That touched a nerve…

Last week I explored the number one question I get asked: “how do I cure my aphantasia?” 

I received hundreds of replies, some very passionate, from both sides of the discussion. 

Some were appalled I would suggest their aphantasia doesn’t need curing, and others were upset by the very notion that aphantasia and cure sit in the same sentence. 

Here are a small sample of the replies: 

“The main reason I want a “cure” is for my mental health. Everywhere I look for help with my ptsd, anxiety, ect it brings up visualizing things. When you can’t see anything, when it’s just black and all you have are vague verbal descriptions of what you remember things looking like. It’s frustrating.”

“Not being able to visualize mentally makes life much more difficult for me.”

“I deeply lament having aphantasia, given that I come from a family of visual artists”

“I feel sad for the memories I won’t have of my child, that for key moments in her life I won’t be able to recall them in the same way she and my husband will. I feel sad that although I only got married last year, that I struggle to remember the day. I feel sad that my parents will die and I will struggle to recall memories of them. “

“Once past the shock, disappointment, I find it sad anyone would want a cure.”

“There is not a universe in which I would want to be able to visualize, especially after 45 years in this life. I would find it daunting, confusing, and unaligned with the way I have perceived my reality for these 45 years.”

“There is no way that I want to “cure” my aphantasia! Why would I want to be like everyone else???”

“Perhaps one day, folks with aphantasia will become recognized and accepted as part of the diversity of humanity, the diversity that the world needs to proceed into the future, instead of being seen as weirdos who aren’t “normal”, whatever normal is!”

“Those that would like “a cure” are only imagining what it would be like. It may not be like we imagine at all !”

Thank you to everyone who shared your thoughts. I respect your perspectives and it helps me better understand how to make sure Aphantasia Network is a positive force in people’s lives. 

There is clearly a wide range of perspectives and beliefs about aphantasia and how it impacts our lives. For some, it has taken a powerful, emotional toll. For others, it’s no big deal and they wouldn’t want it any other way. 

As we often discuss in our Member Meetups, aphantasia is just one of the many things that make us unique individuals. Drawing a clean line between our lack of sensory imagination and all the other personality traits, behaviours, beliefs, and neurodifferences is not always a clear cut. The line can be fuzzy and it’s all too easy to attribute some of our unique characteristics to aphantasia because it stands out as a tangible difference in our everyday conscious experience. 

My word of advice – use the aphantasia stamp prudently.

Though I am steadfast in my position on a “cure”, I must clarify two important points that stood out from the replies:

“What about those of us who had the visual imagery ability all our lives and then lost it for some reason […] I still miss my minds imagery, especially those times when I have to wait for long periods of time with nothing to do”

Often I speak from the perspective of a congential aphantasic. I have never visualized, and have never known what it’s truly like. This obviously biases my perspective. I grew up learning strategies and techniques that don’t rely on visualization – I’m not sure I would feel the same way if I had the ability to visualize for most of my life, and then lost it. 

Which brings me to my final point: 

“I think it would be great if people who have aphantasia at least had the option. Without any kind of treatment, there is no choice”

Absolutely. If I had the choice to temporarily experience imagery, and then decide if I wanted to keep it, I would be foolish to pass it up. It might also be foolish for those with hyperphantasia to pass up a chance to experience what it’s like to be more present, mind uncluttered with involuntary mental pictures and sound.

Maybe that day will come. Until then, let’s continue exploring the nuances of our invisible difference.