Aphantasia, the lack of a minds eye. | Kinmunity: Otherkin Community

Aphantasia, the lack of a minds eye.

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Velvet Wings, Nov 26, 2015.

  1. Velvet Wings

    Velvet Wings Feline of the Root
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    I think it was on this forum, though it may have been elsewhere, I can't seem to find the post now. I saw someone mention aphantasia and wondered what that was, so, I looked it up.
    Basically, aphantasia is the inability to consciously form images in your head, the lack of a 'mind's eye'. Here's a couple of links for the curious.
    Aphantasia: A life without mental images - BBC News
    Aphantasia: Losing the mind's eye

    It would seem I have aphantasia, and now I'm feeling a little lost.
    I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that it's actually normal for people to be able to picture things in their heads? Like, see an actual picture? I was aware some people could do this, but assumed it to be unusual such as people with an eidetic memory. Now it seems like that's the extreme end of the spectrum, but it's normal for people to be able to visualise some sort of image.

    I feel kind of silly for never realising it before. I've read so much about visualisation techniques and meditation and what have you. I suppose I've always just assumed that when talking about 'picturing in your head' this was meant in a figurative sense; not actually allowing you to conjure up an image.
    I 'picture' and 'imagine' things in my head and work up a very detailed idea of how a scene looks, but all I'm doing is running through a list of descriptive words, like writing a story; there are no images to go along with it. It's very hard for me to imagine people being able to think with images (which I suppose is why I never realised it before).

    I do dream in images (which seems to be fairly common with aphantasia, though some people can't even do that) but while awake all I see is what's in front of my eyes. If I close my eyes all I see is blackness.

    So now I'm really curious what it's like to be able to picture things. What do you see? How clear is it? How important is the ability to picture things in your day to day life?
    Or are you someone who can't visualise things either; and if so, when did you realise other people could?
     
  2. Mirath

    Mirath The Animus Master
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    Interesting question, I've never really thought about how I visualise things in quality...

    It's like that whole 'think of a brown wooden chair with an elephant balancing on top of it' or something like that

    I never really wanted to work on making my own visualisation techniques better until I started looking into tulpamancy and creating a tulpa, and visualisation was listed as one of the... Things? Processes?... That was meant to help further it along

    At first, I found it hard, I couldn't concentrate long enough to form a steady picture that lasted more than a few seconds, my mind kept jumping around in so many ideas. But as soon as I had a solid idea in my head, which I think was the main problem, things started to get sharper. Granted, not 100% pin-sharp, but sharp enough to slowly start to see detail forming. By no way was it as easy thing to do, it's taken me weeks.

    Maybe it helps sometimes to have something like a written description, to make that visualisation process easier, or attempting to incorporate the five sense into it (I.e. Sight (duh Mirath...), touch, hearing, and so on...)

    As for how important it is, personally because of what I'm doing, I think it's important. But in day to day life... Not really, I can just as easily write things down, and it's much easier for me that way than to try and picture it in my head

    To add, I can't just do it on impulse. I'd need to be free of distraction (high lights levels, noise, audible movement), to reach something "stable"
     
    #2 Mirath, Nov 26, 2015
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  3. Velvet Wings

    Velvet Wings Feline of the Root
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    @Mirath I've got a tulpa/daemon/thoughtform also. I've never been able to see him but I still know every detail of how he looks and moves and he talks to me a lot. I spent quite a long time following visualisation techniques to try and be able to see him, now I understand why these never worked in the slightest for me. I always hoped one day I'd crack it, but now I'm questioning if it's even possible for me.

    It's kind of odd, because even though I've never seen an image of Tor, I can tell more about how he looks then I can people in real life. I suppose it's because he's a creation of my mind, so every detail of his existence is stored there. In contrast when I try to think of my partner (who I have lived with for 10 years now) all I can conjure up are the words brown curly hair, red glasses, blue eyes, just words going through my head. Not being able to see her the finer details are lost. I really can't picture what she looks like. When I actually look at her, I know it's her, but I can't picture her face when I'm not looking at her.
     
  4. Mirath

    Mirath The Animus Master
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    I'll admit, I've never heard of not being able to visualise something, so I learnt something new today.

    But it's not all its cracked up to be, I swear it's not. Because the times when I've wanted to draw, can imagine what I want to draw, and then it comes out looking terrible, I end up getting annoyed with myself in the whole "why can't I match what I'm thinking of?" Aspect of it all. But then, I learn much quicker by reading than I do visualising, so hey...
     
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  5. Dinocanid

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    I always thought most people could "visualize" they're thoughts. Now, to be perfectly clear, picturing images is absolutely nothing like looking at something. For example, if i think about a tiger i won't /see/ a tiger, just imagine what it looks like.
     
