In the last couple of years I’ve been exploring and learning more about myself – what “makes me tick” or, rather, what makes me unique (as we all are). If you look on this site’s home page, you’ll see a number of these things. Right now it reads…
And this is a list I’m slowly adding to – and, for this post, I want to talk about my newest addition, being aphantasmic.
I first learnt about this when I heard James Harkin talking on the subject, as he suffers from it, but, at the time, I didn’t appreciate that it related to me as well.
Aphantasia is a condition where you can’t visualise things in your head (i.e. you have no “mind’s eye”) – if you close your eyes and try and visualise someone you know, say a partner, you won’t be able to do it. I’ve always known I was a bit rubbish as remembering people by their face but I put this down to my lousy memory (although when it comes to remember inane film trivia my memory doesn’t tend to work quite well).
And only this last week, whilst I was in Belgrade, it was demonstrated nicely… a lady from another booth came over to ours, eyeing up our brightly coloured pens and said she’d come back later. She was wearing a company t-shirt, was female and had an Irish accent. That’s how I remembered her. Later, she came over again. “You’ve come back for the pens”, I said. She was confused. Yep, it was her colleague, who was also Irish. But they looked nothing alike – it was just that the details I’d remembered did match.
Even then, I didn’t realise. It wasn’t until I read a BBC News article and pursued the links about aphantasia that I realised that, yes, this did apply to me. I am, indeed, aphantasmic – if I close my eyes and try and recall someone, I get a blur at best. I can’t make out features, even of my wife or children.
What’s odd too is that saying this doesn’t evoke sympathy from most people but actually annoyance that you can’t imagine your own family (as if it’s intentional, or you just don’t love them enough).