Understanding Your Aphant

Please, if someone you care about sent you this link, especially if they’ve recently discovered they have aphantasia, take the time to read the post. They’re really hoping to help you understand things about them that don’t seem to make sense.

First, if what they’re telling you about having no visual imagination or memories sounds absurd, I assure you it’s not. Only a year or so back, I discovered that most of you are speaking literally when you say, “Ok, close your eyes and imagine.” My mind was blown!

There is actually a scale that ranges from hyperphantasia, which includes those of you who can not only see visual images in your minds but have the equivalent of HD TV in there, through total aphantasia, which is where I land; I close my eyes and I see black. Literally “nothing to see here.” That scale covers a wide range of diversity with each of us often having slightly different characteristics from the next person.

Second, if your friend, loved one, or employee has only recently discovered they have aphantasia, be aware that there is a good chance they are going through very real grief. I’m an active member of Aphantasia Support Group on Facebook and we seem to gain new members every day who have only just discovered what they see as a formerly unknown disability, and they’re devastated. I can’t even offer you an example of something equivalent to help you comprehend, but it can be world-rocking to realize you lack something that almost every other person you know has had all their lives, and it’s even harder to deal with the “loss” when those people can’t even imagine your reality.

So, aphantasia. I, as an example, have absolutely no visual memory or imagination. This is not a case of failing to train my imagination (Yes, I’ve been accused of that). In fact, I have an almost hyperactive imagination, which means those who know me best are aware that there are certain things they can’t share with me. It’s just that I have no visuals to accompany the concepts.

And that’s the difference between you and me. You visualize and I conceptualize. I’ve explained that it’s like my brain is a computer and if I want the data to be available to me later I have to actively input the information and remember to hit save. But that’s all it is – information. For instance, people.

I see my sister and recognize her instantly because I’ve known her forever. Ask me to describe her, though, and… Well, she’s probably about 5′ 6″ maybe 5′ 7″? She has long, dark brown hair. Huh. I literally can’t even tell you what color her eyes are. The concept of her appearance that is in my head has no real visual cues to help me out. This has led me to hurt friends’ feelings on occasion; if you change your hair color, I will likely never even realize it. I have learned to compensate to an extent by paying attention to what others say to you. Compensating is something aphants are good at.

Learning about my aphantasia made me feel worlds better about an incident that happened about 18 years ago. Two co-coworkers were taking photos of a baby, and I asked whose baby it was. They stared at me in shock, and one said, “He’s your grandson!” I was crushed that I’d failed to recognize my own grandson, but in truth most babies look alike to me until I’ve spent a whole lot of time with them. They grow so fast that, without a working visual record, the data in my brain can’t anticipate those changes to enable recognition.

So, if you get frustrated with your aphant because they can literally spend ten minutes talking to someone only to walk away and then be unable to point the person out to you, this is why. It’s not that we’re unobservant by nature; it’s that we have to be consciously observant and try really hard to remember to add the data into our memory banks: yellow jacket; short blond hair, etc. Personally, I work so hard on the conversations that the visual notes don’t always stick.

The same principle holds true for when we’ve been places with you. Unless the place makes a real impact, those of us on my end of the spectrum may have a hard time recognizing it at first when we go back. If you say, “Meet me at the blue sign,” for instance, I’ll probably ask, “Where’s the blue sign, exactly?”

There are so many areas in which we differ from you that this could go on forever. The idea is just to help you understand that there is a difference so you can be watching for it. In truth, learning about aphantasia made me feel better about many things, like not recognizing my own grandson. Like art and design!

In the past, because I could draw, I was called an artist. I’m not and never have been, and have explained many times that no, I’m a copyist – or I was at one time. I could take a photo, put it by my drawing board, and move my gaze back and forth between the two until I’d copied the picture and ended up with something like this.

I could not compose. I could not work from memory. I could not change anything (which resulted in one drawing that I hope never again sees the light of day), because I could not envision what I wanted to create. If I didn’t see it, it couldn’t exist.

