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I have aphantasia, the inability to create mental imagery.

It’s quite odd how some days I do not give it a thought. I told my daughter she could read the Stephen King novels instead of watching the movies of his that we do not let her watch. When I told my wife, it quite took her aback. I inquired what was the problem. The movies are graphic and horrifying, but I found all of King’s books to be fairly tame with a lot of suspense. She reminded me that I did not think they were graphic like the movies because I have aphantasia. This made me stop for a minute. I had not thought about the many people who can visualize the books with the intensity I see in his movies, and maybe some visualize it even worse!

Other times, I am obsessed with the thought of being able to visualize places, people, and memories. There are so many moments I cannot recollect unless I am looking at a picture. However, many of my fun times with Caleb were while we were camping, backpacking, biking, hiking, driving, etc. So many things that one rarely had a camera on them before smart phones became big.

I know I am different from most people in many ways, but wish I did not have this oddity. Not only can I not recollect these memories in a form that lets me feel connected to my son, I do not dream. Okay, on rare occasion I will have a dream but they are not visual. It is a sense of being in a type of space and a knowledge of things occurring, and once every couple of years there may be a super weird conversation that makes no sense.

Many people recount the vivid dreams they have of their loved one, conversing with them, and asking them questions about where they are. Some people think it is a real visitation, others that it is just a dream. I just want that feeling of closeness to my unseen world, even if it is only a dream. I long to be with my children and my heart breaks that most of them are not here.

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.

Published inGrief

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