fbpx

Dreams and aphantasia

judah iam asked 1 year ago
4261 views 22 comments

Intriguingly, while aphantasics cannot summon mental imagery on demand, Zeman (the cognitive and behavioral neurologist who coined the word aphantasia) believes that: “Most aphantasics know what it’s like to visualize, as they experience imagery in their dreams or as they dose off to sleep.” This was confirmed by two World of Lucid Dreaming readers with aphantasia. This suggests that hypnagogic imagery and visualization close to the dreamstate draws on a different mechanism to daydreaming and visualizing during full wakefulness. However, some scientists have begun to refute this claim.

What are your dreams like? Are there visual pictures in your dreamscape? Are they visual or narrative based? Are they in color or black and white? Do you remember them when you wake up? Can you visualize them? Do you recall the narratives? Are dreams enjoyable? Scary? Lucid? Anyone have hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations like I do? Anybody wish like me to go back to dreaming whenever and however possible because dreams are the only visualizations that you are ever able to experience in your mind? My dreams feel like the only place I have the ability to imagine. I can’t visualize my dreams at all when I’m awake; it’s like they turn from motion pictures to print books when the dream is over. Closing my eyes, I see nothing, unless I’m dreaming. No amount of imagining brings any sort of visualization to bear in my mind… What about you?

Aimee Seaver September 25, 2019 06:17 pm

I have very visual dreams. I get a little obsessed with them b/c they’re the only visual imagery I can get.

That’s awesome you can get the hypnagogic imagery to chase! I want to work on that, but not sure it’s possible. I sometimes have non visual versions where I’m following a storyline/scene, but it’s all non visual, and then I wake up from the half asleep state.

My dreams are usually very divorced from reality, I’m almost never myself, and sometimes I’m a cat, gargoyle, octopus, etc. Fighting is pretty common, as well as post apocalyptic settings. Dreamscapes themselves are visually crisp and detailed.

I really want to learn how to lucid dream, then I can use my dreams as nighttime visual imagination land ^_^

What are you hypnagogic hallucinations like? Do they have a mind of their own or are they similar to lucid dreaming in that you have some control?

judah iam replied 1 year ago

I meant to comment in your answer zone but I put it in my own comment reply box by accident so:I never knew, other than people like my mother looking at me funny and saying "can't you picture it in you mind?" that aphantasia was a thing. When I heard a podcast on CBC I was blown away because I knew I couldn't visualize. For example I have had meditation teachers marvel at my ability to easily meditate and when they ask me what I see I would say nothing, but sometimes there is a point in the middle nearer to the top that looks brighter and changes in shape or contrast… They would tell me I'm a natural and that it takes years to get to that level! They asked me what it looks like and I'd say it's very abstract but sort of looks like a tunnel, sometimes the shadow of an eye, and sometimes a distant light like seeing a candle down from a thousand meters down a dark hall.

But really, it is the absence of visual imagery that leaves this impression for me to "see" when I close my eyes and really try to look at the nothing. The nothing doesn't really take shape but it does have one point near the center that is a little bit brighter than the rest of the nothing and if I try to focus on it it seems to respond as though it is actually something responding to my focus. I imagine it's my mind trying to create an image but it just can't. What about you; have you tried to meditate? My dreams are very real and I tend to wake up excited or disturbed depending on the subject matter because it's hard to believe it wasn't real; it's as real or more than reality, because in reality I have a very vague sense of visual memory.

For example I have trouble remembering and recognizing faces, but I never forget a voice. I can hear a voice once and know it conclusively years later, such as in films or on the radio. Face, however, I can't even picture my mother in my mind. When my first girlfriend moved away I thought it strange that I couldn't picture her face, not even the next day, and as days went on I couldn't recall what she looked like. Even though I know what she looks like I can't bring it into mind. I knew then something was "off" and throughout my life people have ridiculed me for not being able to recognize people and places I'm familiar with. I get lost easily.

Once, I couldn't find my house because I didn't recognize the street and my friends said I must be crazy. It does feel a bit crazy sometimes! I just got used to it and accepted it; it's been a journey of self acceptance for sure, because I feel I don't measure up to others abilities and like I'm permanently lost – the blind mind's eye was a very reassuring concept to learn of. I used to sleep too much because dreaming felt more real than life does to me and I remember my dreams – I can't visualize them – but I know them better than I know my own mother's face!

Apocalyptic dreams, hell ya! That's a big theme for me. Giant tsunamis, the ocean floating into the sky and people screaming as they float up and away as it seems gravity fails, massive fireballs roiling with fire coming toward earth seen through my bedroom window, and then dreams of witnessing a murder or multiple murders, serial killers, like I'm not present but I'm an invisible observer they can't see, those ones I wake up and feel like crying, often I am amidst fleeing criminals who police are chasing, but nobody sees me, like I'm not visible to them. Lots of the dreams are enjoyable, like dreams of flying and teaching people how to fly, and of another world where everything is beautiful and peace reigns… So cool.

Funny you say you're not yourself in dreams, most often, because I can't actually see myself, and I don't know who the observer is. I should try to notice next time. I will. Because it seems like I'm somebody else, except when I have the flying dreams, I remember seeing my body then… Yes crisp and detailed, yet still I can't picture them when awake, I only know them, I remember very well most dreams and fantasize about them for weeks, months even years. Lucid dreaming me too. I'm studying fiction. You might like these articles: They mention how dreaming is thought to work and how we fantasize or fictionalize aspects of ourselves in dreamscape. Very interesting concepts to somebody like me.