This ended up being a trigger for serious self-doubt and pain at work. I was given a task that included designing artwork on a regular basis. I did it, but every piece took me forever because I just have to guess and play with things until I stumble across something that works. I do still design some pieces, out of necessity, but it takes me much longer than it would anyone else. Could I learn design? Probably, but it would require going to a professional for training, and adapting what they teach to work with my non-visual imagination.

So, if you’re an employer with an aphant, bear in mind that, if they don’t have the training they need to do the job without visualization, you may be asking for more than they can deliver.

I’ve made it sound like aphantasia really is a disability, and to be honest some aphants definitely feel that it is. I honestly don’t see it that way, but only as a difference. I have enough going on in my head with my constant monologue; I can’t imagine also having to deal with pictures that won’t go away. I still love to read, even without being able to see the movie so many have told me they enjoy. (Truly, that is incomprehensible to me.) I don’t watch movies much, even of books I’ve read, but I’m thinking aphantasia helps me with that too because I have no preconceived ideas of what characters will look like. As it is, I skim over most descriptions in books because visual cues are meaningless to me anyway.

I am genuinely happy that I lack many of the visual memories I can’t imagine living with. Watching my stepfather drown? Conceptually and emotionally, I remember it; I am VERY glad there are no visuals to accompany those concepts. I have a feeling that may also be part of why I never suffered from PTSD as a result of that accident.

Do I have any regrets now that I know what I’m missing? Honestly, I can only think of one. I wish I could remember my loved ones’ faces. I’ve always kept photos around because that is all I have to help me remember. Knowing the rest of you have those visual memories available all the time? Yeah, that one hurts. So, side note, probably one of the best gifts you could give your aphant friend or loved one is a digital picture frame loaded with photos of those they care about.

Overall, though, I find the tradeoffs fair now that I understand why I am the way I am. God made me this way and I am happy with me. Hopefully your aphant will reach the point where they are happy with themselves too.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

For more information on aphantasia…
Aphantasia Network
Aphantasia Newbie Guide

Forgiveness Isn’t an Option

Yes, you can forgive, and you must!

You’ve heard it preached over and over. I’ll even list a couple of scriptures at the end of this post.

You’ve probably even seen articles online that show the benefits of forgiveness. I’ll include some of those at the bottom of this post as well.


Are you one of those who sit there convinced that it’s not possible? Your situation is too hard. The wounds go too deep. The betrayal affected too many people. That person has never asked for forgiveness, so you feel no need to give it.

Still…not optional. Yes, I said it. Forgiveness is not an option. For the Christian, it is a command. For everyone, it is a physical and psychological necessity. If you read the Bible, you can’t avoid it.

Remember what Jesus said on the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is a part of me that wants to correct Jesus. “Oh yes, they did! They knew exactly what they were doing!” Doesn’t matter. Even before His death, burial, and resurrection, He was asking forgiveness for the collective “us.” Jesus forgave. We received. (Well, I hope you’ve received!)

Consider the Apostle Paul when he was still Saul. He was hell-bent on destroying the new movement that became Christianity. Those followers of Christ, starting with Ananias, could have refused to forgive him after he met Jesus. If they had, if they had denied his right to minister on the Lord’s behalf, he may never have written what we know today as about 2/3 of the New Testament. But they did forgive, and he did write, and we received.

I could keep on with accounts from the Bible, but let’s bring it forward to today. Bear with me, if you will, as I share two examples from my own life.

I have a friend. I love her dearly, and I hurt for her often. She is a loving and generous person who used to serve God openly, freely, joyously, but something has changed her, caused her to withdraw in many ways.

There is one person, another Christian, against whom she holds implacable unforgiveness. Did the person genuinely do her wrong back in the day? Quite possibly; I don’t know their story. But that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the roots of unforgiveness and bitterness have grown so deep and strong that now pretty much every aspect of her life seems to have become choked by those weeds. Yes, she has a hard life, but so do a lot of others who haven’t chosen her path.

