There Are People Who Are Unable To Visualize Their Thoughts

If I told you to close your eyes and picture your bedroom, I’m sure the majority of you can do that. You can probably see the color of your walls, where your bed is, and the pile of (clean?) laundry in the corner of your room. However, there are people in this world that do not have this ability. If you ask them to picture something, all they see is black. The inability to visualize something in your head is a condition called, “Aphantasia.” 

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I received many messages from people after my last post who reached out to tell me that they have Aphantasia. To this day, it remains largely unstudied considering that the name was coined only 5 years ago by a professor from England named, Adam Zeman.

Once again, I was puzzled by the lack of knowledge I had for what goes on in other people’s brain. It is crazy that people can live their whole life without knowing that they think differently from the majority of others around them. I received a message from a woman who said that, thanks to my post, her husband finally realized that he had Aphantasia. “People used to think he was crazy or a liar when he told them he couldn’t see images in his mind,” she told me.

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Now, let me put this into perspective for you. Imagine (if you can) if a loved one passes away. Your wife, brother, friend, etc. A person with Aphantasia has the inability to picture their face and their mannerisms. The majority of the world can close their eyes and remember these loved ones, however there are people out there that lack this skill set. More questions kept coming to my mind. How does it affect their day to day life, relationships, and education? So I reached out to one of my followers that told me that they have this condition to ask them a few questions.

Below is an interview with @ginger_days_

What is Aphantasia?

“Aphantasia is the lack of imagery in the mind. There’s different degrees of it for some people. For me, I just see black in my mind. Some people can vaguely see an image, faintly, however it may fade quickly. 

When did you realize you had Aphantasia and that it was not normal?

“I realized when I was young. I couldn’t picture things in my mind. But I thought everyone was the same and that when a teacher or someone told us to visualize something, I thought it was just a way of phrasing what they wanted us to do. I didn’t realize they actually meant to picture it in our mind. It wasn’t until about two years ago when I learned what Aphantasia even was.”

How did it impact your education?

“It never really impacted my schooling apart from art. I love to draw but I can’t just do it from my head. I need some sort of reference so I can check back to see what it looks like. 

Do you wish you could visualize things?

“I wish I could visualize things all the time, but I find it hard to even comprehend what that would be like.”

@ginger_days_ went on to say, “I find it hard to imagine a future because I can’t see how it would look. I can’t imagine what my girlfriend will look like when I eventually marry her. I can’t imagine what we would be like with a baby. I can’t see it. I feel a lot though. I am a very emotional person.

RNwapF7STK2K6DZJP5OUPQ_thumb_1465.jpgThere are 7,794,798,739 humans on Earth, so it is very clear that everyone is bound to think a little differently. However, it has been very eye opening to realize the huge differences that we do have that I was previously unaware of. I am just glad that this topic has resulted in so many different stories and has allowed us all to talk about our thoughts. While mental health continues to be a huge burden with most people, I am just hoping this open dialogue can make a difference. I am glad we are starting to normalize talking about what exactly is going on inside of our extremely complex minds. 

 

@RyanLangdon_

Link to my interview with a person who does not have an internal monologue.

12 thoughts on “There Are People Who Are Unable To Visualize Their Thoughts

      • I read your article a few days ago, InsideMyMind, and I was blown away. Perhaps the difference in the way people think is the reason behind my husband falling asleep within minutes of laying down and I don’t. I lay there forever wishing my internal monologue would just shut up. Especially since, late at night, it drones on about completely silly things. “Do penguins have knees?” They do. They totally do. “Remember that time in 5th grade when you didn’t stand up for yourself? Let’s over analyze that entire situation for a while.” Ugh..

        Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t see a reply button on Quinn’s reply, but this us in reply to them.

        THE SAME THING HAPPENS WITH ME. You just described it perfectly! I never knew anyone else stayed up thinking too much. I have wondered if I have insomnia before, but my thoughts usually only take an hour or two so it’s not making me tired. Wow, I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one with racing thoughts.

        Have I mentioned I don’t have an internal monologue? I just have an internal mess of feelings and sensory experiences, which may include words or phrases, but not complete sentences unless I try to create sentences in my mind. So I lie awake at night, wanting to get to sleep, but a new story idea is playing out like a TV episode and I want to see where it goes, or I’m just getting random images and sounds that won’t shut up or turn off, and other things like that.

        Words take more time to form and speak than images do, so I must say I’m doubly surprised that someone with an inner voice would have this same problem. I’m learning a lot about how inner voices work from reading replies. Thank you!

        Like

  1. This is so helpful. I thought when people told us to visualize it was just that they wanted us to think of the concept in our mind and calm ourselves. I only see black. For years, I’ve been sad about not being able to visualize my late father. Of course, I have memories of him, but I can’t see what he looks like when I close my eyes. I had no idea this was even something people can actually do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I have a name for it.
    I once asked someone close to me if they saw “The Man In The Moon”,
    When they said no I was shocked at first, then many things became clear.
    I ask people this question when I am getting to know them as kind of a gauge if we’ll see things “eye to eye”.

    Like

  3. Hey @RyanLangdon_ I you really broke the internet on this topic!
    I thought you might be interested in some research in this area. I was so excited when someone shared your original post with me last week, as I finished a book a few months ago called The Voices Within (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IAIZAEY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1) it was extremely fascinating and goes deep into the history of understanding thought and inner speech. Charles Fernyhough is one of the leading researchers in this space and is also a talented writer.

    This should get you started 🙂
    https://charlesfernyhoughcom.wordpress.com/the-voices-within/

    Click to access wdphv.pdf

    Also, tangential to this that I’ve recently developed a fascination in is the Default Mode Network
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_mode_network
    I came across Gary Weber researching this area and he really blew my mind
    https://psychologytomorrowmagazine.com/jeff-warren-neuroscience-suffering-end/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX1IFUDNtto — this one is just WOW

    I love this stuff! Thanks for taking the convo viral
    So viral in fact the co-founder/CTO of the company I work for shared it on LinkedIn this week https://www.linkedin.com/posts/dharmesh_today-i-learned-that-not-everyone-has-an-activity-6629598332455051264-tXvZ

    Jillian

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  4. So I don’t actually hear voices in my head, but I think them. Like I have full conversations or dialogue if you will, inside my head silently. For example when I would like to have a conversation with someone or express my feelings to someone, I think about what i’m going to say in my head first. And it always sounds so good in my head but never does it come out just as good in the moment. Plus your mind can think faster than your mouth can speak so it’s hard to articulate just how your feeling completely. I always thought people just thought their opinions, not actually heard them in their head. Very interesting.

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  5. I didn’t realise I have aphantasia until now. I actually thought I could imagine things until I tried to do it while reading this article. All I saw was black. It made me realise everytime I imagine things, they don’t actually appear but I am imagining them. I don’t know how to explain it.
    I think I will give it a try or just watch myself as they day goes by

    Like

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