My hypno-hallucinations or revelries, as I call them, because I enjoy them even when they frighten me are mere moments long and I feel that I try desperately to grasp them because it is so exciting to me. Sometimes they are paralyzingly fearful but still awesome. (But I have a penchent for scary stories, so thrilling to me is the same as scary; I love it) Not often enough for my pleasure I wake up and for a split second my dream is in reality, there is some dream character in my room or beside my bed. What is most awesome is the sense I get.

I get the sense that the character has all of the sudden become aware of me, like as if they were not aware of my presence before. Last year I woke up to a light from heaven beaming down to the right of the foot of my bed and heard angels singing "Hosanna in the highest" and I sat up weeping for joy(I'm not religious so it was very strange, though I have a christian upbringing that may have projected it somehow) I felt that everything was perfect and all was well, like I understood the reason for everything. Pretty awesome experience.

Another time I woke up and there was a giant human sized caterpillar standing like a human with a head that looked like a space helmet like you see on amazonian giant caterpillars. It stood there for about two seconds and as it disappeared it tried to speak to me in a totally unknown language and was gesturing to me; it seemed it was trying to tell me something. I woke up feeling sorry I couldn't understand and feeling that the bug was desperate to communicate some message to me in that brief moment. Rad. They are so fleeting; I only get one or two seconds with them, sadly. I love it when I get one, it's the best science fiction experience EVER!

The only control I have is in that once I am awake sometimes, rarely, the dream overlaps and stays superimposed over waking reality, ie. the character is in my room beside my bed, and it's interactive in that the character seems to notice me and I notice it, and for the split second we try to interact but the millisecond is gone before I can do anything and the dream falls apart like some sort of 3D geometrical matrix falling away and dissapearing in an instant.

During the dream, when fast asleep, I never know I'm dreaming. It seems like life on another channel without awareness. Awareness only returns upon waking. I wish I could become aware during… It seems like I am somebody else who doesn't know that I am dreaming their life, as if I'm an external narrator with an internal point of view lacking the awareness of who "I" am and who is watching the dream, whether through the central character or not… So complicated. It would be great to have control.

Octopus? That's so cool. I wish I dreamed I was an octopus. I would love that.

Tobiah Goss replied 12 months ago

“I get a little obsessed with them b/c they’re the only visual imagery I can get.”

You know…sometimes I wonder if this is EXACTLY why I enjoyed hallucinogenics so very much when I was in my 20’s.

Jim Tore Jakobsen replied 11 months ago

I had no idea people saying they can visualize things as being so to the point, they can basically SEE it. My hypnogogic hallucinations have scared me shitless in the past because I did not understand what was happening. Today while trying to nap, I had one similar hallucination to a previous one: Browsing a website. The difference was I could read the words, this time on Facebook. I could stop at whatever post I’d like, and I could pick out words, but there were no sentences, just random words that didn’t fit together at all. While scrolling it made sense, stopping, it didn’t. If this is how most people can visualize things, holy shit. I can “visualize” other senses like smell and sound, like skiing, I can hear the steel of the ski scrape the snow, I can smell the freezing, fresh air, feel the cold wind. But I can’t see it. Still I can remember how it looks like where I’m visualizing with my other senses. This is weird. And explaining.

Rachel C September 27, 2019 11:18 pm

I don’t dream in images, and I don’t think I ever have. Usually I barely remember my dreams. I’m not sure if that’s a side effect of not having visual dreams.

I may dream in images, but if I realize I’m dreaming (through lucid dreaming, for example, or I’m just starting to wake up) I don’t see the images. I feel like the possible images just fall apart as I become aware of them. It’s really hard to explain.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

After reading your answer I had a dream the next day and took a deeper think about it. When I wake up I have absolutely no ability to picture the dream but I have a strong idea of it and I can think of what things looked like but cannot bring them up. The idea feels so deep and not visual whatsoever in my waking mind, however I still know the idea of what the dream object or character looked like. I just can't picture it in the least. It's there but not visually. It is very hard to explain.

My dreaming does occur in images and I think with sound, though when I'm awake I can't imagine it and I feel desperation as the images and narratives fall apart when I wake up. Before I understood why or what this is — not like I understand very well now — I felt like I was in a world that deconstructed the moment I opened my eyes and this dream world was just gone in milliseconds.

