#16 Aphantasia and The Fight For Imagination

There is nothing in this world that excites me more than the human body – and more specifically the brain. Everything that we think, see, and do is powered by our own unique brain. One person’s blue is another person’s green, a piece of art to some people conjures up powerful imagery and emotions and to other people – such as those with Aphantasia and no imagination – it is just paint on a canvas.

If you haven´t already read my previous article on Aphantasia then click here Aphantasia and My Inability to Visualise Mental Images

This article was written on the 14.02.20 but not published until later

The Loneliness of Aphantasia

My recent discovery about my inability to visualise and to recall memories in first person has led me down a rabbit hole of fantastical differences between us all. I was quite frankly very upset and felt even more lonely than usual when I found out that I have no visual imagination.

I started to investigate this and as I spoke with more and more people, I started to feel worse rather than better. It seemed totally unfair to me that people had this magical world inside their head to which they could escape and be happy. Where do I have to go when I am feeling down? There is no escape, no happy place, no safe haven.

Aphantasia and Hallucinating

The bizarre thing is that when I take hallucinogenic drugs such as ketamine or psychedelic drugs such as Magic Mushrooms or DMT I CAN visualise and imagine with my eyes closed or open. I put this to the test recently by taking MDMA and Ketamine together, which can produce very strong closed eye hallucinations and lo and behold I was able to imagine.

It’s as if it unlocks the capacity, or more likely unblocks something which is stopping me from being able to imagine. I have been discussing with friends how they imagine, and how vivid their imaginations are, and I realised that it is as vivid as you can make it. Even with the use of drugs, I don’t think my imagination/hallucinations are as strong as other people, but this makes perfect sense as I have never, “practised”, before.

Brain Training and Practising Imagining

I have been doing brain training each day with an app called Luminosity

(not paid sponsorship)

It really blows my mind and I have been trying to do imagine things at every opportunity. A few times I have had changes in the pitch black, and what I can only describe as some sort of shadow movements.

I had my eyes closed and it was black as always and then I started seeing different shades of dark as if I was looking at a dark lake. There were little black dots darting around as if they were fish jumping rapidly from the lake. There was no detail whatsoever and it was all completely dark, but it was SOMETHING.

The speed at which everything was moving made me start to think that maybe my inability to visualise is my brains coping mechanism. I think that I didn’t have any time or mental space for any imagery before I was medicated, and I honestly think I would have been mentally disabled if I saw things as well.

Aphantasia Dreams
Photo by Nandhu Kumar

ADHD and Aphantasia

Having a constant stream of information passing rapidly through my head due to my ADHD, coupled with images would have sent me crazy for sure. I feel like I really have to fight to keep my sanity and sometimes it is tempting to just let go.

If my brain has the capacity to form mental images and dream it means that it is not, “broken”, but that it must be something psychological that is holding me back. I have always felt like something was, “missing”, and not quite right. One of my reasons for wanting to do Ayahuasca in Brazil was to discover this and, “unlock”, the part of my brain that I felt was missing.

Unfortunately, due to my ADHD medication (Strattera – Atomoxetine), I wasn’t able to take Ayahuasca when I was in the jungle but as soon as I am able to I will make another journey to the Amazon to take it.

Aphantasia Shaped My Personality

As I started to ruminate this more I realised that this inability to visualise and imagine situations has likely shaped a huge part of my personality, and what I lack in this visual aspect of imagination I make up for in other skills.

I started to scold myself for not being grateful for what I have when there are people who really do suffer from debilitating pathologies yet make the best of their lives.

I asked my mother what I used to do as a child – what I used to play with. I don’t remember ever playing with toys as I didn’t understand what to do with them. I didn’t tend to draw or make things as I was terrible at it. She told me that I didn’t really play with anything, I couldn’t sit still long enough to do anything.

Everything in our life such as our preferences, skills and emotions fall on part of a spectrum. We are all a sliding scale of different traits which form our personality.

Searching for the Cure

Something I have noticed from talking with people that contact me through the blog is that most if not all of us seem to be on the search for a “cure”. We are on a constant search to categorise ourselves and diagnose ourselves with different Disorders.

Now I don’t know whether this is to gain a sense of belonging within a community of, “misfits”, or if it is simply the desire to be right about the labels we put on ourselves.   

My Psychiatrist has referred me to an ADHD specialist centre and so I am awaiting contact from the centre to have a more extensive study done. I am very excited about this because I will be able to speak with experts about my theories and the various questions that I have.

I am also on the waiting list to start an Emotional Development course to try and learn how to understand and manage emotions that are hitting me like a ton of bricks after years of completely avoiding all emotions.

I have also started with a second therapist and am planning to see a Neurologist to see if there is any Neurological reason for my lack of imagination and ADHD.

Cosmo Caixa Science Museum In Barcelona (Feb 2020)

The Future Looks Bright

I am positive about what the future has in store for my mental health, and I hope that I can encourage people to start to dig into themselves and start to search for the roots of their problems – and more importantly the solutions.

From March I will start recording my Podcast and Youtube channel so it will be much easier to follow my journey and keep up to date with what I learn. I hope to always keep it interesting and fresh.

I have 3 documentaries and some really interesting videos that I am almost ready to upload to Youtube so stay tuned!

If anyone has any questions or anything they would like to know or like me to investigate then please let me know and I would be happy to answer.

Contact Me

You can contact me Via:

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The Quest For Wisdom Youtube Channel

Conorsquestforwisdom@gmail.com

Or by leaving a comment on here.

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This blog and other related projects such as the upcoming Podcast and Youtube Channel are now my full time job and they require a lot of time and money.

If you like my content and would like to help me to keep creating more then I would be so grateful for any donations through my Patreon account

Conor

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