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Dreams, Memories, Images and Imagination

Do you dream? Can you have lucid dreams? Imagine you are on the beach with your toes in the water digging in the sand. Do you hear waves and voices of children somewhat like real life? Can you see the ocean waves as an image or video? Can you smell the salt air? Are your dreams in more detail than this or less?

I answer no to all the above. I cannot imagine images, smells, sounds or touch. I think I dream but I rarely have a clue if I do (once every few years). When I feel like I had a dream, I cannot recall the dream. I wake to a vague general concept of what the topic of a dream might have been. I lie down, close my eyes and see black. Later I wake and open my eyes. This is a part of Aphantasia (literally means ‘no fantasy’ but refers to not seeing images in the mind).

I used to think that I imagined things about the same as everyone else. The phrase “imagine counting sheep” to fall asleep was a figure of speech. I wondered how counting in your head accomplished sleep other than to bore you to sleep. “Picture the audience naked” was a weird saying that there was no reason to fear being exposed on stage. The word imagine was kind of like “imaginary numbers”. An imaginary friend was just a pretend friend that no one could see. The movie “Drop Dead Fred” and that the kids could see their friend was Hollywood. Somehow the image in Imagine was lost. Cognitive Bias is very real.

Do you remember your childhood? Birthday parties? A special Christmas?

Even before I knew about aphantasia I knew I had a terrible memory. I struggle to remember a few days ago much less months or years. Talking about my childhood is like re-telling a passage in a well-read book. I do not have a first person view and the only parts I know are the ones I keep re-telling or have heard often. I do not recall a single birthday except the last two.  I know I was at my Gran’s house for the week around quite a few Christmases. I know we had a big meal for lunch and that Christmas Eve was always at my other Grandma’s house for a big party. Sometimes someone will say something that will force a memory out but it is still as if I just found another page in the book I can paraphrase. My memories are not normally experiential or episodic. It seems closer to a third person semantic memory though the recalled facts are not complete.

The only “normal” memories I have that are first person and episodic is my wedding, the birth of my son, and various events around adopting my daughter. I say normal but I cannot visualize anything relating to these events but the memory is clear. I do not feel disconnected from those memories.

There are some who think my memories were affected by one or more of the serious head traumas I have suffered. I am probably not the best judge of that since I cannot recall how well my memory might have been in the past (ha-ha). Considering how little I recall of more recent events, I consider the injury scenario less plausible.

I am starting to understand why I am Ever A Stranger. I barely know myself.

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  1. […] N.B.: The phenomenon was first described by Francis Galton in 1880, but has since remained relatively unstudied. A study last year found it occurs in less than 1% of the population. I have written about this previously in Dreams, Memories, Images and Imagination. […]

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