Aphantasia

Hi all you wonderful people. Hope you’re all happy on this fine and beautiful day.

Put one of my black and white photographs on my blog yesterday. It got me thinking again, properly, why I indeed actually added words to certain of my photographs. I knew in a rational way. It simply helped link to the memory of my taking it. But why so important. Deeper thinking and what I had put on the back burner of my lack of seeing visually behind closed eyes demanded further investigation.

So. Last night I sat and wrote more to add to yesterday’s blog about why my mind cannot visualise an image if I close my eyes. Simply put. My world of any form of imagery ceases to exist the moment I shut out reality. So, as said, I give my photographs titles to link tentative discovery that it does actually exist when it is not being looked at by myself. The bigger picture? Joke there! I cannot mindfully record anything from my past history. So my life does not have fullness and beauty.

For example. Those little Mindful sessions when you are supposed to close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting next to a beautiful running stream or high on a mountain top looking at the views? Nope! No way. No how! I cannot bring past memories of walks, holidays, places visited or my past houses, places I’ve lived. My imagined imagery is one of inherent profound feelings from experiences.

I remember, as a small child, swinging on a washing line tied up to the frame of the coal outhouse. I sat on a pillow on that washing line…..and promptly, when swinging, fell backwards, smacking the back of my head heavily on the concrete floor. About an hour later, I suffered profound concussion. Donkey’s years later, a heavy chain from an engine lifting device smacked me full on the head. My friend called my Mum to let her know and she said “Keep an eye on him. He get’s easily concussed”. Now? I’m wondering if that childhood event actually started the whole ‘close my eyes and see a black void’ phenomena.

A doctor friend, who came to my Mindfulness teaching class, once told me that there are people who have this condition. I stated this fact about my condition when asking the class to close their eyes and imagine. I explained and asked if anyone else in the room experienced the same. Nope. Not one person. The doctor told me “It’s called ‘Aphantasia’ ‘’. (Just realised now…..Doesn’t come up in predictive text).

From Google:

“Close your eyes and imagine walking along a sandy beach and then gazing over the horizon as the Sun rises. … Most people can readily conjure images inside their head – known as their mind’s eye. But this year scientists have described a condition, aphantasia, in which some people are unable to visualise mental images”.

“How common/rare is Aphantasia? Aphantasia is not very common, and it is believed that only about 1 to 3 percent of people have aphantasia, however, there are also some neurologists who believe that approximately 1 in 50 people or 2- 5% of the population are non-visual imagers”.

That’s why I am not able to paint or draw with the freedom of seeing images in my mind’s eye. I draw or paint images parrot fashion. In reality? It means I see none of my friends’ or familys’ faces once they are not in my presence. Give me a person’s name as a patient and I have no recollection of who they are. I cannot link words or names to the memory of who that person is readily. There has to be a dramatic or memorable link to bring that feeling of their existence back. But I simply cannot give that person a face in my mind’s eye. Even more importantly emotionally? That is a very isolating feeling.

Some strange phenomena.

One…I do dream vividly at times. Extraordinary dreams of massive imagery. Like a feature film. But cease to remember or recall the dreams upon waking. I remember the happiness or dread though.

Secondly. About half a dozen times in my life I have closed my eyes and a series of images run amok one after the other. Each in split second imagery.
There are hundreds of images in about a 2 minute episode. Sometimes it only lasts 20 to 30 seconds before the neurological link breaks. Disappointment after this event is profound. After one particular episode of this happening….I cried I seem to remember.

Thirdly. An activity, like a wax crayon, cut grass, or sharpening a pencil, (essentially a present odour under my nose) leaps me back to, for example, a school day. But it is a frozen image. A huge arched window in a classroom was once an experience. Can’t ever recall it again however.

Fourthly. I hold my hand over my eyes to totally stop any light entering and with all the will in the world to seek the simplest image of line or circle…all I see is the equivalent of the picture of the black square above. A void of emptiness. And that, whilst it is totally calming, does not stop the quick introduction of mind chatter. The thoughts of dilemma in worrisome intrusion. I have nothing to bring forth visually to stop this chatter. So word mantra is my escape technique. Usually the Medicine Buddha chant……in full.

My friend of childhood days once said to me that he was very concerned that once people were out of his presence he imagined that they did not actually exist. He felt the World and Life were playing tricks on him. I now wonder if it was because he had the same condition as myself. He was expressing exactly how I’ve felt all my life in a very imaginative way.

It’s probably why I feel either happiness or dread in expectations.

Places and people take on emotional extremes. Driving to work gives massive butterflies in the pit of my stomach. No visual imagery of good times there cause worriesome thoughts. Seeing my family and friends in the flesh after months of not seeing them makes my heart leap with happiness. No visual memory makes me see them anew all over again. Sounds extreme and over the top. Trust me. It isn’t.

At the same time. It makes me tentative and frightened though. I have to create a connection again. It’s a strange thing in reality.

This realisation upon reading this link to this site has me re-evaluating my life’s memories that do not exist. That is why, I realise too, I’m such a cold fish. If you do visit the fantastic link below……Thank you for taking the time.

https://optimistminds.com/how-common-is-aphantasia/

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