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TOPIC: Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia?

Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 3 weeks ago #39415

  • MvL1234
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I'm curious about whether anyone has noticed any shortcomings or strengths associated with their aphantasia.

I'm not sure if some of my shortcomings are related to aphantasia or if they're just other unrelated problems:
- Although I'm good at mathematics, I'm a very slow mental calculator, and I think this is because I can't picture the calculations in my head, processing them linguistically instead. I also only do well with geometry when I'm allowed to use algebraic solutions - shapes frustrate me.
- I am terrible with maps. And directions. I get lost very easily.
- I always forget which way is left and which is right. I move my good (right) hand and then I go "oh, that's right!" or "that's left!"
- I can't draw from memory.

On the other hand, because, at least for me, it seems that the part of my brain that processes language has taken over as compensation for the lack of a mind's eye, I excel at communication and formulating descriptions and such. My command of the language is very strong.

Then there is the novelty. Every time I look at someone or something, even if I've just looked at the subject, it "feels" like I'm seeing them for the first time, which is kind of nice.

Can anyone relate to any of this? Or notice any individual peculiarities that you think may be related to your aphantasia?
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 3 weeks ago #39418

  • moyer
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I have only my experience with aphantasia to go off, so I do not feel like it has caused shortcomings in my life. HOWEVER!!!!:::: and that is a big however, if I could visualize in the way that I have come to believe visualizers do, I have a suspicion that a LOT of things I struggle with might not be such a problem...kind of a lame spot to find ones self in, knowing that I am not able to use a part of my mind in a way that apparently most people do, and at the same time not REALLY knowing what I am missing. To that point, I have an idea of what I am missing in that I have experienced vivid mental imagery in dreams, meditation(ish), and while using psilocybin and
mdma (separately). As far as mental math calculation, I use a mental-verbal process. The biggest problem is that numbers that are not being mentally verbalized can go missing really quickly. If I could form an image of the numbers in my minds eye, I would have no problem following the correct procedure to solve a given equation.

all this to say, I can come up with aspects of my life that I believe MIGHT be deficient due to aphantasia, but I have a hard time being a person that needs to blame my shortcomings on something I never knew I had in the first place. it is all very confusing :)

** edit to add more
benefits: the big one for me is the idea that I CAN unsee something. Gnarly graphic images don't bother me. I have a feeling that it is because I've come to understand that they won't haunt me down the line. I experience them in the moment.
Last Edit: 11 months 3 weeks ago by moyer.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 3 weeks ago #39423

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one of the realisations i had after i found out i have total aphantasia is that i have no self image - i live in my environment with less self awareness, which i consider a different but not necessarily negative way of looking at the world.
One of the strenghts of having aphantasia became the ability to read body language and read people's emotions very well. It helps me in my job to understand and "read" people with autism, mental disabilities and complex behavioural issues.

I remember images such as photo's of people easier by analysing how they are composed within the picture and what the feelings of the people in the picture might be when the photo was taken - although i cannot see the actual pictures in my brain. I can't even see images of my late parents or my family members - but i can remember emotions associated with them.

I am certain that the brains of people with aphantasia are interesting and just different from the majority of people - with positive creative brain wiring that finds solutions to compensate in other ways.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 3 weeks ago #39424

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@ron - My aphantasia extends only to sight, smell, and taste, not to hearing (my ability to recall and manipulate sounds in my mind is vivid and clear and complete), nor to my motor sense (imagining yourself doing things like walking, running, swimming, jumping and remembering how that feels and what's involved mechanically) or my tactile sense (I can remember how things feel, at least as far as texture).

I notice that my emotions are heightened in comparison with most other people (I haven't met one with even more heightened emotions, I just assume they exist). This is wonderful through the highs, but terrible throw the lows. My emotions are often so intense that I take pains to hide them from others, or only show an appropriate fraction of what I really feel... which is very draining. I'm diagnosed with major depression disorder, AD&D, and PTSD.

I am starting to see proof of my hypothesis, which is that aphantasiacs (aphantastics? aphantasics?) will be an interesting case study in clear neurodiversity. What I mean is that, like you said about "positive creative brain wiring that finds solutions to compensate in other ways", that how the brain compensates for the lack of a mind's eye varies, in some cases maybe even wildly, from individual to individual. Which is freaking cool!

