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What is Aphantasia?

A condition characterized by an inability to visualize mental images in one’s mind.

In other words...

Aphantasia is an

image-free imagination.

Aphantasia is a blind mind’s eye. 

APHANTASIA AND BEYOND

I first discovered that I have aphantasia when I was attending college in 1997. Back then, this condition was not well researched or discussed, in fact, it was not even given a name until 2015. After I discovered that other people could actually see pictures in their minds, I became extremely curious, so I began asking everyone I knew about it. And I’m still doing that over 25 years later…

Since 2015, interest and knowledge about aphantasia has skyrocketed. As a participant and observer of this condition for a couple of decades at least, I was intrigued by all of this new interest and information so I began to read articles and watch videos on the subject. Although I enjoyed all of these different takes on the subject, I began to notice that certain details that I had discovered over the years were not being mentioned. Because research on this is so new and sporadic, I realized that I could add a great deal of information and insight to the discussion. I discovered that many of the “visual imagery” tests out there didn’t shed any light on many of the things I had discovered in talking to people about this over the years. This is when I decided to develop my own series of questions. My goal was to pull out as much information and descriptions as I could about what people are experiencing in their mind’s eye. I then began interviewing people using this new in depth approach and the results were, and continue to be intriguing and enlightening.

So you may be thinking, wait a minute, we don’t all visualize in the same way? No we do not. In fact, according to my research no two people on earth do it in the exact same way. You may look at the number 1 space, and think, wait, some people don’t see anything in their mind’s eye? That is correct. It’s called Aphantasia, and I have it.  I cannot picture things in my mind. And if you happen to be like me, you may be amazed right now that other people can actually picture things in their minds, like for realsies!

This "apple test" is a basic starting point to get a quick idea of where people fall on the visualization scale. Obviously, on one side of the scale, we have people with aphantasia. These people cannot visualize at all. On the other side of the scale we have people with hyperphantasia. Hyperphantasia is the condition of having extremely vivid mental imagery. Everyone else more or less falls somewhere between these two extremes.

Every single person is unique and at some level defies categorization. My research concludes that this subject matter is much more complex and interesting than these simple categories suggest. I have discovered that each and every person makes up a category all by themselves that is uniquely theirs. So in essence there are as many levels of phantasia and aphantasia as there are people.

In my book, I not only discuss what aphantasia is but I delve into the specifics of how your mind works, whether you have aphantasia or not. I have developed a series of questions designed to help you identify how your individual mind works and how that compares to others. This book is not just about aphantasia, rather, I use aphantasia as a starting point to discuss many different aspects of the mind’s eye.

Learning about aphantasia has helped me see each and every person as wonderful and unique. If we could stop trying to put everyone in the same box, and instead study, explore, and embrace how beautifully different we all are, the world would change for the better.

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