  6. Elvode

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    I've heard of this before but didn't really read about it until your post. I do see images in my head, sometimes it's very clear and sometimes it's kind of blurry or weird, I do value this ability a lot, I like to make up pictures every day, but I don't think it's necessary, for me it's mostly for fun, the images aren't perfect, sometimes details are missing.
    I use this a lot when I draw, I picture the image in my head like a line art for a moment until I sort of "see" it on the paper and I trace the lines, I've been doing it like that since I was a kid, I've been trying to use guide lines and following videos of how to draw properly but for me, my way is so much easier since I'm already used to it and it doesn't end up like a doodle.
     
  7. St Claire

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    This is the first time I've heard of aphantasia, it sounds really interesting. I may have to read up on it a bit more.

    As for me, I'm visualising things near constantly every day. My visualisations are very clear. When I read a book it's like there is a movie playing in my head (in fact it's not uncommon for me to think I've seen a movie of something, when in fact I've just read the book). I'm a constant daydreamer, and the worlds I create are rich and detailed.

    How important is this to my daily life? I'd say very. When reading, if I find it difficult to visualise something (because the author provided a poor description or I simply don't have knowledge of what they're describing) I tend to loose some reading comprehension. As a writer I find it easier to visualise an entire scene and then write the important parts on paper. This is sort of a similar thing as what happens when I read, just in reverse.
     
  8. Telegdrian

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    I am very good at visualization. I can see an object in 3 dimensions and I am able to rotate it and disassemble and reassemble it in my mind. It is a skill that has come in very handy in a number of jobs that I have had.
     
  9. Velvet Wings

    Velvet Wings Feline of the Root
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    @Elvode
    That's a pretty cool ability to have!

    @St Claire
    I also get confused between books and movies, although for the opposite reason. As I can't pull up visual images of a movie after I've seen it, all I have to remember it by are words, so it can be hard for me to remember if it was something I actually saw or something I read.

    It must be pretty fascinating to be able to picture the words in a book. That reminds me of something my partner said when I was speaking to her about this. She asked me if I can't picture things, then how can I like books so much as isn't the whole point of reading a book to create a mental image of the story.
    But for me, that's never even seemed like a possibility before. I really enjoy reading and writing and I think part of the reason for that is because my brain works in words, so it seems natural to have a story written in words.

    @Telegdrian
    Wow. Not sure what else to say, that's pretty mind blowing. I'm still struggling to understand what it must be like to see a still image of something in your head, let alone something so detailed you can actually interact with/control in that way. I can see how that would be very useful for certain things.
     
  10. Cayto Ikooko Kan

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    Wow I've never heard of this, very interesting. For my spiritual practices and meditation visualization is very important. I'm a martial artist and in martial arts visualization is very useful for training, in fact I'm really not sure how skilled one can be in MA without visualization. When training alone I visualize facing different opponents, differents sizes, strengths, speeds. I'm able to see them as fully deminsional beings in my minds eye and they act on their own. This is called shadow boxing and it allows you to get a better understanding of how all the techniques you know apply to real life situations. It's very fun too lol. Also for my art I always see things in my minds eye first and a lot of my art is me combining images in my head or deconstructing them in order to create abstact art. Without the power of visualization I wouldn't be able to do anything I love to do really, even my writing relies on it.
     
  11. Smooth Jazz Mann

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    I've got semi-edietic memory, so I've always been able to recall things very clearly and form mental images quite well. I know some people are less skilled with their "mind's eye", and some have trouble remembering things that happened more than 5 minutes ago, but I've never really been able to understand that, since my memory isn't something I can control. I just... remember things.
     
  12. Velvet Wings

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    @Cayto Ikooko Kan
    I'm not sure how I create art, but I do. I can think up an idea to paint using words and then translate those words to a visual image once paint meets canvas. Before there's something physical for me to see, I can't actually visualise what it is I want to create, but I still create it somehow. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, it's something I just do.

    Writing is a bit easier to describe. Basically, I'm already thinking a like a story. My brain seems to work in a similar way to a book; using words to describe scenes and actions. Although it's not always quite as coherent, at times I may just have a bunch of descriptive words run through my head when thinking of something.
    When I come to write, all I need to do is think of an idea and write down the words that run through my head. It may need a bit of editing afterwards, but usually when I'm writing the words are already in my mind.

    I've never had any experience with the martial arts, so can't comment on if/how that would work. The way you describe it is fascinating though, so thank you for sharing.

    @Smooth Jazz Mann
    It's really hard to understand how other people experience things so differently isn't it? I'm struggling to describe how I don't visualise because... I just don't, and as I don't have any experience of being able to visualise it's hard for me to grasp what it must be like for you.

    I suppose it's similar to how non-kin can find it really difficult to grasp the concept of being otherkin. When you don't have any experiences of being different to how you are, it's hard to imagine being anything else.
     
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  13. kiror

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    Interesting... While reading books, it was common to me find myself "picturing" the described scene and "hearing" the "voice" of the characters. Four months ago, I did read the first 2 chapters of the 5th book from a series I took a 7-month-pause: I did read 64 pages, and I had no mental picture, no "character voice" and no excitement during thriller/action/adventure descriptions.