@moyer - You are SOOO right about the ability to UNsee things. I also find that "my emotions aren't connected with my sense of sight." Meaning that sights never moves me, one way or the other. I can see wonderful or terrible things and I would feel nothing. This unfortunately can sometimes make me seem a bit psychopathic, cold, or callous. I just connect emotionally with sounds, smells, tastes, and really all of my other senses, including introspection. It's just vision. Which is odd because my aphantasia also applies to my senses of smell and taste, but those things can stir emotions in me.

Thanks for responding. Ever since I found out I had aphantasia I have just grown more and more fascinated in all areas of it, like how my brain has compensated, and how others have, etc. I'm a little obsessed. ;)
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 3 weeks ago #39427

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Thank you for your well phrased response. I can relate to your descriptions of emotions being overwhelming strong - which can distort a "view" of reality. After all reality is how we interpret our thinking in the brain.

Aphants have the gift of seeing the world differently, experiencing life possibly more on a day-to-day basis without a visual memory affecting the current images as we see them.

I find music a great alternative to sight - feeling the emotions in music and how they assist in channeling my moods.
Only since finding out that aphantasia is something most people do not have, I am experiencing life with more optimism than before and i hope that you find strength in your ability to be an aphantastic aphant.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 2 weeks ago #39428

Realized I had aphantasia about two years ago. I share many of the "shortcomings" that you mentioned, and am very excited that these seemingly simple problems may be a result of aphantasia rather than my being an idiot.
- I'm terrible with directions. I'm a college student, and for the entirety of my first year I had to carry a printed map of campus around with me in order to keep track of where I'm going. I ski, and I'm constantly getting lost on the mountain even though I've been skiing the runs since I was 10.
- I can't keep track of my right and left, and have to do the same physical reminder where I think "Which hand do I write with? That's my right hand, so my other hand must be my left." I'm always turning the wrong direction when friends say "look at that thing to your right!"
- I am bad at simple math calculations, which is probably because I can't visualize the numbers in my head to add or multiply them. But algebra and calculus always came very easily to me, so it's not a problem of not being mathematically minded.
- I lack artistic ability, and can't draw, paint, or sculpt. I definitely can't draw from memory.

Other things:
- I can't remember details of conversations I've had or things I've done with people. I can't remember funny inside jokes to put on birthday cards, or quote what people said to me word for word.
- I have a terrible habit of misplacing things. I've lost more jackets in my life than I can count. When I'm trying to recall my steps or where things could be, I literally go by the "feeling" of having to carry it around rather than being able to picture when I last had it or when I last saw it.
- I'm good with faces, but bad with names. I always know when I've seen a face before, but I won't be able to place where I know them from or what their name is until a while later.
- I can write and form arguments well, but it's slow going. It takes me at least twice as long to write an essay as it does my friends.
- I have bad handwriting? Is that a thing?

Good things:
- I'm a great note taker, and can hear things and hold them in my head until I can get them down. I think this is a result of having to commit so many things to memory instead of being able to rely on memory tricks.
- I fall asleep really easily, as I don't have images racing through my mind at the end of the day.
- It's easy for me to get over failed relationships or bad experiences, as I can't "relive bad memories".
Last Edit: 11 months 2 weeks ago by hannahcantsee.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 2 weeks ago #39431

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In my experience the bad things are lack of general memory , as I can't visualise I feel it effects my ability to remember what I did yesterday or what I'm meant to be doing today
And the big one obviously is not being able to visualise loved ones , especially if they have passed , for example before I realised I had aphantasia I didn't take any photos and then I had a close friend pass and now I have no photos of us to look at to help me remember how I felt and how close she was to me (now I take a lot of photos!)

Good things about it - I feel it has helped me a lot with my art , which is strange.. but I think because I am lacking in imagination it has made me want to create more and draw and express myself .. and of course it is a great conversation topic , my friends are fascinated when I tell them and I am fascinated about there Ability to imagine.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 2 weeks ago #39440

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The things that I visualize is my job today and the future and I Think I'll be more successful and earn more. Is that a good thing to visualize?
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 11 months 2 weeks ago #39449

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My answer will be short, forgive me for my negativeness. In the middle of depression episode.
Strengths because of aphantasia-none.
Weaknesses- everything mentioned.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 9 months 1 week ago #39606

