Aphantasia but lots of fantasy…

On the weekend I talked to a friend on Twitter about Aphantasia. I had never heard of it before and maybe that was actually good…

Here you can find an article about Aphantasia which also includes a test – https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

So, guess what, according to the test I do have Aphantasia. It did not surprise me that I had once I had read what it meant – it only surprised me that it was not normal. For some weird reason 😉,  I had always thought that most people would ‘see’ the world like I do which actually means not to see it in front of your inner eye but more to feel and think it, without real images. The most I get is like a fleeting ghost image that disappears as soon as I try to focus. There is never a real, vivid picture – only emptiness…at least visually but not in my heart.

The other strange thing his that I am still a visual learner, I remember things I have seen far better than anything I read or heard. Somehow my brain seems to translate the information and then store it without the actual image – just the ghost…I cannot describe it in a any other way.

Let me give you an example that I tried after I did the test. I was sitting next to my boyfriend on the couch and looked at him, really studied his face for a minute or so, then I turned my head away and tried to recall his image in my mind…nothing, I could feel him and ‘think him’ but there was no picture, just emptiness. It had always been like this…and is not limited to faces. The stories I imagine I don’t imagine as images in front of my eye but feel them in my heart and think them with my mind.

When my youngest sister told me once that the stories she wrote, she had first visualized in front of her eyes, I thought she did the same, just used different words to describe it. Now we talked about it again and she actually sees the images, vividly and clearly in front of her ‘inner eye’. She can describe every detail of that image, where I see emptiness.

When I read about photographers that visualized their final images in front of their eyes, I thought they planned it more than really see it, but it seems they actually see it. I cannot do that which is probably why my photography is much more instinctive and intuitive – it had to be in a way.

I have always been horrible at describing a scene or person I saw but I do remember them, I feel them clearly, I just cannot describe them because I don’t see them once they are gone. Funny enough, I am extremenly good at recognizing people or places I have seen before. I will always find my way back when I walk as my mind seems to record how the scenes looked along the way and then plays them backwards and checks against what I actually see. I can also tell you if I met you before and probably where but ask me a second later to describe your face and I cannot.  But as I said, I always thought that was normal 😉

So why do I think it might be good that I did not know that I had Aphantasia?

Quite simple, because I never worried about it, I never thought I missed something, I never thought it was necessary to create or imagine things. I have lots of fantasy – which by the way is the reason that I think Aphantasia is not a good name as for me it indicates missing fantasy – which it definitely is not. Maybe my (not visual) imagination is increased as compensation – who knows. I probably started with photography exactly because I could not visualize the images I had seen so needed to document them, and even more important I could not visualize the images I imagined and felt so needed to create them. Which is what I love most, to create images and visual stories of the dreams and feelings I cannot otherwise visualize and this also gives me the opportunity to share them with you.

I would love to hear how your inner eye works – do you visualize or do you have Aphantasia like me? How does it look and feel for you?

Let me end with the famous words of the Little Prince (come on, you saw that coming, didn’t you 😉)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”

and if you haven’t seen the animated film – I think it is a MUST  The Little Prince (2015)


  1. John on June 14, 2018 at 07:03

    We are all so beautifully unique in how we see and feel.
    I finding it fascinating and beautiful 🙂 !
    We can never truly know how another perceives the World.
    That is what I love about art and expression…it gives us glimpses 🙂
    Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your World 🙂

  2. Jasmine on March 27, 2019 at 10:06

    I like to write but, just like you, I don’t really think in images. I’m very articulate at expressing myself verbally though. I have a very strong narrative voice in my head and I build images with my words, but these words just pop into my mind and aren’t generated by images. My dreams don’t have a lot of image either, usually it’s more about the action. Only under hypnosis I can see very clear images. Usually it’s just shadows or contours or just tiny things that appear unninvited. I visualize something once in a blue moon but my thinking works just fine with only words to play with. Also,I love to play music in my head.

    • Isabel on March 27, 2019 at 10:12

      That sounds very similar to what I ‘see’ or rather not see 😉 I think I developed my writing because that was how I could describe what I felt at least up to a point. I currently find that painting works really well though I will never be able to pre-visualize or really plan an image in my head…as you said about words…it just seems to pop up 😉 It is wonderful that you can play music in your head…that I can only do sometimes and never planned. Thank you so much for telling me 🙂

  3. Claire Strickland on April 8, 2019 at 20:33

    Hi, you sound like me, I have aphantasia too! I wrote a blog post about it, I’m planning on writing another about my actual experience of what I remember / how I experience the world (as people seem so interested). But you know what? I like having aphantasia. I like being me. People seem to think that I have to ‘cope’ and ‘manage my condition’, and it’s starting to annoy me a bit! https://www.clairestrickland.com/2019/01/06/aphantasia-i-am-an-artist-with-aphantasia/

    • Isabel on April 8, 2019 at 22:31

      Hi Claire. Just read your blog post – yes, sounds very much alike :-D.
      I agree, my aphantasia is just a part of me and as it has never kept me from creating so why would I mind – maybe even the opposite…
      How did the conference go? Sounds really intriguing. My husband also has aphantasia while my sister and one of my best friends both have hyperphantasia. It was only after I found out about it that we started to talk about how different we ‘see’ the world.

      Have a lovely week! Oh and I love your heads – they are stunning!

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