Others like me.

Let me pause here and say that I’m well aware I am far from perfect. I know this. What I am, however, is living proof that you can walk through hell and come out the other side victorious.

My story starts over forty years ago when I unknowingly married a narcissist. During those years, he abused me in pretty much every way but physically. I lived under his thumb without even realizing it for a very long time – without understanding that my life wasn’t normal. He had multiple affairs. He ignored everything that was important to me unless paying attention to it played into his plan and made him look good to others. He squandered his really good income so that I ended up having to earn money for the “unimportant” things like homeschool curriculum for the boys and clothes for myself.

Then, when it became hard for him to find a “position,” he stopped working; a regular job was beneath him. This left me doing all I could to pay the bills he easily ignored.

Eventually, we ended up living in a house that was literally falling down over our heads because he couldn’t be bothered to maintain much of anything, ever. Lest you think I exaggerate, first we lost gas because the line started leaking and he “couldn’t afford” to fix it. Then the water pipes started bursting and when his quick patches didn’t hold he gave up. We were left with only electricity for years, and I paid that bill. The walls had so many holes in them that I couldn’t stuff them all well enough to keep anything out. I once ended up in the ER with a bug in my ear as a result of that. And the roof? One room was off limits because half the roof was completely gone, and when it rained it rained inside our only bathroom. Years… Today, looking back, that blows my mind; I felt so trapped in that…place. (NOT just talking the house here.)

And then there were the women. The first affair I know about happened in the early 90s and either he thought I was a complete idiot or he was flaunting it in my face. (Him having the affair was my fault of course. He was an expert at gaslighting.) The last affair he tried to have was in 2014. Strange as it seems, it wasn’t until then that I actually stopped loving him. It was the point at which that tiny flame was at last doused completely.

My primary focus through most of the past forty years has been on staying right with God and growing closer to Him. As a result, I learned to forgive. See, if you’re actively watching your spiritual walk, when things stop feeling right, when you can tell that you’re “off,” you stop. You pause, take a good look at yourself, and ask God, “Where have I gone wrong?” In those early years, it was almost always unforgiveness towards Jack or someone else that nailed me. God had to school me over and over, but I eventually learned how to genuinely forgive and do it quickly. (Note to Self: As soon as you hit “publish” on this post the devil is going to see to it that you’re tested.)

So, my regular readers know that Jack passed away in October. I can honestly say that, regardless of all he had done, all he did until just a few weeks before his death, I forgave him. I chose not to walk in unforgiveness, but in forgiveness, which meant that when unforgiveness popped up I actively stomped it out.

I prayed for him often. I very much wanted to know he was right with God even if he were never right with me. He asked me to pray the sinners prayer with him days before he went into the hospital for the last time, and I rejoice that he did, that now, in Heaven, he is finally the man God always meant him to be.

Decades of abuse could have destroyed me. It did not. I did more than survive those years. In spite of dealing with anxiety and occasional bouts of depression, I thrived. I had to battle each and every day, but just as daily workouts strengthen muscles, those daily battles strengthened me. I came out stronger, and one of the reasons is my determination to deny the devil the option of using one of his greatest weapons – unforgiveness – to bring me down.

Forgiveness isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Verses (There are many more.)
Matthew 18:21
Mark 11:25
Luke 6:37
Ephesians 4:32

Benefits of Forgiveness (There are many more.)
Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
The Many Benefits of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness
The Physical Benefits of Forgiveness

It Didn’t Give Up

This poor plant experienced some serious trauma before I brought it inside. At one time, I might have counted it beyond help and tossed it out, but I’ve seen too much survival to give up on it. And it didn’t give up on itself. It’s blooming.

This is a great illustration of what we are capable of. We can be chewed on by pests, frozen out by heartless people, flooded with challenges, and drained dry when our love isn’t returned. From the outside, we may look totally broken down, but that doesn’t have to mean we’re out of the race. We must never give up.

We can still bloom.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C