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Excellent logic skills.
Excellent artist but can't pull from memory, so I always end up doing either still-life's or abstracts or something cartoony
Can do simple math in my head but more so like if I need 25×6 I know 25 goes into 100 four times and that leaves 100 + 2x25 and two is half of four and 50 is half of a hundred so that gives me 150, just always been quicker this way. Or with 5's I always times by ten then divide by two. If it gets any bigger I have to use paper, I can do math well on paper.
Have to practice to stay good at something, have to read to keep a good vocabulary.
Short term test memory is great but as time goes by only the theory and logic sticks. Shapes are awesome.
I do get flashes of images, and have an idea of colors if I try hard but can't hone in on anything, but can recall composition.
Recognition is fine, but not good with new faces or faces I haven't seen in a long time.
Terrible 'to do' list retainment, but manage to stay employed :/
Friends can try to reminisce with me but for the most part I will only get as far as remembering that something was fun, I do okay with remembering words that were said to me if it comes up, and general movements of people in a room sort of kind of but the harder you try...
Pretty much asexual
Love vid's, movies, books, stories
Music is okay but not necessary, more like enjoy really loud music as an event than as a hobby, I keep trying to just find my genre but meh
I am capable of talking about myself for a long time, and would be hilarious if I could remember any jokes.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 9 months 1 week ago #39623

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So I'm not sure my experience matches up with what people are talking about here. I definitely agree on the directions, my wife often gets frustrated with me about that, but I don't have any trouble in math.

In fact, I majored in math and did reasonably well. I'm not sure visualization would really help at all with the way I do calculations in my head, I'm not even sure I can describe it all that well. The answer doesn't exactly just pop into my head, but I have certain building blocks memorized (like multiplication tables) that I use to assemble the solution. I'm generally much better than most people at doing these kinds of computations in my head, before I read this thread I thought it was even possible that my Aphantasia was an asset because random images weren't popping into my head while I was trying to figure out the answer.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 8 months 3 weeks ago #39679

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Fascinating reading everyone's answers here, I have a theory that many of the natural shortcomings from aphantasia can be overcome with practice and , so people who are really interested in something or familiar with a problem 'creatively wire' there brain to achieve the outcomes they want.
Sorry for the mammoth response, I have also been bit obsessed with this topic sense discovering I am aphantasic and I have been frustrated about not being able to distinguish correlation (I am aphantasic AND bad at maps) from causation (I am aphantasic which makes me struggle with maps) so this thread has been great.

My experiences:
Directions/Maps - terrible, but I have fooled a few people as I have lived in the same city all my life and know the street names backwards and forwards (they are laid out in a grid), so I can navigate really well in familiar areas. I am also good at figuring out compass directions from the sun (after a lot of practice) and left and right using the ol' stick your thumb straight out with your palms away from you and the left hand makes an 'L'. However, it all falls apart when people give me directions like 'just up the road from the bookstore' or 'past the bakery' or when I am in an new/unfamiliar place.

Maths - Like lackita, this is an area where I excel (and I always have!). I solve simple maths problems faster than most and made my through complex numbers, calculus, advanced trigonometric equations and Fourier transforms without significant issues - although for geometry/vector calculations I need a picture and more than 3 dimensions kills me!

I have always been good at reading people, but never thought to associate it with aphantasia until reading rons post.

I struggle with depression, but never with anxiety as I don't visulise/experience the worst case scenario as I am thinking about it.
In fact, I don't stress about the future much at all and put bad experiences behind me really easily. (IMHO one of the biggest benefits!)
Other than that, my emotional responses seem on a par with people around me, although I was definitely considered a 'sensitive child'.

I never understood relationship jealousy until I realised most people were stuck with images of their former loved one with their new partner.

My handwriting is atrocious, and I never mastered drawing beyond the simplest stick figures. I theorise that is because when young, I was told to imagine something and draw it - I am curious if I could learn to draw by trying to recreate something that I am actually looking at. From what I have heard, most aphants who are artists don't start with a finished product in mind, they jot something down and iterate over it until they have something that looks good in their literal eyes.

I can turn a phrase and have good vocabulary but writing has always been a struggle. I used to read voraciously but have lost the motivation in recent years and struggle to get through a book now, although I still devour news/science articles on the web.

I feel like I am more present in the moment than most people, and more aware of what is happening around me.

I am amazed at peoples abilities to remember quotes and amazing details of moments from dnd games and books - friends are able to recite with great detail something they saw in a game/read years ago while I struggle to keep up even though I only saw/read it a week ago.

I can identify familiar faces and names easily, but pairing them up takes a lot of repetition so I frequently find I know the person I am talking to, but not their name until someone else mentions it - then I know it belongs to them.
I am terrible at noticing details about people (and when they change...haircuts are never noticed!) to the extent that I can't tell you the hair or eye colour, clothing or shoes of the person I have just been talking to.

