programmers or some sort of engineer. Guess what I do for a living? Yep, software engineer. Shocker. Anyway, I had to find out if other people really could do this magic trick of conjuring actual imagery in their “mind’s eye.” So I asked pretty much everybody at work (small/medium company). To my absolute shock, only one person seemed to share this with me (he was about as surprised by this whole thing as I was). Everyone else was either confused or surprised, or in some cases not quite believing that I couldn’t do this simple thing.
The next thing I did was try to find out if this might be genetic. I called my brother. He described his thoughts identically to mine. I didn’t have a very long conversation with him about it (I was at work afterall), but I was fairly certain he sharethis with me. Later, I called my dad. After explaining myself, the first thing he asked me was if I should see a doctor. He wondered if I had some sort of recent head trauma that might cause this. He was actually worried that I couldn’t do this. Suffice it to say, he ddoes not have this condition. Then there was my mother. She 100% has aphantasia. After some long discussions she, like me, started to make sense of a lot of things in her past.
On the note of seeing a doctor, is this something I should talk to a doctor or psychologist about? I don’t know if I even see this as an “issue” or just a different way of thinking, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something crucial. But then again, if I never found out I’d just blissfully live my life just fine, right?
I have read a lot about people with this condition having trouble perceiving human faces, or perhaps recognizing them. A few weeks ago I made a comment to my friend that she looked a lot like this science lady I watch on youtube. She was like “uh, no I don’t” and it wasn’t until I put their pictures side by side that I realized how very wrong I was. Maybe they had the same sort of hair, but that’s about it. But it isn’t like I wouldn’t immediately recognize either of them when I see them, but for some reason the list of traits I keep in my head for them had a lot of overlap.
I later read that it isn’t just imagery, but all senses. Do people actually hear things in their minds? Smell? Taste? Feel?
Then came the skepticism and denial. I’ve done all the aphantasia tests I could find and they 100% tell me that I have this. But those tests do feel very subjective. I keep thinking maybe I do really see some vague something. Maybe I’m confusing phantasia with prophantasia (apparently something to do with projecting the images?) and I don’t really understand what this visual imagery is that other people see. Despite the mounds of evidence, I am having a hard time believing that it isn’t all just in my head. And it isn’t so much that I see this as an illness. To be honest, I’m not sure how to think about this. I only found out last night and my whole world feels so different now. Maybe I’m just being overly dramatic, but this whole concept is so mind bending I don’t even know. So, I guess one main question I have is, how do I really know for sure if I have aphantasia?
Anyway, if you got this far, thanks for reading my rambles. I really felt like I needed to get these thoughts out of my head.