I'd feel bereft of the ability to envision it and that feeling is totally weird. It's like there's another world that is only real when I'm in REM or something… But to clarify the images are just an idea to me when I'm awake, but I get the sense that I do experience them as seeing them while I'm dreaming and asleep. Still, it is a concept not an image to my waking mind…

I can't picture any of it when I'm awake and so it seems there is a world more real than this one that I go to when I'm deeply asleep and dreaming. I do remember some bits of dreams very clearly though, but it is very rare for me. Recently I dreamed of men in turbans and a foreign city, and I felt lost, but I was focused on one man for some reason I don't know what the reason is though. I asked a passerby "Where am I?" the man answered "Babek". I woke up and wrote down that name. I'd never heard it before. When I was writing it down I could totally conceptualize where I felt like that I just had been, but not in any visual sense.
The imagery is just gone, as soon as I'm up. I just know the details in a narrative sense. What I can remember such as the appearence of the men's turbans, and the brown buildings and dusty streets and horses and carts, but I can't think to visualize or imagine it. When I was writing down that name, I woke up a bit and thought to myself, did he say Babel? And I thought very distinctly, no, he said Babek. And I thought, that's weird. I don't know how to spell that word. I wrote Babek on a pad of paper and went back to sleep. I googled Babek the next afternoon… There's a city called Babek in Iran. It totally looked like an Iranian city in the dream but I can't visualize it. I just 'know' what it looked like. And I know what happened in that there were men on horses and a market with tent roofs. But it's just a narrative sort of idea and it feels totally buried in my mind even though the idea is strong and present. Totally strange…

Rachel C replied 1 year ago

Your response makes PERFECT sense to me and is more or less how I dream. I still think I don’t dream in images, but whatever I do dream, it goes straight to a narrative in my head. I generally have small descriptions for things, but not necessarily because I saw it; I just have a gut feeling about what the object or person looked like. For example, just this morning I had a dream that had my fourth grade teacher in it. I didn’t see him, but I knew he was there and what he looks like.

That was a really freaky dream by the way! Very strange indeed.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

What about faces, do you process people you know or do you feel that you barely remember them, like you say about your dreams? Do you have trouble remembering faces like I do? I confuse people who look vaguely similar, and even people I have worked with for a year or more, I don't recognize them months later. People I meet at a dinner two or three times are total strangers to me six month later, until they tell me who they are. I remember narrative bits about them but not their appearance! It's very embarrassing…

People I knew would say "are you crazy? That's so and so, you met them ten times!" or "Are you crazy? That's not so and so, they don't even look remotely the same!" I just got used to knowing I don't know what the hell people look like the day before by the next day. It's tough to manage relationships when people realize you don't recognize them; I get the sense from nonverbals that people feel hurt I don't seem to remember them.

Once I couldn't find my house on my own street. I couldn't remember what my street looked like and I didn't recognize that I was on it. My friends said "your house is five houses up on the left, don't you know where you are?" I feel perpetually lost and I never know what people are referring to when they give examples of landmarks. Even when I've been somewhere many times, I often can't think of where it is and have to look on google maps.

Off topic, sorry. I never forget a voice and have a great memory for stories, I remember obscure things people say but not their faces. I feel sort of blind, like my eyes are disconnected from my memory. That's why I appreciated your description of dreaming… Barely remembering and having them "fall apart". I'm totally with you, your description also makes perfect sense to me. I'd love to hear more about your dream.

Rachel C replied 1 year ago

I don’t think I have face blindness, but my friend does who isn’t an aphant. So that’s how I got her to understand about my aphantasia.

But the idea of “feeling blind, like my eyes are disconnected from my memory” is… pretty much what I feel. Take driving for example. I’m going for my full licence next week, and I struggle to remember directions because I can’t remember what places look like, even if I’ve driven there many times in the past. I went for lessons to brush up for my test, and I never feel “present” behind the wheel, like I’m borderline dissociative. And doing “left-right-centre” checks at intersections, I feel like I’m looking on instinct, but not actually REALLY looking because it isn’t registering in my brain.

I do feel like my aphantasia has affected my thought process in how I problem solve. If I do something “wrong”, or in a different way, my mother will say “what is wrong with you?!” for maybe misinterpreting what she was asking, similar to how you maybe can’t remember your coworkers after six months. It’s…. difficult, to say the least.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

Wow, poignant description. My mom would say that same phrase all the time. My inability to absorb or follow directions is epic and became a running joke in my family. My dad(adopted me when I was six, not my paternal parent) acted like I was crazy when I couldn’t ever explain to him where places are; he’d grill me about streets and landmarks until I got frustrated and embarrassed. There’s nothing “wrong” with people like us. We have different challenges and different strengths. Stay strong. You got this. There’s no shame in feeling lost. It’s hard enough to cope with without people adding to the difficulties. Lots of us with aphantasia totally understand. Thanks for your comments, they are really helpful for me to realize it’s not me, it’s aphantasia.

Rachel C replied 1 year ago

Like… one time she told me to close some windows because it was raining, but I ended up only closing two of the three that were open. I forgot about the last one, didn’t actually see it, and couldn’t visualize it, so I forgot it was even open. It ended up with her finding out and getting mad, and asking what the hell was wrong with me. I tried to defend myself and explain my thought process, but she didn’t want to hear it. It was really, really devastating for me, even though it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s so, so hard trying to unlearn the notion that “something is wrong with me” when it’s been told to me over and over again by an important adult in my life. Realizing it is probably my aphantasia has been very liberating, because I have realized it isn’t my fault, that nothing is ‘wrong’ with me. However… there is still that doubt something is wrong with me anyway. I haven’t told my mom about my aphantasia; I feel like she wouldn’t believe me if I told her.

judah iam replied 12 months ago

I always feel inadequate due to not having positive, validating support systems. That's so important when growing up. Hearing somebody say, "what's wrong with you!" is no different from hearing "there is something wrong with you" except that it is worse because you end up thinking there is something wrong with you but that you don't know what it is because it's never stated what that is.

