One of our members drew my attention to an article on RT.com. The article was a factual piece, however, a reply to the article was made in the comments section that completely missed the point as to what aphantasia is.
For myself to define a condition, that as of yet has not been defined by science would be presumptuous and ill advised. I can only speak from my perspective, and any scientific basis must not just rely on one persons experience or feelings. However, I feel I am well placed to offer some explanations on the topic, to offer some light in an otherwise dark space.
A comment posted to the article linked above read "If someone had no mind's eye, she would have no awareness of herself, no self-consciousness.". To counter this point I feel I have to approach it from two angles, firstly, your self awareness, your morality, your understanding of yourself is not linked to your ability to visualise. I developed as person by experiencing the world around me, making mistakes, being corrected, learning, developing and shaping into who I am. My ability to be self aware has not been reduced by aphantasia, it could be argued it may have helped me.
Secondly, self-awareness isn't defined by your ability to reflect visually. An article on the BBC website from 2009 (link) reported findings into how 'self-awareness is a big problem for people with autism'. Now, while this may not be true for all people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), some people with Autism who do struggle with self-awareness are able to have photo realistic memory (link).
To believe that a lack of visual imagination would impact on your ability to have self-awareness is plainly foolish. I would wager that this belief is not held by the majority of people when they try to understand aphantasia, however, without clear answers, we are left in a position where people can hypothesise, often incorrectly.
Look at it this way, as a man I can't experience giving birth, however, I can ask a woman how she experienced it, but that doesn't allow me to understand what is was like emotionally or physically, no amount of visual imagination is going to enable me to relive her experience. Aphantasia and the inability to visualise isn't the cause of inherent limitations in our ability to experience in our mind. A phrase often said in reply when a man asks a woman about childbirth is "You couldn't imagine!" Certain things just aren't possible to imagine even if you don't have aphantasia. So to link aphantasia to a persons inability to be self-aware is foolish, the two things aren't linked, my lack of a visual imagination isn't a disability but a different way of being.
The well known phrase "I think, therefore I am" (link), is a clear example of how being able to visualise isn't linked to who you are or your ability to reflect or be self-aware. The fuller phrase is "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am" and this further demonstrates that aphantasia isn't linked to your 'self'. I don't need synthesised imagery in my mind to have thought, I can think, I just can't see what I think.
It has also been asked, "how can you be creative if you can't visualise?". The two aren't linked, I have written this article without visualising, I have built structures, designed my garden, designed websites all without a minds eye. As people with aphantasia are in the minority, we have to relate to the way we experience life as different, and as such our individual way of functioning without a minds eye will vary between individuals.
For myself, creativity is done piece by piece, I know what my end goal is, I can't see it, but I know what I am aiming for. Let's use an example of building a tree house, I know that a tree house is a room, raised above the ground. I intend to build a free standing structure, so it will need to have legs, now at this point I would think about physics and centre of mass of the structure and how that would relate to my design. Even being able to visualise wouldn't mean that you could build a good structure. My lack of a fixed design in my mind enables me to quickly adapt to any problems I face along the way, without feeling I am diverting from my "vision".
Aphantasia isn't a disability, it is a different way of experiencing. I remember experiences from my childhood, but I can't see them. My life isn't less of a life because I can't see my past in my mind, we live in an era when a camera is available on almost any device you can think of, so I have my own ways of recording visual memories, I take pictures.
I am still a person, I am self-aware, to be self-aware is to reflect on yourself in an environment full of other individuals. The person who wrote that comment on the article has demonstrated their lack of self awareness. Their words were hurtful to some of our members and their ability to visualise or not visualise has had no impact on their path to who they are.
Aphantasia is an inability to synthesise certain things in our mind, it isn't a precursor to defining your morality and self-awareness.
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