Aphantasia

I found out fairly recently about a condition called Aphantasia. According to the brief web search I did once I heard about it, it is characterized by an inability to voluntarily visualize mental imagery. Many people with aphantasia also report an inability to recall sounds, smells, or sensations of touch. Some also report prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces.

Now, I was a very literal child. When I was in primary school, a teacher told everyone to close their eyes and picture something. To see it in our minds. I got pretty stuck on the concept that my eyes were closed, so how was I supposed to see anything? I later assumed that she was speaking figuratively. It wasn’t until I came across a video by an artist with aphantasia that I realised other people could physically see images in their minds. Actually see them. Shape, form, colour, everything.

When I try to explain the way imagining or recalling something works for me, people look at me with disbelief. It is such a foreign concept that anything could work differently for someone else than it does for them. Dyslexia and other differences are supposedly widely known and accepted now. So why are so many people still boggled by the idea that someone’s mind works differently to theirs? Why is this still something we feel we need to shun or label?

I was proud to find that something that I used to stumble over as a child was actually something that made me different. It hasn’t stopped me having an active imagination. It hasn’t stopped the artist whose video I watched from following their chosen path. My mind just works differently to some other people. But, isn’t that true of everyone?

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