For people that don't have supportive families I would recommend seeing a counsellor and sharing self doubts with them. There is normally a counsellor at school or work or in the community that you can see for no charge for 30 minutes. I went through years of weekly counselling and I feel much better about myself, however, I still have the nagging feeling that I am not good enough. It's really sad to feel that way.

The cause of those feelings is not getting enough unconditional positive regard from caregivers during growth. If that was missing or inconsistent, there is no option but to learn to provide it to yourself. But it's not easy. I can think, "I love myself, I'm good enough, I matter, I have a voice, and there's nothing wrong with me," but sadly, there still lurk emotions that don't believe that there's nothing wrong with me or that I'm good enough. I got a 97% on my History exam last night. I still feel I'm not good enough. I wish you all the blessings in the world dealing with those feelings.

YOU ARE LOVED and IT IS NOT OKAY for a parent to carelessly plant the seeds of inadequacy in a child's unconsciousness. It should be a crime.

ANIKA BRKIC September 28, 2019 01:33 pm

My dreams are visual. I see pretty vividly in my dreams. When I try to think about the other senses, I can’t reember if I have them in my dreams. It’s wierd but I’m not sure if I have sounds and stuff in my dreams.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

Good point, I have never recalled a sound of any sort in my dreams, but I did hear “dream” angels singing the moment I woke up once, so I must have been dreaming their vocalizations. It’s like my dreams are silent films but the picture goes direct to memory and skips my visual processing center, like direct to DVD movies skip the cinema. I will check that out next dream – is there sound? Is there any sense of touch? I know there is a sense of motion when I’m flying or falling; like the feeling of dropping on a rollercoaster. That’s quite thrilling and I always wake up feeling like I just rode a ride at the exhibition… thanks for your comments everybody! You’re helping me understand my dreams and my aphantasiac life.

Laura Flanigan October 14, 2019 02:51 am

I dream very vividly and often. I am a lucid dreamer and dream in first person. I don’t have control over the dream but I always know that I am dreaming so they don’t scare me or bother me at all. When I wake up I can remember what happened but of course, can’t visualize it afterwards. The dreams feel almost as real as life since they are in the first person, much like life. I’ve always found life has a dream-like quality as a result.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

You make a very good point that resonates with me. You say your dreams feel like real life and that real life seems dream like in some way. I completely relate to that. Apparently Australian Aborigines belief system holds that dreamtime is reality and awake life is the illusion; this way of looking at reality is such a fascinating reversal that I find it incredible to ponder. I also can't visualize dreams afterward. This makes dreaming a very alluring thing to spend time doing.

When I know I've just been dreaming and wake up, I really, really want to go back and spend more time dreaming, regardless of whether it was a happy dream or more of a scary one. I find dreams are like what I would think virtual reality would be if it was perfectly indistinguishable from being awake and having full agency. When they end, it feels like a door slams shut on an incrediblely real world that seems visual, when I'm there at least, but when I wake up it's like it rolls up into a scroll and goes all black, or blank. Then being awake seems surreal and I stumble through daily life feeling half asleep, while in a dream I feel totally exhilarated, vibrant, and completely alert, with no sense of 'dreamyness' the plagues my waking life. That's very backwards seeming!

Thanks for your comment it was very revealing and resonates with my experience. I don't usually have any awareness while I dream that I am dreaming, that's where I differ. I have tried to become aware, to coach myself to realize it but so far when I'm dreaming I don't think of it as a dream, and often I find myself thinking, this is so awesome! Where am I?! Not like I am lost, but rather it feels like I am certain that I want to return and so I'm trying in the dreamscape to figure out how I would get back and I'm aware that I don't have the fainist clue how I got there and I don't know where this world is… I keep thinking, how will I return? Where is this? But as to what is happening, I know exactly what is going on, there is a concrete sense of narrative. But when I wake up it evaporates leaving the sparsest of details. It's so fun!

Winter Frost October 15, 2019 04:01 am

My dreams are a sensory overload. When I wake up I can recall sensations felt during the dream. Things like being burned alive, the wind and tears while falling, what it felt like upon impact of said fall.

judah iam replied 1 year ago

That’s very interesting; the only sensation I can recall clearly is flying or falling. I don’t ever remember an impact, or what the more apocalyptic dreams ‘feel’ like. I wake up from those kinds of dreams(earthquakes, tsunamis) wondering why I didn’t feel scared and why I wasn’t running from danger like the other people in the dream were. But when I dream of being able to float, fly, or I dream I’m falling, I wake up with butterflies in my stomach like a rollercoaster loop leaves. Never wind, though, I’m jealous. I’d love to feel dream wind. Fire, not so much. Thanks for leaving a comment! I wish you only pleasant sensations.

Hannah Lauren November 25, 2019 05:36 pm

For me, I don’t dream particularly often or atleast don’t remember them very frequently. I find dreams to feel quite real, and especially when I experience negative dreams or some kind of emotional dream, when I wake up, it felt very real and I’m left feeling odd or teary.

