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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 3 days ago #3228

  • Derek502
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I have known that I think differently than most others for over 15 years. I just recently found out that we had a name for it. Of course, since I can search for the specific term 'aphantasia' online, instead of some general vague terms, I'm finding some good info. Unfortunately, I'm also finding non-aphantasia thinkers trying to understand, and thinking that there is something wrong with us.

When I first learned about the difference in thinking, I had conversations with several people about how they think. Of course, most of them can conjure mental images, but even then, there were differences. (One woman I spoke with would 'see' words go by in her head as she was speaking. Almost like a teleprompter.) I've always thought of it as people having different styles of thought. My style doesn't have visuals, whereas someone else's does. I never saw my way as inferior; just different.

I've seen some people call it 'a condition'. I suppose that is fine, as long as they also view thinking with imagery as another condition. Somehow, I don't think that is the case.

I've even came across an 'aphantasia support group'. Really? I don't need support for having style.

I can see it being a disability in one case: someone has the ability of a mind's eye, but then loses it. Obviously, they notice a large difference in themselves, and feel that they have lost something. That sucks, but they have a support group. I was born this way, and feel no loss.

Would it be cool to have a mind's eye? Sure! Is it possible that this is some kind of genetic defect? Possibly. Do I let it affect me? Not in the least

What are your thoughts?
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 2 days ago #3230

  • martofunes
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I am not an Aph. I can conjure up images in my head. In that sense, I am normal. Might end up being one of many things I'm "normal" in, and it hides the fact that I'm not normal at all: I am from Argentina, where less than 2% of humanity lives (most of them unwillingly), I am gay, which means I belong to a category that, statistically, comes out of the norm (which is where normal comes from, and it's a tool taken from Statistics). I am fully educated, I am bilingual, I'm somewhat upper-middle class, so on and so forth.

Now, being normal doesn't mean there's something wrong with you (Something you learn the hard way when you're gay, btw), but that you don't apply to the norm. I don't bean to come off as preachy, but there's something inherently wrong about using words without knowing where they come from and applying them from a general feeling of what that word is, which is an erred habit that ends up equalizing the fact that you're "not normal", which means not among what most answers to, with the idea that there's something wrong with us.

But this is not the case. Because when you have Penn Gillette, On of the founders of Mozilla and programmer of Firefox... Well, you're clearly not incapable of anything, in terms of human achievement. But then you also have to admit that it's pretty fucking cool to find "your people." And I feel that when I'm close to any other groups I share things with: People who this, people who that.

Of course, everyone has their style. I have my style too. But this is exactly the reason why you've been ignored for so long: we thought it was just a question of style. Before this became a known issue, some weeks ago, if you'd told me that you couldn't imagine, I would have shrugged it off my shoulders in a second. "Mhkay, he just has a crappy imagination, he probably draws like shit, I bet he is really good with numbers" Just your style. Left right, and you're obviously a left. But now you have a lot of people claiming one very specific trait and showing signs of sharing, even though they've never met, some obvious fundamental strategies.

And at the same time, there's now way you can't pretend that there's something different. Yes, you are intelligent and able and your situation knows no boundaries, but you've just come through the window and defied two solid hundred years of paradigm: Every single people can imagine.

Now that we know that this is not the case, Sciences are now all in favor of issuing a retraction, because one rule of science is that reality is never wrong, but given that there's a new paradigm, and to accept that we have to begin by accepting that no, you're not normal. But there's obviously something "normal" within you. As a group. You share traits, you share strategies, you share thought processes, you share too much to ignore. So now you become a new group, an unknown group, and we have to analyse you as such, all over again.

So you're not normal, when compared to the -by the way completely idealistic- 100% of the people. And you do acknowledge there's something different you in you. There's many things that we do differently. You probably have a different working memory, which is one basic human function if there ever was one. Different working dreams, which means we'll have to check our Freud... What about Piaget? Etcetera. Imagination is a bedrock for many theories. And you as a group defied what's expected. Science can't predict you, and that's it's whole big deal, prediction. But having science know you, even though it might have some eventually ill social/political issues, ends up having tremendos benefits for you, for your group. Because you're acknowledged, and no longer ignored.

On the other issue... of course you don't see 95% of the people suddenly being politically correct about something they've never even imagine was even possible. Every minority, as it founds itself, goes through that process. It's now you job to spread the word, educate, make yourself visible, through patience and dialogue. I'm totally up for calling Imagination a condition. Now it's totally a polar thing. You are lucky though, there's no prejudice against this group, at least as of yet, so if you begin with the information bout early rather than later, no Aphantasiac will seen as less, or wrong, or stupid or anything.

