I have Aphantasia. That means that I lack the ability to recall visual images. My “mind’s eye” is blank or non-existent.
I’ve known this was a difference I had since I was in my early 20’s. And I had very real clues I was different going back to high school at least. Over the years I would Google my “symptoms” and nothing ever came back. I didn’t really ever believe I was unique, but it did often feel like it. Then last year a Google search finally returned real results!
It turns out Prof. Adam Zeman coined the name Aphantasia in 2015 for this “phenomenon”. This was after a publication of his in 2010 where he described a case of someone losing their “mind’s eye” – resulting in being contacted by others that self-reported never having this ability! He and other researchers are now finally studying more about Aphantasia.
When Blake Ross, one of the cofounders of Firefox, and a former Facebook director, wrote a blog post in 2016 about having Aphantasia – it really got attention. Now there are groups on Facebook and other resources, even a TED Talk by Tamara Alireza. And Alan Kendle wrote a book about Aphantasia in 2017, with contributions from many others, including me!
Now I know I am not alone. Many of us share many other traits, which is fascinating to me! Of course there are many differences too, and some of us at times look to “blame” Aphantasia for things that are not related. Most seem to have never realized they were different, assuming that all the talk of seeing in the “mind’s eye” was just metaphorical!
I realized from those discussions that I have “total” Aphantasia. That has come to mean the lack of ability to recall or replay any sense, not just visual images. I cannot replay sounds, nor recall smells or tastes or touches or any other sense. That was actually not something I ever discovered on my own. Some “Aphants” do recall some or all other senses.
I don’t want this blog to just be about Aphantasia, but it will certainly come up when I talk about personal things, so …