Hope Lagaden December 16, 2019 10:16 pm

I experience hypnogogic dreams, visual and auditory. They can be very terrifying. Sometimes it is people (a portly man riding a toy rocking horse in the corner of the room, a young girl playing with a yo-yo next to me in bed, people floating on the celing, multiple pairs of black boots with trench coats lined up standing next to my head, often also just orbs of colour, sometimes a flash of a scene not where i am, like a car crash, or a child being abducted) sometimes auditory (my children screaming, a voice from under the bed whispering mommy, but it is not my child as my children are in bed with me and fast asleep). Sometimes they include "messages" not voices, but mental communications. Before finding this forum i though i was possibly schitzophrenic (only at night) or channeling spirits as i didnt have any ratiinalisation for why i was awake and experiencing this at night only.

My dream world is very vivid and almost interconnected. i can recal dreams within dreams. i have reocuring dream sensations. The feeling of a place, they are often haunted. my dreams are very morbid, first person watching others commit atrocities i cannot even write, often to children. it is very disturbing, but i never feel afraid like a nightmare, only disturbed and sad. post apocoliptic is also a big theme.

in my waking state i have no visual memory. i cannot recall my childrens faces when they are not with me. i am a photographer and can recall moments with my chikdren through memories of photographs only. its hard to explain, but almost the stillness of the photograph allows me to imprint the moment to be recalled but not the moment itself. and by recalled i mean described in words. like, i cant see my husbands face in my mind but i know he has glasses, brown hair, brown eyes and a long face and recognize him when i see him.

i would also like to highlight that i have alot of shame attached to my dreams. i dont talk about it to many because it is horrible. this forum has allowed me to feel like its not my fault

judah iam replied 12 months ago

Hope, I also used to worry I was schizophrenic, and it didn't help that my father was, or that my mother would tell me that someday I might be. Apparently I had an invisible friend when I was very young and I think it scared my mother into thinking I was hallucinating like my father did. Eventually, I sought counselling and I have been certified by multiple therapists as not having mental illness, and one common bit of feedback I got echoed back by professionals is that by virtue of worrying that one does have mental illness, it's most likely you don't. Apparently, one measure of psychosis is that you don't know you're psychotic and you tend not to believe that you are even when diagnosed as such. So there's that.

I'd have to say that the nature of wondering whether you are schizophrenic probably means you are not. Of course we want an explanation for anomalies like waking dreams! They are so real and can be super scary. It wasn't until taking a psychology course that touched briefly on hypnopompic visions, or reveries, as I like to call them that I encountered this phenomenon. Its common in narcolepsy but not partial to having that condition; but I would wonder if you fall asleep like narcoleptics do? I fall asleep on the bus, while driving, in class, I'm nodding off sometimes when in a conversation, and it happens more under stress, like talking to an authority figure, or training at work by a manager, I'm struggling not to fall asleep on my feet in midsentence. Whether that's from sleep deprivation or slight narcolepsy, who knows. I've never been tested for narcolepsy. But the data on the condition and hypnagogics and hypnopompics does make me wonder. I bet you're a creative photographer. Aphantasiacs and those with dreamscape intrusions would be creative! imo

My dreams infringe on my waking world and tend to most occur when coming out of a dream usually, but I've also had hypnagogic ones as well, experienced on the way in to sleep. I remember reading that normal people don't dream until many hours into sleep when REM occurs; I thought well, then, I'm a freak, because I dream often immediately after drifting off for a few moments. And I tend to jerk awake with a jump, or a shout, because the dreams are so vivid and startle me since they come on so quickly, especially when I'm sleep deprived. I dream right away, as soon as I'm asleep.

It's interesting your experience is auditory. During my dreams, I know I can hear the soundrack, and I know I 'see' the scenes visually, however, when I wake up, if I can still 'see' the dream or its character/s in my room, at that point, I can no longer hear what's happening in the scene. It feels like I'm watching a play that was pulled into my room from the dream, yet there's no sound, as if the sound from my dreams cannot transition into my waking reality the way that what I'm seeing does. I just hear weird zapping and buzzing sounds, and I can see the dream's people or characters trying to talk to me, notice me, or fleeing from my awareness or my attention.

I often get the feeling that the characters from my dreams that appear briefly in my waking time had not actually been able to see me while I was dreaming, until I wake up and then it seems like they all of the sudden can see me and they act alarmed that I am there, sometimes they talk to each other excitedely and point at me, sometimes the yell and motion toward me, sometimes they are mouthing words I cannot hear, and some of them run or try to hide and appear terrified of me… but always, within moments, they quickly disappear as if an old analogue TV was switched off, you know, that the fade of the image from a picture into a fuzzy dark circle and down into the single point of light at the middle of the screen that an old tv would do when you shut the power off. My reveries only last several seconds and they burst and fade into nothing. Once I am fully awake I cannot picture or visualize my dreams, not in the least. It feels quite disappointing, too, because many of my dreams are interesting and I wake up unable to visualize something that I 'know' what it looked like moments before. Sometimes I get an image burned in my memory so that I 'know' what it would look like should I see it, but I cannot close my eyes and visualize it. I close my eyes and just see nothing. Yet the memory of the image is there; it's deeper and I can 'think' what it looks like, and I could describe the color and features with detail, but I cannot bring it to mind by visualizing at all. I thought that was normal, before I heard of aphantasia.

I'm sorry your visions are less than pleasant. Mine seem mostly benign. It is very stressful to have to watch distressful scenes unfold in your most vulnerable space, bed. I don't have it happen as often as you describe, but do know what it feels like because it does happen. It feels like being paralyzed and having to watch terror unfold without being able to react. It's very disturbing. You are describing a healthy reaction to a horrible circumstance, in fact, it is torture to have to watch horror and not be able to have agency to act or help. You sound quite balanced and empathic to me.

