This remains incomplete, but I wanted to publish it just to get it out. I might come back to it later, but maybe I’ll leave it as is. (I probably should make it 1000 words though.)
I was pointed to a post by Blake Ross about “aphantasia”, the inability to visualize things. https://www.facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-feels-to-be-blind-in-your-mind/10156834777480504?fref=nf&pnref=story
I am also one of those who lacks an internal “screen” to see things that I am thinking of. Like Mr Ross, I thought that was true for everyone for a long time, until one day, I suddenly realized that when people talked about visualizing things, they were not using a metaphor, they really were seeing them. My realization came some time ago, but that post, along with the revelation that there is a name for the, umm, “condition”, caused me to reflect and try to explain how I think of things and how “visualizing” works for me.
A few people have asked me what it is like, and I want to try to describe it. It is really difficult to explain what is going on in my head without comparing to some kind of sensory component, the language itself is loaded with visual references. I guess that isn’t n accident. I will mostly be talking about visual thoughts, but the same thing applies to all senses. I want to be clear that there is no actual visual, or other sensory, component to my thoughts, even if the language forces me to describe it that way. That said, I do remember experiences, I can imagine things, and I can draw and describe things from memory or imagination. I just can’t see them in my mind as I am doing it. Instead, I “know” what they look like.
That got me to thinking–how do I know? I mean, when I think of an image, it is clearly there, in the thought, but I can’t see it, even though I can describe it. I can imagine an object, or a scene, and change what I am imagining. The thought becomes different, I know it is different, but I can’t see either version. How did I know that the first thought I had when imagining a “red triangle” while reading Ross’s post, the triangle was just a hollow red frame? How did I know which was which when I corrected that?
The best way I can describe it is that when I see something, my mind forms an abstraction of it. It is that abstraction that I access when remembering things. I’m probably not as good at describing what I remember, but there is at least one advantage. Abstract concepts are stored in my mind in basically the same way. That means that when I am working on mathematical ideas, or abstract physics concepts, I can move through them the same way I move through a scene from memory.
People have asked if I would want to be ‘cured’, but I don’t feel like there is anything wrong. In fact, I’m not sure I don’t prefer things my way.