I mean you have some serious Ammo in terms of advantage and credibility.
Last Edit: 3 years 2 days ago by martofunes.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 2 days ago #3233

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Some good points. I think we're in a funny in-between time where not many people know about our different way of thinking, and that can lead to some misunderstandings. At first I didn't realise how important imaging was to most people, so was happily asking questions about everything they did and offering what I did and then getting confused when they were gobsmacked and couldn't align their views of me: someone who's reasonably good at general stuff and me: can't visualise. I've had people say ’oh, but it doesn't seem to have affected you' (to which I think, well it HAS, just not in a detrimental way except for things like not being able to visualise sunsets). I've told people and thought, well, that didn't really go that well, they don't seem to quite get it.
I think I've got a way to tell people now (emphasise that everyone thinks differently, probably, no one's completely normal, and isn't that cool) without it being too weird, but I still cringe when I see sentences in the media like 'suffers from aphantasia'. Not suffering, sorry.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3242

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martofunes - I don't have a problem with not fitting into the modal average of 'normal'. If the research done so far is correct in saying that only 2-3% of the population have aphantasia, then we definitely are not normal. :)

What I was complaining about was being seen as having a disability. The difference in the thinking styles that we have has gone unnoticed for so long, which shows that it is unlikely that it holds us back from doing the same mental tasks as people without aphantasia.

You are correct, it is something that we need to talk about often, so we can educate and catch misunderstandings early. I plan on doing this often. It's early enough that both sides of are just as surprised by it, so that makes it fun.

One thing I want to correct about your wording. It's not that we can't imagine; it's that we can think visually. I realized that the base word of imagination is 'image', but it has a much broader definition already, so it doesn't fit the description of aphantasia. When I imagine a beach, I may not see it, but I have the concept of a beach in my head.

It will be fun to see what kind of results that research will find about us. Just given the small sample size on this forum, it's obvious that we mixed when it comes to mathematical prowess and creativity, just like anyone else. What I found surprising was the large percentage of atheists and introverts we have.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3246

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Derek502 I just found this community today, many of us are atheists and introverts? I'm definitely both... makes me wonder if believing in a religion is easier when you can actually visualize the deity or whatnot.
I love this place...
And yea, we definitely can "imagine" things. I have a very vivid imagination, it's just not visual.
When you conceptualize a beach, what senses are you using to define/create it?
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3247

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Hi Sekhmet - I just joined the group a couple days ago. Welcome!

I don't use any of my senses when imagining a beach. I have the concept of a beach in mind.

Audio is the only sense that I can kind of get. If it's a familiar, distinct voice. Morgan Freeman, Sean Connery, etc. It's only little bits of distinction, but it goes away as fast as it came. When it comes to a beach, for example, I don't hear the waves crashing or the seagulls cawing. In fact, that doesn't even come to mind unless I actively think, "What are the sounds heard at the beach?" Otherwise it was just understanding there is sand, water, some seashells.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3250

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Thanks for the welcome!
That's fascinating. I can't quite think that way... I have a running monologue in my head of "there's a beach, it has sparkling sand that's pure white and glistens in the sun" And as I say these things I physically touch them with an imaginary hand. I can't not touch them as I imagine it.

I can imagine sounds a bit, but they're always weirdly distorted in my own voice. Even if I imagine something inhuman like a chain saw it's my own voice making the noise... rather silly now that I realize it! Also weird I never realized it... That's cool you can do other peoples' voices!
When you imagine a non human sound, is it in a voice or the actual sound?
Last Edit: 3 years 1 day ago by Sekhmet.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3258

  • Derek502
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*Thinks about a chainsaw...*
I hear the actual sound, but it's muted and fleeting. It's not clear. Kind of like I'm hearing it far away.

It's cool that you have such a strong touch recall. Do you find that textures affect you strongly? For instance, will a slimy food put you off, even if the taste wasn't bad?
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3266

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Sounds quieter than mine, but less silly... because realizing the chainsaw sound in my head is just my voice approximating it is really silly sounding. How did I not know I was doing this!?

Definitely textures of everything matters. I always knew I was a physically oriented person, I just didn't realize why. And yes, even thinking about slimy food makes me shudder. Like cooked spinach, or creamed, taste is fine, texture is unbearable.
On the other hand pleasant textures make me very happy/relaxed
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 3 years 1 day ago #3274

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That's interesting about the foods that you dislike. I'm curious if other people who have strong reactions to textures also have strong textural memory. I'll have to bring that up in future discussions with friends.