That said, I do sometimes dream of people chasing other people or dream of witnessing a murder, or of watching police digging up a yard and finding bodies, but those dreams tend not to come into my waking moments. But I get the sense that nobody can see me, like I'm invisible, which is no fun because I also feel like I can't help the victim or scare off the intruder or the pursuers. My personal take on all of this is that people like us have the ability to dream fully while partially awake and aware of our surroundings. It is a reverse type of lucid dreaming and it's a very special gift that can fee like a curse. I have not figured out how to harness it to any purpose, unfortunately.

I actually wish it would happen more often, now that I understand it. I used to be terrified of sleeping. I'm in my forties, and until this decade, I used to try to stay awake all night and would fall asleep when the sun was breaking. The light made sleep feel safer. I tended not to have hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations/visions in the daylight so I would sleep in the morning. I wound up working graveyard shifts because I thought it benefitted me to work through the night and sleep from 9AM to around noon. This decade, I've started training myself to sleep again.

Sometimes I feel terrified by the insects I dream are in my room with my, giant spiders, usually, and human sized caterpillars. But I try to remember that they are dreams that are spilling into my reality and stay calm. Still, I do not enjoy watching a spider the size of a dog sitting on my bed watching me sleep, nor watching it run and hide when I sit up with open eyes. I still jump up and shake out my blankets and check under the bed with a flashlight before I relax. Sometimes a voice says my name when I'm fast asleep and then when I wake up, I hear it again, but I can't tell where it came from or who it is. It is not your fault, and there are many people like us. I thank-you for your candor and for sharing your experience. Aphantasiacs united.

Başak Genç December 19, 2019 09:29 pm

I usually have realy crazy dreams, they are weird but incredibly detailed. Sometimes they are scary and weird, but i dont remember having a normal dream or a dream with only images. theyre like a short movie also weird but in the same time very realistic. I know it sounds stupid but they are so realistic that i have big issues with them. sometimes my old dreams flash in my mind and i just cant notice that they were actually dreams or ive lived them in real life, it takes time to me to understand. its actually a big problem for me because it makes me feel like i did something i should do but irl i havent done that. its complicated… is there anyone with same problems?

judah iam January 05, 2020 10:43 pm

“is there anyone with same problems?”, I understand completely. I like your description. I try to enjoy my scary dreams now that I’m middle aged. They used to terrify me, especially when I was a child. I had night terrors for many years. Nowdays, I have several recurring ‘nightmares’ that I’m being chased, or that I’m with people who have for instance killed somebody, and are on the run or hiding, and it haunts my when I’m awake. When I was younger, I dreamed that I looked out the window and saw, in one dream, police digging up a body in the yard, and in antother dream, I saw an astroid coming down at my house. Those memories seem very real, as if I lived them. A few times I jumped out of bed and looked out the window, expecting to see an astroid, or police tape and forsenics experts working in my yard. However, I can’t picture it when I close my eyes. It’s more of a narrative that gets laced into my memory. Sometimes my dreams are so life-like seeming that when I wake up everything seems flat, and boring, and has an unreal quality to it. My vision seems not as clear, vivid, or ‘real’ as one of those dreams. Sometimes I dream I’m able to flly by mere intention, telepathicly, without doing anything, sort of like Superman. Those dreams are fun to have, and when I wake up from them, I feel disapointed they aren’t real, and I want to go back to sleep and fly around some more. Those dreams also are bright and happy and I think they are in color. I just can’t be certain, because I don’t have any visual image of them after I wake up. It’s hard to explain if you can picture things in your head what it’s like to have a memory of a dream scene but no image of it… It seems counterintuitive, right? It sort of feels contradictory, too, emotionally. Sometimes I wish my dreams were real life and that my life was a dream because dreams feel more exciting and I actually feel more alive, if that makes any sense. As always, I thank you for your comment. You all are helping me to understand myself better.

Tamra Speakman January 19, 2020 07:40 pm

For the most part it seems like I dream the same way I imagine. Via thoughts, words, feelings, emotions, processes, actions, not images. That said I have had some very vivid visual black and white dreams that were scary to me. I overall do not rememeber a lot of dreams.

maggie fraser January 21, 2020 11:31 pm

although I can’t visualise anything [totally black] I have very vivid dreams in great detail and in colour. They are usually based on areas I,ve lived in and travelled in and seem to be more concerning my surroundings and the plot of the dream than the other people in the dream. I’ve never really had a nightmare. Remember details of dreams for only a short while after.. Sometimes sound is involved but not always.

Helen Luis February 09, 2020 09:00 pm

I do not remember my dreams. There are no images.

Autumn ... February 18, 2020 06:38 am

For me dreaming is rare and when it does happen it’s like an audiobook just a narration of a story and when I wake up it ends mid sentence. There is no visual components and besides the mere minute or so trying to hang on to story all the memories is gone

phoebe kearns February 19, 2020 06:00 am

I rarely dream, if at all, and when I do I can never remember what they were about. The only thing I can recall from my dreams is typically strong feelings/emotions.

