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aphantasia II: do personal projects matter?

previous post about my aphantasia

I recently thought about my childhood and if maybe, my ability to envision stuff wasn't as bad in my childhood. I remember reading lots of books, big books even for a 7-8 year old, and having at least some idea of what the characters and scenery looked like for me. When I remember these books and try to think of their plot, I see what I imagined the characters and parts of the plot or world to look like. Rather blurry and only for a few seconds, but I do. I remember being disappointed when movie versions had things differently than the image in my head. That means it must have worked back then, right? At least partially?

So, what changed?

I recently find myself in a very creative mindset. Ideas about embroidery and sewing projects come to me, I have new ideas for my website(s), I have ideas for digital glitch paintings I wanna do. This is rare for me, I often have to force myself into my hobbies and just work on it until something good comes out of it, or have lots of references. I catch myself lying in bed at night, and I actively try to "see" the designs, make live changes to it, and it mostly succeeds. It is still exhausting and much less details, clear or permanent in my head than what is the average, but this is a huge step upwards for me. It helps me train my mental eye.

This got me thinking - at some point, I had stopped reading fiction novels. I read non-fiction mostly - school stuff, self improvement books, all the reading done on the internet etc. This took away a lot of the "practice" for my inner eye.

Additionally, my teenage years mostly consisted of consuming other people's creative content. I did not make anything on my own, aside from some doodles while bored at school, or some things I was forced to do in art class. I did not paint or draw in my free time, I did not craft or create anything. All I would do is scroll on social media, game, and listen to music. I did not even make my own game or music. My hobbies were consumption.

What held me back the most is that my self esteem was shattered back then by various different forces, and I was very much a person that needed to do everything perfectly immediately and the prospect of failing scared me hard. Everything made me immediately cry and quit, if I started at all. These are not good for developing any kind of hobby that makes you create instead of just consume other people's work. You need to be comfortable with failure for that, and be proud and happy you worked on it at all. It helps if you have fun during the process regardless of the outcome, but mentally, I wasn't there at all. All I cared about was the final product (and it being good enough to be posted, probably). I also find it is hard to engage in creative hobbies when you feel like you have to hide yourself away at home. My mother is the queen of unsolicited brutally honest "advice", so I was afraid of creating anything around her or letting her see anything I do.

Long story short, I think having no personal creative hobbies at all aided in the depreciation of my mind's eye. Back then, I had no ideas coming to me while I fell asleep, I did not think about personal projects, since I had none. I did not have to try and envision changes to my projects visually or try to come up with anything original to make the next day. All I did in bed was scroll on the phone until I fell asleep. I think the only times when I'd ever stay up to think was when I thought of a better future, of getting out of my home, or to get revenge on people. And even then, I basically never envisioned something concrete, I was almost afraid that if I gave in too much to these fantasies, I would just be disappointed and feel worse; or as if somehow, it would cause the opposite of happening.

Also, it was so hard for me to imagine something else than my current life because I was so sheltered, isolated, and did not think anything was realistic for me because of my low selfesteem. Everything seemed so outlandish I did not even consider it, many things did not occurr to me at all or were completely out of the question to imagine for myself, because my inner voice would immediately ridicule it, saying I do not deserve that or would ever be able to have that, so don't waste time painting it in your mind!

So my mind's canvas was blank, and I just thought of it like facts, carefully, if at all. I think all that together really shut off my inner eye. The SSRIs I took for a while might have played a part in it too, or the concussion I had. Since both depression and aphantasia are linked with worse recall of memories (not just what you did 10 years ago but even what you had for dinner yesterday) I wonder what the overlap there is and if one feeds the other. Also the overlap of different neurodivergencies, like autism, ADHD etc. It makes me wonder, do autistic people have this often? Could aphantasia be involved in having a harder time reading social cues and imagining other people's reactions to something before you do/say it?

I hope new research will shine some light on this. I think people don't know aphantasia is a spectrum, seeing things in your minds eye generally is, and I think we also don't know yet how many are truly born like that and how many simply lose the ability due to head injuries, trauma, depression, not training it and other reasons.

I also would love to know if other people are able to train themselves into a better mental image. For now, I practice with my projects, envisioning parts of them, even if it's blurry or short-lived. The images are clearer and easier when it's something I look at a lot or that has very special details. I can envision my website's about page rather clearly for about 2 seconds now before it goes black, because I put a lot of effort into it when I created it and I like to look at it a lot.

I find this a good aphantasia scale with a lot of different options, not just varying opacity:

Most times it is 1 or 2. With something known, it is more like 4. When I try hard and it's something I see a lot, I can manage a 7 for a 2-3 seconds before it disappears. For extreme details (think: an extreme closeup of the texture of an apple) I can manage an 8 for about a second, but that is rare and really only happens for very specific objects (like the apple). But all this is only after the intense training I started the past couple months. Before that, it was consistently a 1.

I hope to one day consistently reach a 7, and maybe hold it for a bit longer.

𓇽 ° . ༻ 𓈒 ꒪ ๋ ° .𓏲⠀ ๋࣭ ♡ ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ⋆ ֗ ִ ᨒ .⋆゚. ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ♡ 𓂂 ◌ 𓇽 ° . ๋ 𓂂 ⠀✼ 𓇽