I enjoy music, but am terrible at knowing what I am listening to or have listened to. My musician friends say I clearly don't have 'it' and I now think that 'it' my be mental audio recall, at least partially!
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 6 months 2 weeks ago #39882

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I love reading all this!

I'm terrible with directions, I need to live somewhere a long time before I'm good at navigating. But I get good eventually.

I'm somewhere on the asexual spectrum, I definitely have a sexual drive, but it's very... selective, and I never get turned on looking at "attractive" people... ever, nor do I ever just feel "horny" out of the blue (apparently a lot of people have days, or weeks where they crave sex)

I haven't experienced jealousy to date and I'm 31, you'd think it'd have happened by now.

I'm a professional artist, I think I started drawing a LOT when I was in 1st grade b/c while other kids could imagine The Little Mermaid in their head, I had to draw her out to see her. I remember being well known for my mermaid drawings when I was that age =P

I'm a voracious reader and I always did well in AP english classes and college english classes were a joke in how easy they were.

I can't remember people very well, it takes me a while to remember them, and also to remember their name. I need an emotional experience, an interesting conversation, or a really epic partner dance with someone to remember them.

I get over relationships and people that are no longer in my life disturbingly well. I've seen multiple people post about this on these forums, makes me curious how many of us have this? I just really don't miss people if they're not around... I can think about them and try to miss them, and miss them as an abstract concept... Makes me feel kinda cold hearted

I don't know if it's related to aphantasia, but I also have a lot of anxiety (racing thoughts that never shut up, like a constant narrator of negativity I can't shut up)
I have dissociation in regards to my emotions, I don't feel them... I think this has to do with some traumas in my youth that I need to get sorted out. When I do emotionally connect with someone it's terrifyingly intense. Anyone else feel this way?
Though I can't emotionally empathize with people due to dissociation, I can read people very accurately when I pay attention, and I know how to go through the motions of acting empathy out, and I have the desire to help friends who are suffering... I just don't Feel anything.

I seem to enjoy visually beautiful sights more than others... I stared at a jellyfish for half a hour until my friends dragged me out of that section of the aquarium.

I never have emotionally distressing dreams. I have VERY violent dreams sometimes, but I never have negative emotions even if I'm being killed by zombies. Is this related to aphantasia?

I have so many questions...
Last Edit: 6 months 2 weeks ago by Sekhmet.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 6 months 2 weeks ago #39884

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Some of that rings true and other parts are so different from me. I tend heavily toward analytical thinking, so the artistic comments and success in English are a bit foreign.

On the other hand, I know what you mean about cutting people out of your life easily. I moved halfway across the country without a second thought. Recently I've been missing my parents and sisters, but it's hard to disentangle from not having as many friends in the new area. (new = been here 10 years, I just suck at making new friends)
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 6 months 2 weeks ago #39909

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Very interesting topic.
Like others here, I also find I can read people very well.
I learn by doing. I find that I can follow pictorial instructions, but have a hard time reading instructions and converting that to a process in my mind.
When I dream it is more about the feelings in the dream than visualization. If I do see something it is in black and white and very unfocused.
I cannot recall faces very well, if at all.
My own little theory is: My aphantasia is due to poor vision as a child that wasn't discovered until I was six and had trouble learning to read as I could not see the blackboard. So I wonder if I did not have a lot of visual input as a baby /toddler and that affected my ability to visualize. My Mom is an artist and she would describe her dreams as very visual.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 6 months 2 weeks ago #39914

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Hey! I also am a professional artist, and I was known for my drawings of Garfield when I was younger. I am now 45 and have always draw, but only decided to take it up full time 2 years ago with the financial support of my husband. The main issue I have is I never know where to start or what to draw or paint. Unless I have a visual prompt i can stare at a blank canvas for days and then I start searching the net, walking for interesting textures etc. What style of art do you do and how do you get started?

I don't dream, however, every few months I have a violent dream which is not vivid or visual but more like reading a book. I never forget my violent dreams.

I also love visualy beautiful sights and totally understand your interest in jellyfish. They are so fascinating. Watch the smoke from an incence stick i find amazing.