I also dream in color and with imagery, but I forget everything immediately upon waking.

Roberto Rojas February 25, 2020 02:22 am

I’m pretty sure I dream with pictures, less sure about sound, I’m also don’t think I see faces, I just kinda know who was involved but I don’t remember seing faces. When I doze off I can see like remanents but I quicky lose them when I wake up. I rarely have nightmares, and many times I enjoy dreams that should be scary somehow; I still can remember an awesome dream I had years ago in which I was traped in a hounted house and other in which I was alone in an infested place with zombies; I remember clearly that they felt so interesting and fun and I even woke up smiling from both. I don’t think is related to aphantasia but is weird and just came to me right now.

Richard Stanton February 26, 2020 12:42 pm

As someone who more recently discovered that I have aphantasia, I find that I have trouble answering this question. For me, while I do not normally remember my dreams, I do from time to time dream. I know this because I will sometimes remember the contents of the dream.. but now that I try to describe it, pictures of any sort do not enter the mix. The best way that I can describe how I dream is if I were to be reading a book wherein I myself am one of the characters, or as if I were somehow telling myself a story that I consciously did not write. Interestingly enough, though, these "dreams" can illicit emotional responses, but just like a good book that is artfully crafted can make me feel deeply as well. That is to say the words move me, but not a memory associated to those words. I notice that as I have gotten older I remember more and more of my dreams.. and I think that is partly due to the fact that I do not sleep as deeply as I once did, and as such those self narrated stories that do play out in my head are a few layers more shallow than they once were, and that much closer to the surface for my conscious mind to percieve.

Madeline Lipke October 06, 2020 01:19 am

I have very vivid dreams. I can see my dreams very well while I’m asleep. When I’m awake, I can’t see my dreams, I can only remember the details. It is very hard to explain to someone who is non-aphantasic, but I think that you and other people who have this can understand.

NeilT October 07, 2020 02:24 pm

I have only flickers in my waking world. Just enough to know the image is stored, but it flashes and is gone after I have thought of it. The harder I try to recover it, the blacker it gets.

So my dreams are usually a mystery to me, however I do occasionally wake up and find I have just been having a very visual dream. Usually I wake up in the middle of it with the images in my head. But, just like the flicker, it fades away like an old fashioned valve TV switching off.

Once it has faded, just like the flicker, there is nothing left but blackness. There is the memory that there were images, that things were going on and that the dream meant something. But, mostly, the images, sense and content of the dream is gone within 10 minutes.

I have no sound, smell or taste in my head. Just the logical knowledge that I posess smell, taste and sound abilities. This does not appear in the dreams. Only the images.

Hannah Cooksley replied 2 months ago

Mine’s exactly the same!!! I wake up and I can imagine the dream but only for a few seconds as the pictures pass through my mind as soon as I wake up. Then I can sort of imagine it for up to an hour after the dream. But it’s still faint as anything. Like saying you’re going to eat what’s in front of you. But only being able to smell it. I can imagine sound though. Very faint. But it’s just like changing the sound of my voice and replacing it with another. Same volume and everything. Just with the song instead. I’m SO glad that there are people out there like me though! I JUST discovered this page and I just want to talk to people like me. So that I don’t feel like not having it is the end of my life you know??? I know I’ve not had it for 7 yrs. But I just always assumed it would come back. If I press my eyeballs really hard just before I drift off to sleep (a delicate dance to do but…) I can see images! They’re always of something that hurt me though. Such as scene of my old house and things that have happened to me. I don’t know why and it’s strange. Do you have anything like that? Also sometimes when I close my eyes I see white/grey lights and if I focus on them I can see abstract images. One of the most recent ones was a game like where’s waldo but with cats instead. It’s very rare that it happens. But it does. And I’m grateful to that.

Hannah Cooksley October 07, 2020 04:42 pm

My dreams are not THAT vivid but I do get them. I don’t realise that I’m dreaming when I am. So I can’t make myself fly or anything in dreams. I usually dream about bad things. But I get a lot of dreams about bunkers. Which is apparently telling you that your subconscious is at work in your everyday life and is changing. I don’t dream often. And I don’t EVER remember what’s in the bunkers. But I enjoy dreaming all the same because it’s the only time I ever get to imagine things.

I used to have imagination as a child. But it started fading quickly. I remember vividly when I was 14 and my boyfriend had just broken up with me, I tried to remember his face. I couldn’t bring it up. That’s when I started ignoring it the most and bragging to friends that I had the BEST imagination out there. I would boarder on bullying them about theirs "not being as good as mine" because I didn’t know how to cope with being a writer with no imagination. It was my whole identity to me. And for it to suddenly one day leave me??? It was like someone taking a limb. I never mentioned it to anyone until I went into hospital (psychiatric. Which leads me to tell you that I CAN hallucinate with my mental health disorders. I just can’t consciously do it) and they didn’t even know the name for it. I tried Googleing it but no such luck when I first tried.

