An epal found the word aphantasia for me today – something to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. I’ve wondered about it for 10 years since seeing an episode of the short-lived television show “3 lbs.” (referencing the human brain) which included someone with prosopagnosia, something I also have to put up with (the inability to recognize faces). Back then, I wondered if there were also a word for not being able to picture anything in my mind. Today, that search ended.
I haven’t read anything on this site yet, but I wanted to say hello and tell a little about me. I’m 73 and my uncle also couldn’t remember faces. He died 6 years ago and I never thought to ask if he also couldn’t picture things in his mind, but I suspect he also had this problem, too. He was an inventor and could build anything he needed, as I can, without having to draw it, just “imagining”, by reason, what was needed.
I have vivid dreams, seeing things so clearly that I might think I was awake until I actually wake up and find myself in bed. On very rare occasions, I will “see” a face (when my eyes are shut) and I’ll stare at its features intently, trying to grab what I can, watching them slowly fade, leaving the blank color that appears through my closed eyelids. One time, I watched as, eyes closed, block letters and numbers in various colors start small from the center of my vision and grow in size as they move closer and toward the edges of my vision in different directions until they disappear and others appear at the center to take their place – just like the computer screen saver star shower images. Another time, it happened with various geometric shapes of different colors, and my uncle told me he saw this too, and that’s why I think he also had aphantasia because it was such a memorable experience. If we could do this on demand, it wouldn’t have stayed in his mind all those years.
Hoping I could develop this ability that others seemed to have, I tried to picture a “little red wagon”. Nope. Okay then, a cube: nope! A straight line? No, not even that. I tried frequently but never succeeded and finally gave up.
In high school, I was a music and art major. I did well in sports, too, but very poorly in academics, having unrecognized dyslexia. When the Privacy Act was created in 1973, I contacted my high school for my records and learned that the IQ test we were required to take in 11th grade showed my IQ was 122. I realized then that this would account for why some of my academic teachers didn’t seem to like me, giving me poor marks, which I rightfully earned, thinking I was lazy. I had so much trouble reading that I pretty much gave up.
When I was 50, a friend suggested I try for MENSA. Wanting to prove something to those teachers – I don’t know what, I passed and joined. A fellow member, in the monthly newsletter, advertised that she helped people with reading disabilities and I contacted her. When I described my problems, she said it sounded like I had dyseidetic dyslexia. From what I’ve read online, it’s a little different from my experience, but that doesn’t surprise me – doctors, chiropractors and my dentist have all said my body is different than most people’s.
I can’t say that not being able to voluntarily picture things has lowered my brain capabilities for I scored a 154 IQ in abstract reasoning on that MENSA test. It makes me wonder what that score would have been if I COULD picture what I was reading in my mind! It would also be nice to be able to “imagine” being someplace else while in the dentist’s chair with my mouth wide open and nitrous oxide flowing through my brain, or while trying to go to sleep.
I’m looking forward to learning more about this condition, but in small gulps – I really don’t enjoy reading but have to in order to learn things like this important discovery wondered about for years: aphantasia!
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Something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day!
2 years 3 months ago #5032