I also suffer with anxiety and racing thoughts and take forever to remember peoples names and details about them. My son gets sick of reminding me who his friends are.I don't tend to miss people if I can see them. Its like i kinda forget about them if they're not in my face regularly.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 5 months 2 weeks ago #39968

I am not sure if this is a side effect of lack of visualization but my internal monologue is a constant nonstop stream of talking. Always with the words. For a while when i was younger it drove me nearly mad cause i just couldn't stop my thoughts and they were always verbalized. Also my dreams are visual much like real life. Like I remember experiencing the image? if that makes any sense, and also they didn't have any color up until my mid to late 20s. Now there's color but its always slightly off. Like the hue, or sometimes heavily saturated. As for strengths i dont know if this is due to aphantasia but I can figure out patterns really well. I can find an image in almost any random thing. From splotches of dry wall. I can always find some sort of image if there is some sort of random pattern.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 3 months 1 week ago #40097

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I love you all! I can relate to everything I read above.

Okay downfalls: can't sing unless I'm listening to the music, really have to think about left and right, I have trouble using a filter between my mouth and brain because I'm so used to talking to myself, I can't remember the faces of those whom I lost

The Plus side: I move past trauma easier than most be cause out of sight out of mind, I don't need to see in the dark due to my sense of space, I'm very observant, strong connection to the written language
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 2 months 3 weeks ago #40122

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HybridConscience wrote:
I am not sure if this is a side effect of lack of visualization but my internal monologue is a constant nonstop stream of talking. Always with the words. For a while when i was younger it drove me nearly mad cause i just couldn't stop my thoughts and they were always verbalized.

I can relate to this! I have no mental imagery at all, and my impression is that my thought processes take the form, almost exclusively, of an incessant internal dialogue with myself. Which is interesting because it seems to mean that I had almost no means to "think" at all until after having acquired language skills. Do aphantasiacs generally lack any childhood memories that would have predated their ability to express their thoughts in language, I wonder? I think that is true in my case.

I feel that the differences in thought processes between aphantasiacs and normal people would make a fascinating topic for research.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 3 weeks 6 days ago #40132

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First, I very much enjoy reading all of your thoughts on this topic, so thank you all. Even though I've never met any of you, I feel I can very much relate to you b/c of our shared experiences.

I'll start with my strengths that I associate with my Aphantasia:
1) I find it very easy to live in the moment. Most of my friends and family who are "normal" have serious issues with ruminating about past issues (they have thoughts that come in to their minds and stick around) and anxiety about the future (they are playing films in their head forward and then worrying about the outcomes of these fictional stories). I believe that as a result of my Aphantasia, I simply don't do this. Thoughts do not simply pop into my mind. I generally need to call them up and then I can dispatch them at will.

2) Mediation. Based upon my discussions with experience meditators, I think my Aphantasia has made me a natural meditator. According to practitioners of meditation, they have to work very hard to clear their mind of thoughts. All I have to do is close my eyes and my mind pretty much goes blank immediately. This makes is very easy for me to enjoy things in the moment. There's really no intrusive thoughts to interfere.

3) Sleep. I can fall asleep very easily, b/c as soon as I close my eyes, it's all blank.

4) Abstract Thinking. Since I don't think visually, I find it very easy to think abstractly and to play with very abstract ideas. My "normal" friends have to proactively separate their minds from their visual thinking in order to abstract, which tends to take the more time and bogs their thought down.

5) I have great sense of direction. Based upon many comments I've seen on this forum, I don't think I can attribute this to Aphantasia, since it would appear that if anything that would make me lousy with directions, but I still think that it helps me. I believe my mind has compensated by heightening the minds other ways of maintaining directional information so that I pick up on even the smallest input to extrapolate the correct direction.

Shortcomings:
1) Lack of empathy. I believe not being able to visualize memories lessens my ability to fully appreciate what other people are feeling.

2) Lack of vivid memories. I find that my best memories are the ones that I have pictures/videos of the event. If not, I can bring up a rich memory past events.

3) I tend to have an "out of sight, out of sight" attitude about most things. This is a plus and minus.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 2 weeks 3 days ago #40136

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You just described me pretty neatly there. Except for the meditation. I feel like I concur with you on the mental state, but most meditation I know of is about visualisation and I, obviously, can't do that for shit.

And for the sense of direction thing: I can find my way fine, but in a kind of step by step fashion. I can't tell people the way. I forget entire streets. But I know my way just fine.

Everything else: we're like twins.
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Any shortcomings (or strengths) associated with Aphantasia? 1 week 5 days ago #40137

  • astauber
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Tilma,

Thank you for your response to my post. It's really interesting to read about the diversity of the experiences of other Aphants. I would guess that this arises b/c some of our particular characteristics do not stem from our Aphantasia, but rather are attributable to other things. It would be interesting to distill those character traits that are core to being an Aphant. Not sure how we'd go about doing this, but it would be helpful to have this information.
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