Possibly a case of Internet hypochondria.
If you were asked to visualise a member of your family right now, how clearly do you see them?
I struggle to see anything. I can think about them, descriptors etc, but to actually visualise (for example) my husband is not that easy. I get a vague, static picture, but it isn’t very detailed and it doesn’t have a lot of movement. Asked to visualise a sunset, I can think (and see) a sun, a black horizon line and maybe some red. It isn’t a photo quality image.
I genuinely didn’t realise people actually saw (or perceived) in their mind’s eye photo quality images.
Until today when I found out about aphantasia.
I wouldn’t say that I am completely without the ability to visualise but it isn’t my default. I was a little cautious- maybe internet induced hypochondria, but I also did a little quiz and came out worse than I expected.
I can visualise, but not well. When people did visualisation exercises I never fully visualise it- the whole imagine a white screen and watch yourself performing difficult tasks just seemed odd.
I can remember a camp counsellor humming when I was a CIT and asking what the music was- she couldn’t give me a title immediately, because she could always hear music in her head. At the time that seemed strange to me, but I guess we all perceive the world a little differently. I can always hear the stories my brain is telling me, but they rarely have images.
It also explains why I prefer certain authors. I can read descriptions of people and clothes, but they don’t resonate with me. I don’t picture characters, I absorb the description, but the physical representation isn’t there. So any casting of those characters can represent them. I prefer authors who give me the inner workings of the character’s minds, not the detail of their clothes.
My memories are linked with other senses and are mostly not pictorial. I am thinking of a childhood friend- the image in my head is from photographs- either one from around age 10 or her current FB photo- we haven’t met in person in 25 plus years. I remember riding bikes, and the places we went. I remember talking about books. I don’t remember images. I feel the emotions from particular events, and maybe what the weather was like etc, but not the image.
When someone describes something, I have trouble visualising it. I work well with drawn or physical representations though.
This also has an interesting and not previously appreciated effect on my grief. I cannot bring up an image of my grandmothers. For one, I get an involuntary flash of my maternal grandmother from a picture taken when I was five (she would live for another 25 years, and I saw her regularly during those years). I cannot, and generally have never, visualised any future children. It had not occurred to me until now that someone could mentally generate a good picture of them. I can think about future interactions, such as being able to read to them etc, but not about how they will look. If I visualise it at all, I do not see faces. It had not occurred to me to be upset by this, and I may have blamed this on my uncertainty about getting pregnant, but it isn’t. So I don’t have those images to help me, but I also don’t have those images of something that has not happened to upset me.
I started writing this yesterday, and am still thinking about it. I do not have the extreme lack of images that is described in the link, I do have sensory memories but I do not have good visual recall, and I don’t have control over any images I see. I have a very good memory though, so my brain is working around this. It’s unlikely I could train my brain to ever learn this, it is something I will just live with. It is fascinating to think about though, and explains why I may not always experience the same reactions as others-my triggers are different.
I posted the link above to my FB along with another article and reactions were interesting. Most people were very surprised- they are visual, but there was at least one other person who describes similar reactions to me- of static, unclear images. What I find interesting there is that she is an art history person- her degrees are in art history, her job has to do with visual resources, but she doesn’t see mental images.
Food for thought.