I'm all about flavor, regardless of texture. I know people who hate the texture of mushrooms, but I never gave them much thought. I just think that taste good.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3347

  • martofunes
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And in the end you were right, and now begins the journey of education and ignorance dispell.

www.reddit.com/r/Aphantasia/comments/4l5...le_about_aphantasia/
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3348

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Thanks for the link martofunes!
I definitely don't want to suddenly be labelled as "disabled"
If anything now I'm kind of proud of the fact that I use my imagination differently than most of the world. I have a way of approaching art that's pretty unique and I never knew until 4 days ago!
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3367

  • Derek502
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martofunes - thanks for the link. I'll add my 2 cents to the thread.

Sekhmet - Continuing with the previous questions about texture, I was curious if words like 'moist' bother you? There is a small-ish percentage of people that don't like the word, but I never understood it. Now, I'm curious of someone with vivid touch memory feels differently about it than other people. BTW, there is a thread in this forum that covers it, but I saw that you haven't commented there.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3381

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I didn't realize there was one already, I'll go hunt it down, thanks.
Hm, I don't think I have any words that make me uncomfortable. I wonder why people don't like it... cause there's are nice moist things, moist towelette after eating baby back ribs, moist morning dew grass... I wonder if people who are bothered by it don't like moist things, or don't like the way the word sounds.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3385

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(*Trying to remember what all she was going to reply to...*)

Textural memory - Don't have it myself, ie can't simulate it.
Religion - Agnostic myself. I neither believe nor disbelieve anything. Open minded.
Food Texture - I don't like things of certain textures such as fat/gristle, or anything that feels along those lines. (I must note that I more than likely have high functioning autism of some level, and texture issues are common there.)
Moist - No issues with moist.

Sekhmet - Chainsaw noises... I'm thinking of the silly noise kids run around making as what you're doing. :P Hee hee. If I try to think of a chainsaw noies... I don't like hear it, but it's sort of there in between a real one and a voiced one I guess, but barely there. o_O
~*~ Still figuring it all out, I either have aphantasia or weak visualization ability, definitely 0 purposeful visualization. ~*~
~*~ I suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, OCD; and potentially some sort of high functioning autism, but that one is unconfirmed. ~*~
Last Edit: 2 years 11 months ago by CanISee.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3534

Derek, point taken, but there's another side to this. Of course this argument has played out in the context of a variety of neurological "conditions", because when we're dealing with the brain, mind, self, personality, etc. it's relatively easy to dismiss what would be considered dysfunction in a general sense as being "not wrong or bad, just different". Indeed, it's probably a very healthy way to think about these things. In some cases, it's clearly quite accurate (think handedness).

However, if you have complete or global aphantasia, an emotionally neutral clinician would draw the conclusion that your brain is in some sense and to some degree dysfunctional. It's hard to say they would be wrong without entertaining relatively abstract philosophical arguments about human dignity, the nature of the self, the problems that psychology presents, etc. That stuff is fine, but it can be generated in regard to ANY dysfunction. If you wanted to, you could spin detailed arguments as to why your broken leg isn't a "wrong or bad, just different." You might get them to have some philosophical legitimacy, but to the rest of the world who's just watching your lower leg flap around, you've got a broken leg. Not a different leg, but a broken one. You might have a good reason to tell yourself that your broken, flapping leg is merely different, but for all intents and purposes, you have a broken leg. A serious injury.

I wonder if our attitude toward these things would be different if we all spent a few day with transparent skulls. If we were to do that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that some of the people who take positions like Derek's would end up having brains that are visibly abnormal. While they are promoting the ideology of "not wrong, just different" a guy standing next to them might pipe up with something like, "Dude, you've got a huge dent in your brain" or "Why does your right hemisphere look like a raisin?" Suddenly the abstract differences between broken leg and broken brain seem not quite so meaningful.

My main concern with "not wrong, just different" is that while it may be relatively valid for someone who can't visualize but experiences no special difficulty as they move through life, neurological conditions rarely occur in such an isolated way. The "crisis" of comorbidity is a testimony to this. On an intuitive level, it's pretty simple, really: If your brain is notably "different", this will usually be detectable in a variety of ways. This is the case with myself. My aphantasia is one of a suite of issues I live with on account of having a severely dysfunctional right hemisphere. These issues have been codified into various diagnoses and labels--Asperger's, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, ADHD, etc. When I visit this forum, I do so as a person whose aphantasia sits just perfectly among social/emotional problems, issues with executive function, etc. It all rests in one big pile of "my neurological bullshit".

