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On discovering I am an aphant with aphantasia at 50 years old

Until now, I had always believed that the mind's eye was figurative. I've always had vivid dreams but when I close my eyes, my head goes dark. The only sounds I ever hear in my head are through my ears and the only waking visions I have come through my eyes. Counting sheep before bed is 100% counting and 0% sheep.
On discovering I am an aphant with aphantasia at 50 years old


All of a sudden, full comprehension of this lack washed over me: mind palaces are real, the apple that guided meditations encourage you to visualize are right there in the mind's eye, almost real enough to bite.

Why are people so committed to developing VR and AR when each person has some version and intensity of this simulation in their very own heads?

What I have is called aphantasia. I am an aphant. Only 2%-4% of Homo Sapien Sapiens haven't a mind's eye, though both phantasia and aphantasia are on a spectrum. And, to be honest, I am self-diagnosed.

Aphantasia is a mental condition characterized by an inability to voluntarily visualize mental imagery. Many people with aphantasia also report an inability to recall sounds, smells, or sensations of touch.

Apparently, after discussing this with friends—and doing some casual research—everyone both maintains an ideal form of their understanding of the world and also an ideal vision of how their life should be.

While this ideal form and vision might very well seem immutable and personal and private, science and psychology both agree that it's quite easy to corrupt, replace, obliterate, eviscerate, and—of course—directly influence the actual rendering of what is known to be as well as what one is capable of becoming. One can existentially revise and reframe that most holy and precious reference point.

I don't actually possess any of this. Existential threats cannot exist until they personally come up and kiss me on the nose.

I call it a show me state.

One of my superpowers is that I can easily adapt to anyone's true reality into my mind sandbox. Instead of aural or visuals, all my renderings are made up of a Frankenstein of all past snapshots of things that I have read or seen. One of the creepiest things about me is that I look too closely and for too long. I scrutinize obsessively and will latch onto something like—as a child—animals and cars; or, more recently, guns and motorcycles.

During a latch, I will deep-dive and freedive into every detail of the topic, including watching, looking, reading, buying, possessing, shooting, riding, repairing, and engaging completely in the culture. Becoming embedded into the culture is an essential part of that, funnily enough. Because I need to know not only what the presiding opinion is amongst the hobbyists but I also need to be accepted into these communities and be able to pass as one of them.

A gun guy or a BMW tourer and Honda dual-purpose rider.

I don't have a vision so I always feel like a tourist (same with being a Freemason, though my love for Freemasonry is much more earnest and true) no matter how much time I spend. I remember being that way in elementary through high school and then, also in college.

Now I know why it feels like I can easily forget that I am even part of something if I am not constantly and persistently reminded.

That community really needs to keep on inviting me back, for lack of better reasoning.

I am not being coy; rather, I am quite easily seduced by something new and fascinating to learn and explore (and master cum understand).

I was chatting with a buddy and he suggested that I understand the world through their spec sheets.

I know everything about my Honda XR650L. But I can't remember my bike as it was before I sold it at auction. I can just hobble together the specs and then all the aftermarket changes I made to the bike while I was the owner. And then, I can remember that the bike was stolen, joy rode, dropped, and that the tank was banged up, though I don't remember which side of the tank was dinged, scraped, and dented.

I don't have access to the image in my head that I can reference (can you, reader, do that, for your things?). I even remember that I left the "abandoned vehicle" sticker that someone stuck to the tank before the cops claimed it, the yard took it, and an officer from Maryland called to hell me that they had it. I remember that I left it on the tank and a badge of courage if you will.

That said, there are no pictures in my head, only in my dreams. I cannot close my eyes and see my long-departed mum or dad, Barbara, and Bob.

I need to make constant reference to their photos. And, I need photos to unlock large blocks of memories. And, even then, looking—and even scrutinizing—at those photos will not restore a decaying visual memory that I hold in my mind, in my imagination.

Can I have demons? Can I be tortured? Do normal people with phantasia actually manifest literally imaginary angels and devils on their shoulders?

My mind has much more of an IF/THEN skip logic flowcharting of moral decision making. Instead of imagining an outcome, I go through probable and possible outcomes; and, when I am unsure as to possible outcomes, I almost always decide to make the decision of indecision. Why?

Because I am very conscious, intentionally through reading and listening, and watching, and learning, I have come to the conclusion that a lot more damage and destruction on the world is from human people doing things. Very few of the world's ills have been made manifest through inaction. Not from conservatism (keeping things static and preserving the status quo requires as much, if not more, energy and engagement that literally doing nothing.

Conserving and progressing are both very much making plans and seeing those plans out through persistence and perseverance. I know there are so many Lifetime movies about how it takes a lot of work to keep a marriage together but I daresay that, historically, keeping the course and just doing the bare minimum and through constant gardening, do these relationships endure—neither fighting to keep the relationship as it was in the beginning nor trying to constantly push it forward.

The world is possibly populated by people just maintaining their role.

When I am in love relationships, I feel like I constantly walk on eggshells, constantly wanting to stress test the hell out of the passion and the bonds and the connections and the integrity of the relationship and the loyalty of the bond and the durability of the monogamy, of the loyalty.

Or, I feel like my life is from an episode of LOST and I am living in a sort of Swan station, requiring me to constantly pushing the button to discharge an electromagnetic buildup that constantly averts worldwide catastrophe.

When I was 19, my dad taught me the manly arts as he knew them. He had almost completely withheld any advice or excuse or explanation and after I crashed a car or one of the very few reasons and times when my dad came over to my mom's and my little rental house in Kaimuki. I remember him telling me, "I know you have all these questions but I really don't think you'd understand. Maybe you'll better understand when you're 19.

So, maybe it wasn't 19. Maybe it wasn't until I was 21. But whenever it was (damn you, aphantasia!) I remember my dads teaching me how to drive drunk in his little BRG 1974 TR6. While he told me about using smoking, candy cane mints, and a tiny travel bottle of green mouthwash tucked in the slash pocket built into the black pleather driver's door panel.

No, the most important piece of advice my dad gave me in my entire life was that the biggest tell that attracts the attention of the HPD is oversteering.

I feel like oversteering is something that has plagued me in my entire life. Let the car drive. The car was designed to go straight. There are zero reasons to steer a car as actors do in an old movie. At least in a 1974 TR6 roadster, anyway, with that long bonnet and those tall, narrow, redline, wheels and tires.

When your driving drunk, he said, people tend to overcorrect and oversteer, resulting in the swerving.

The other piece of advice is that people also tend to not maintain the speed limit (or, worse, not keeping with traffic). This also happens with pot smokers, but my dad wasn't that much into the pakalolo.

Aphantasia Black