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Are you aphantasic if you have vivid dreams and daydreams?

Christoper asked 10 months ago
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I only realised I was possibly aphantasic about 18 months ago (I’m 72) when I heard an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program on it and then did your test on the website. I believe I’m tolally aphantasic as I can’t visualise things or recall smells, tastes, sensory conditions like wind, or even recall feelings about events (including my wedding!). I have never been able to visualize during meditation, but can remember places where I have been in detail.

However I have very vivid dreams and if the situation is right, have daydreams. I can recall them, manipulate them, return to them and describe them – even though I have no actual image when describing them. I can recall the names of the people or places involved and would be able to draw a sketch of of location, but can’t actually “see” or “sense” them.

In my everyday life I am very good at coming up with alternative solutions to problems or situations, and I know they will work. But I do remember quite some years ago when I told a mens group that I was part of, that when I was away from them, they did not exist – they were a bit dismayed, and some felt that I had no feelings or connection with them!

So is it really aphantasia or is it just a lack of realisation or recall?

Jennifer McDougall Staff August 27, 2020 02:40 pm

Thanks for your question Christopher. Many aphantasics will report decreased imagery in the other senses – smells, tastes, sensations of touch as you described. Pretty neat that you can still remember places in detail, could be that your brain found interesting workarounds?

Your dreams also sound very interesting. How often do you dream? According to new research, aphantasics do dream but will often report fewer dreams. From what we understand, the experience of dreams varies widely among people with aphantasia.

Some dream in images, but unable to do so while awake. Others dream with the knowledge they’re dreaming, but without mental pictures or sound. From what I understand, our dreams involve a different neuro-network than the one involved in mental imagery but more research is definitely needed in this space.

You’ve started a very interesting conversation. I’m curious to learn more!

Yeti December 03, 2020 02:11 am

Just found this community and just thought I would jump in here. I have minds eye that I am aware of and deeply struggle in recalling memories with detail (I take a LOT of photos which are incredibly helpful for my memory). That said, I do dream a lot, if not every single night, and my dreams are visually lush and detailed. My dreams are as accurate as real life and they are often very fantastical and beatufiul. Afterwards, like with most I believe, they fade, so if I don’t write them down, I forget them quickly.

To your final question, I don’t believe so, as so much of visualizing seems to be summoning images as you need them, beyond simply recalling.

Christopher December 03, 2020 06:40 am

Hi Jennifer and Yeti, thanks for your feedback.

I actually dream every night, sometimes sequentially following the same dream, sometimes with different events. Very rarely are they distressing, mostly interesting, complex and vivid. Like Yeti, they usually fade if I don’t deliberately remember them or write them down. However I may remember them while awake during the day or even revisit them in a later dream.

Likewise I enjoy photos, taken by myself or others, as I can use them as prompts to remember a place or sometimes an event. But I don’t really see or visualize the details in a way that I can retain in my mind’s eye (although I may remember/know it’s a Carravegio of Judith and Holfernes, and it hangs on the south wall of a gallery in Rome, etc, etc).

Perhaps my "visualisation memories" are more spatial recall than substance!

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