I’ve written before about Aphantasia, the condition of lacking a mind’s eye or ability to visualize.
For me, having Aphantasia means any number of things, but since I was unaware of the dichotomy between me and most people until I paid attention to my daughter, who has more acute visualization than average, I’ve never felt like I was missing out on much until I realized that this inability is actually a thing and is now described by science. Reading about and connecting with others who experience life without visualization has granted me better understanding of myself, and the pros and cons of having no mind’s eye.
After working for years as a paramedic, I saw numerous gruesome scenes. Never once have I flashed back on one of them, no matter how traumatic they were, because I’m incapable of flashbacks. I remember them, and returning to the scene can be emotional (driving by accident locations, or a rest area where a violent injury occurred for example), but though I can describe what I saw, I cannot picture it at all.
In daily life I don’t miss visualization, I have a running narrative constantly going in my head, and as a primarily auditory person, I focus on sounds far more than sights anyway. I lack a frame of reference for going through life with mental pictures, and it’s hard to miss what you’ve never had.
What I would enjoy, though, is being able to remember the faces of departed loved ones. I can remember details like eye color and face shape, but having an image come to mind sounds so lovely. At best I can bring up a vague phantom of a silhouette which immediately dissipates. Such as below.
My dreams are hazy and largely experiential with the running narrative which is the constant background to my waking mind. Any imagery involved is scant and indistinct.
But truly, as far as variations in the human experience go, this is just being at one end of a spectrum of ability. Other than finding visualization exercises tedious and fruitless and a complete failure to be hypnotized at my high school graduate party, I’m not actually missing out.