Almost six months later (I’m 21) and I’ve JUST found out what it’s called and there’s a community for it. I don’t feel so alone now. I thought the percentage of the population that had it would something like .000002% and now I find out it’s 3%!!! BIG deal for me. Someone reach out and talk to me? I’m saving this page and I’ll check it every week or so for a few months in case anyone replies. I just want to talk to someone who has what I have. I feel like it’s such a burden and I just want to relate and talk to somebody about it. I’m not sure if this is allowed. But my name’s Hannah Bethany Cooksley on Facebook. So reach out there if you don’t wanna wait for me to see your reply.

judah iam replied 1 month ago

OMG when I was sixteen my gf moved away and I realized two days later that I couldn’t picture what she looked like, and I KNEW something was ‘off’. I think that most people don’t know they have it. I didn’t until a few years ago, but I did know I couldn’t picture things. My mother used to say just picture it in your mind with your eyes closed and I tried. I tried to squeeze my eyes shut and tried to make pictures out of the blankness… I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I think it is a gift, actually, a sort of advantage, or a ‘shining’. It’s a different way of being in the world and I think, or I sense that it leaves people like us MORE connected to whatever is beyond what we know…. Whatever that may be. I don’t FB. My gmail is [email protected]

Liberty October 24, 2020 08:04 pm

I score 1 on all the test questions there is nothing, however I have the most horrific nightmares and I know when I am having them I am seeing everything. When I wake I know what I saw but it would be impossible for me to visualize them. I just have the upsetting memory of them.

judah iam replied 1 month ago

Correct me if I'm wrong but I feel like when I have nightmares the reason they are so disturbing is that they seem real while they are occurring but they also seem real once I wake up, like in some other life, it happened, not just a dream. Thank you for your comment! It left me reflecting on how things seem…

Not, or so it seems, just a dream, not just a dream, or so it feels, although, no. It was just a dream. It was a dream, not real. It's okay. Right? It's hard to convince myself sometimes that what I was just dreaming wasn't just happening…

Anna Cole October 30, 2020 05:03 am

I do have Dreams but not very often and they are usually symbolic in some way but I never see anythin I just feel it almost like I. Avatar and the last Airbender toph foot thing I don’t have to stomp and nothing is outline I just feel it and I know that its there and know what color it is but I cant see all there is is black

Dax replied 1 month ago

Im similar, no visual or other sensory input, Im just “aware” of whats happening.
If there is a specific person in my dream, I just know its them, I dont see or recognise them. Sometimes there is a person and its only later i will know its a perticular person. And that can change, they just become someone else.
Its mostly like im reading a narrative, there is a plot, very few details and just general feeling of whats happening. Often they are anxiety based, the “one last exam and i havent studied” and thats after finishning university more than 30 years ago (and i rocked exams)
I can find some dreams confusing with real life, after Ive woken, that my memories and dreams can be hard to tell apart. Classic example is I dream Ive misplaced my car keys, cant find them, panic etc. I will wake and maybe as im having breakfast a panic will hit – oh no, where are my keys, ive lost them. Then I look and they are exactly where they should be.

BTW im aphantasic on all senses

judah iam replied 2 weeks ago

Hi thanks for your comment: I will quote you, "I can find some dreams confusing with real life, after Ive woken, that my memories and dreams can be hard to tell apart." This is so true! I have had dreams that I woke up from where I ran to look out my window and was confused that the dream was no longer 'real', the scariest ones are nightmares where I'm being chased or pursued by a group of individuals, or I'm with a few people who did something bad, like kill someone, and I wake up and I panick because I still think it is happening. How I know I'm aphantasic? Once I'm awake, I cannot picture what seemed real three seconds ago. It fades in less than one second. When they aren't bad dreams, but good ones, I often feel let down to wake up, and I try to go back to sleep to get 'back' the good dream. Sometimes it works, othertimes not. Regardless, the 'good' dreams seem MORE real than reality does, and more beautiful, more vivid, more colorful, sharper, and real life feels blurry, less colorful, dreary, and darker…

judah iam replied 2 weeks ago

My dreams seem full color, full visual, but they seem like simply another reality, not a dream, and the moment I wake, they are gone and I cannot imagine them, can’t visualize at all, I can only ‘remember’ them, in a narrative sense, not bring up the image, not whatsoever… ‘all there is is black.’

judah iam replied 2 weeks ago

My dreams seem full color, full visual, but they seem like simply another reality, not a dream, and the moment I wake, they are gone and I cannot imagine them, can’t visualize at all, I can only ‘remember’ them, in a narrative sense, not bring up the image, not whatsoever… ‘all there is is black.’

jay_who_dreams November 04, 2020 01:14 pm

I have very visual and sensory oriented dreams where I am able to smell, taste, hear, feel, almost like actually there in that moment. Sometimes I am even able to do things like play guitar even though I have no experience whatsoever with instruments. One time, I had a dream that was in black and white, in Japanese and in an anime style cartoon. I do not speak a lick of Japanese, nor do I know how to draw cartoons. How is this possible if I am phantasic?

judah iam replied 2 weeks ago

Once you wake up, though, can you visualize what you do when you are asleep? None of us seem to be able to do that. But many of us, when sleeping, visualize while dreaming, except the dream is remarkably different from how reality looks and feels, in a ‘realer’ way than waking reality, if that makes sense to you. Dreams, for me, are a place where anythying is possible, and it’s more like watching a 3d movie in brighter color than reality, reality is drab and less vivid, and when I try to imagine, or picture something with my eyes closes, nothing. Darkness. Fuzzy, starry, blackness like an old tv with a bad connection, just fuzz. Thanks for your question! I hope that helps

Scroll to Top