    A link you included contains a quiz, which I took and I used "Vague and dim" for the first question and "No image at all" for all others. For example, I first remembered the name "Windows 98" when I read "7. Clouds appear in your sky and a lightning storm erupts - how well can you see it?", then I remembered a lot of characteristics that identifies an image as a sky, places where I saw skies, places where I can get pictures of skies, keywords related to sky, some knowledge associated with the word (21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen; synonym of heaven, under religious context; (medieval) Christian's 1st sky contains air, the 2nd sky contains ether and the 3rd is their heaven; Islam's 7th sky is their heaven (source: somewhere in Facebook; I need a better source for this); ...) and some remembrances that should contain a sky. As you noticed, I remembered a lot of things, but at the end, I couldn't "picture" a sky in my mind as requested by the quiz.
     
  14. Velvet Wings

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    That's interesting @kiror the way you describe running through the characteristics and then places, keywords, associations, etc... sounds very similar to how I think.
    So far it seems that not being able to imagine voices, sounds, smells and touch is also quite common in aphantasia.

    It may just be that as you've taken a fairly big break your sensory imagination is a bit rusty if you mostly used it while reading. Although while looking through information on aphantasia I have run across a few people saying that they used to be able to visualise but lost that ability at some point. It was usually either gradually fading over time so they didn't notice it happening until afterwards, or suddenly due to an accident or, like the man who fueled the recent study, after having a serious procedure done in hospital.

    I'd be interested to hear if your visualisation skills come back or not. Do you think going from being able to visualise to not being able to has really effected you in many ways?
     
  15. kiror

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    That's here where aphantasia definition fails to me, @Velvet Wings : for music, I can easily remember the sound of the whole music or of a specific instrument, manipulate it (if I want) and "play" it inside my head. Human voice can be interpreted like any other instrument voice, but as it requires a lot of effort that usually leads to a headache, which I avoid.
    In my case, it is gradually fading out during the last 18 months.
     
  16. Velvet Wings

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    @kiror I've never been able to hear music in my head, this perhaps is the reason I've always been extremely bad at remembering songs. I do get songs stuck in my head sometimes, but it's my inner voice making the tune of a song, rather then actually being able to hear the song.
    I can hear in my mind though, but my ability to do so is very limited. Basically just limited to Tor (my daemon/thoughtform). He has his own voice that he can speak to me in but I'm unable to replay his words in my mind if I think back on our conversations. Well, I can remember the words he said, but can't remember his voice.
     
  17. Cipher

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    I think people have already talked about this, but. Visualizing something doesn't mean you actually see it, it's definitely on an imagination scale. For example, you said you dream in images--but again, you aren't actually seeing anything; when I think closely about the way I see things in my dreams, it has the exact same quality: I can "see" images, but what my eyes are looking at is blackness. So visualization is kind of like being able to create brief lucid dreams while awake, but without the detachment from the world that you feel in a meditative state.
     
  18. Velvet Wings

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    @Cipher
    Thank you for the explanation, it does help to clarify it a bit. I do understand it's not the same as actually seeing something with your eyes but as I've no experience with visualising I have a hard time understanding what it's like. I probably talk about it as I would actually seeing since that's the only type of visuals I have enough understanding of to describe (while I do dream in images, once awake I can't recall those images so can't know what they were like, I just know it happened).
     
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  19. Magic

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    I've never heard of this either, I'm slightly shocked. I've never really thought about the sorts of visual imagery I experience. When I think of a person, I don't necessarily see them, I see flashes of different moments or their voice. However, I'm an avid daydreamer and constantly do such. I can't imagine living a life without it, I'm a naturally creative person, and most of this stems through imagery in my mind. I guess that arises my question, @Velvet Wings, are you creative?
     
  20. Velvet Wings

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    I like to think so. :p

    In school I took GCSE (English exam system) Art Graphics and was the only person in school that year to get the top grade of A*.
    I will say though, I'm much better at still life drawing then I'd like to be. I find still life incredibly boring so very rarely practice, but I'm great at drawing what's in front of me, which makes sense now I've found out about aphantasia. I'm also good at copying from a photo and have done a few pet portraits for my mum this way.
    When drawing other things (usually animals as that's what I enjoy most) I do tend to rely on references a lot. I can draw something unique (as in, not a copy of my reference image) but I do tend to need references so I can work out how the animal moves, what their natural body position is, correct anatomy, etc...

    I also like crafts. I've been to several festivals for free in exchange for offering craft workshops. I like to sew and crochet mainly.
    I also have a small business making pretty dog collars, leads and accessories which makes up part of my regular income.

    I like to write as well, although don't do so as often these days. When I was younger I wanted to be a writer and always seemed to be writing something, poems, stories, forum RP posts.
    I do remember spending an unusual amount of time as a child writing out descriptions of mundane things. Thinking back on it, this may have been my way of learning to 'see' in my head using words. I had a big notebook just for my descriptions. I'd describe things like a blank piece of paper, a brick wall, my bed, a stone, etc... and each description would be very long and detailed.
     
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