My 37 year experience with Congenital Aphantasia
I realized I had congenital aphantasia late April of 2020. Today I am 37… Growing up I never once conjured a single mental image of anything and had no idea this was normal until this year. When I close my eyes and attempt to imagine anything I see complete darkness or simply areas of light coming through my eyelids. When I try to imagine with my eyes open nothing happens. When I read a book and it has detailed written visual imagery I think nothing of it and skip on to the actual content. When I imagine my wife’s face, children’s face, mothers face I see nothing. Did I forget your name? Yes you told me 5 times but I still don’t remember as I can’t see your face in my mind. Ask me what’s on my breakfast table this morning and I can barely tell you let alone visualize it. Ask me to do something extremely complicated I can do it using a computer monitor as my visual organizer and monitor.
I recently attempted image streaming but like many other was not able to conjure the first images. They did often come after 20-30 minutes of attempting to imagine in the form of like dim blu-ish, green-ish, red-ish or gray-ish (mostly gray-ish/blue-ish) clouds morphing in my mind. The images come much faster now sometimes after a few minutes or less. I’ll be honest it was very frustrating getting started. You will not achieve overnight results and likely not even after several months. I suspect this will take years depending on your age (neuroplasticity?) to literally alter the way your brain works and organizes information.
Anyway so I exclusively use eye masks in darkness to more easily identify the faintest glimpse of an image. I mostly image stream in my head not out loud or with a partner. So I try to describe the image i’m seeing just in my head. I suspect its the same thing as describing out loud? I’m theorizing that no one ever taught me to close my eyes and imagine something and to like literally hallucinate it in my head. I thought that was what happened to crazy people and was something to avoid at all costs. I remember reading a study once on taxi drivers who had developed over time physically larger areas of their brain associated with location awareness. I’m hoping this also might apply to Aphantasia. Anyway it has been roughly 8 months of weekly (sometimes daily) practice and I feel I am developing some ability to visualize. This morning I was daydreaming/visualizing/imagining whatever you want to call it and I definitely can see images of random things that are apparently on my mind. I am still unable to voluntarily conjure specific images but I am able to manipulate the rotations of some images such as blue clouds which like sort of vortex around as I imagine. Maybe 0.5% of the time (this happened a few times basically) I can see crystal clear HD TV-like images of places I have been before or seen somewhere (or maybe imagined)? One time I saw thousands of real-to-life and maybe actual people I’ve seen go through this flip book in my head really fast. No I was not on drugs and no I was not asleep lol. This works mostly practicing before falling asleep for me. I’ve read that some people say they can only imagine before they fall asleep. I’ve tried other techniques such as looking into light and watching as the image remnants fade and sometimes alter into other forms. I do remember reading about Telsa and how his mother used to shine lights into his eyes for some kind of memory practice. I also remember reading that Telsa literally imagined and fine tuned his machinery in his head down to the bolt before implementing in real life. He also had other weird things he did like live an entire other life like in his head. Weird right? When I read that book I didn’t know about Aphantasia and thought visualizing was just some genius thing. I could probably cite hundreds of references of people (Einstein, Von Neumann, Darwin, Tesla etc.) who used their visual ability to their advantage. I’ve also tried rubbing my eyes which do generate some initial images but still haven’t helped with me self conjuring the images. Some other ideas I think may be related to aphantasia here are reading with intent to imagine. So I have recently been practicing visualizing/imagining/hallucinating? the descriptions in my head (with some success).
I would like to eventually have self-conjured imagery just as vivid as many have today. Also hoping to be able to see numbers and words and such in my future minds eye to help with various things. I’ve listened to some folks which have quite unique ways of organizing information in like this cylindrical timeline in their head. Seems like this visual ability will be quite useful for many functions. Trying to keep a journal of daily activities as well which help me to attempt visual recall. Anyway I plan to self study until I am able to develop the ability (which I guess could be never).. BTW my wife arguably has Hyperphantasia so bouncing questions to here has been interesting. But it has brought a new level of understanding to our relationship. For example I now realize why she hates watching horror movies.. She is so amazing at decorating because she literally sees how she wants it to look before she does it. So awesome. Anyway thats my story so far.
Thanks for sharing.
I have never thought to try and learn to visualise. Very interesting idea