The problem comes when I am trying to explain the nature of my issues to someone, I mention I can't visualize, that person then goes and reads Derek's post and thinks, "This isn't dysfunction, it's just a difference."

It may be a sort of lose-lose situation. Either we encourage people to think that people like Derek are disabled, or that people like me are not. Either way, someone sacrifices something.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3679

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I do not use senses to "imagine" either, but some different stimuli can trigger "sensual" memories sometimes. I cannot intentionally recall much "sensually". When I'm asked to imagine the best I can do is "summon" the concept of the request. There are no details unless prompted for, in which case I suppose I then make a decision about the color and kind of wrap that up in my concept.

I also rarely dream, and my dreams aren't very visual, usually the same kind of "conceptual" thought described above.

As far as it being a disability, I feel that if it is something I'm lacking, that it may possibly be a disability, but my motives lie elsewhere in my leaning towards disability. I'm a bit of a conspiracy nut about fluoride, it's relation to the pineal gland, and the way I think. I drank a lot of city tap water as a child, close to 1 gallon a day, for many years, and I believe I may be "damaged" from the effects of it, and anything that supports the truth about flouride I am in favor of.

As a child I recall having a much more visual memory, which seemed to completely dissipate by my late teens.
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3681

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People do come up with comments like "How can you think then?", to which I normally reply "Do you think blind people cannot think?", not particularly helpful I guess as they then have problems wondering how I recognise things, but then so do I, I just do.

Of course there are lots of ways that having visual images limits thinking, another topic.

I find that people find it hard to accept that I don't have visual images, like my children. So part of the recent work and publicity has made what I say more believable to them.

Of course if I could get a disabled car sticker...................
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3682

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apropos of something or other: I can actually draw quite well. I am usually amazed that nonaphantasic people can't draw better: if they claim they can see a picture, why can't they draw it? I can draw a reasonable likeness of people (from life that is, or a photograph (certainly not from memory)). What I can do, is draw random faces though. People sometimes ask me who it is that I am drawing. But I don't know, do I? I am just going through the motions and proportions. I am not copying some metal picture onto paper.
I am quite fiercely atheistic by the way, if anyone cares about that. Not in an antagonistic way though. Because I am a classic introvert too.

Do I have an inner voice? No, but I can sing along with a song. I can't prompt it though. And all children's songs get confused melodies when I sing. I was corrected by my not-yet-two-year-old daughter the other day that I seemed to be trying to sing "Old McDonald" to the melody of "Itsy Bitsy Spider." So that's me.

About the dysfunctional element though, I might also have a touch of Asperger's, I have been stamped as 'underachieving gifted' and I go through some seriously gloomy patches. Moreover I seem to have shown some borderline sociopathic responses to explicit visual stimuli in a military psych test too. So, aphantasia seems to be just one thing among a number of unusual psychological components with me. I wonder it that's the case with more of you.
Last Edit: 2 years 11 months ago by Tilma. Reason: Sloppiness and a restless mind
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Not enjoying the perception that we have a disability 2 years 11 months ago #3709

  • Juliasnz
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Thanks for this thread :)

I've just recently discovered that having mental "images" is, I guess, more common than not... I've never seen a mental image so I just hadn't put much thought into it... Life is chaotic enough without wanting something you don't have is probably a personal motto somewhere in the visually blank recesses of my mind :)

For me personally not having mental visual images is a huge advantage as I've regularly seen very disturbing stuff over the years...

However, I am thinking that there may be some serious implications for considering the reliability of "eye witness" accounts and especially picking people out of line ups... I've always known that I have extreme difficulty recognizing people but I had no idea just how little information I was storing to guide my thinking/recollection...

At least I can now give up on the totally USELESS suggestion of remembering a physical detail about someone and then linking that to their name as a way to, futilely as it turns out, "recognize" them... Telling myself things like that I should remember for example "Geoff is like a Giraffe because he's tall" Well, how tall is tall? Which tall person in a group of random height people do I think is the right tallness? Argh!

I guess I'm still processing the implications... I think there are advantages to a visually blank mind and that's what I'm most likely like to FOCUS on... People practice for years to attain a blank mind's eye through meditation... I've been given one for FREE!! :)
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