My mind is officially blown.
A year or so ago, I learned that some people can actually see pictures when they “close their eyes and imagine.” It really took me aback; when I “imagine,” I’m pretending to create pictures, but not really seeing them. I thought the whole concept was seriously cool, but didn’t think too much about it until this week when I was sick and awake in the middle of the night. I posted two questions on Facebook because I was wondering if there were any link between having a 24/7 monologue running in your head (Something I learned a while back that not everyone has) and actually seeing pictures when you close your eyes and imagine.
I was shocked to learn, in my tiny science experiment, that pretty much everyone had constant brain chatter, but I was the only one who couldn’t see pictures. That realization sent me to our old friend, Mr. Google.
It turns out I have aphantasia. It’s a condition that, according to the one article I’ve read, apparently only affects 1-3% of the population, and it means you have a limited (or nonexistent) ability to visualize or imagine in the literal sense. Of course, I only recently realized that there IS a literal sense because I’ve dealt with it my whole life. While I may on rare occasions be hit in the face with a flash of memory, I can’t consciously create or pull up anything.
Maybe I should have waited to blog about this when I’ve done more research, or at least had time to think about it, but… oh my word. This explains so much!
I remember when my grandson was a tiny baby. Some friends were holding him and I asked who they had. They were appalled. “He’s your grandson!” The fact that I didn’t recognize him blew them completely away and utterly humiliated me.
But now I get it. They recognized him because, having seen him recently, they carried pictures in their minds that matched him when he showed up. I didn’t have that. I could make notes in my brain, listing details like dimples or whatever, but he was so young that he was literally changing every day and my mental notes couldn’t keep up.
Ok, I’m almost in tears here.
This explains so many things. Pictures are important to me, because I want to remember what people and places looked like. If I have extensive mental notes, I can recreate those pictures mentally, in a sense…but I can’t really see them like most of you can. I can also be talking to someone and, when asked five minutes later what they looked like, I can’t tell you unless I had consciously pulled out my mental notebook and recorded the “picture.” I can usually tell you what we talked about, though, because my mental audio recorder works great.
There is so much to unpack here. It’s not every day you learn something so radical about yourself. And if I don’t stop right now this is going to turn into a legit ramble.