What are the things that you cannot imagine

Afantasy: When the inner eye is blind

The inner eye remains black: With Afantasy, those affected cannot visualize anything - neither the plot of a novel, nor the inside of their own apartment or the face of their partner. The disorder often goes unnoticed into adulthood. Interpersonal relationships can suffer from a lack of imagination. Learn more about afantasy and imagination in the article. “Fantasy (is the) production power of consciousness, as a special form of processing reality.” This is a definition of fantasy. Psychologists and doctors now refer to the complete absence of imagination as afantasy. The term was coined only about 10 years ago. The neurologist Adam Zeman from the University of Exeter in the UK normally does research on sleep and memory disorders. A patient made him look more closely at the absence of fantasy. After an accident, the man lost his 'inner eye' and was no longer able to visualize things, faces or processes. The clinical picture was previously unknown. Normally people wander through fantasy worlds with their minds: whether sliding into daydreams, living through different scenes and conversations before going to sleep or during creative processes of creation, the mind's eye paints scenes more or less vividly.

Afantasy: what is the cause of the lack of imagination?

This is not the case with people who suffer from afantasy. The inner eye remains black. It is still not clear why this is so. The subject area has so far only been sparsely researched. Presumably, people with a lack of imagination are missing important connections in the brain. When a person is asked to imagine something, a network of different parts of the brain becomes active. Studies in a patient with afantasy have shown that the brain regions that are responsible for visual processing remain silent. Even when asked to imagine something, no picture pops up in the head. Afantasy can occur from birth. Affected then consider phrases like “imagine something figuratively” as metaphors. It often takes them into adulthood to realize that they function differently from others. But even as a result of an accident, trauma or stroke, the power of imagination can be lost in whole or in part.

Do I suffer from afantasy? A test can help

The power of imagination differs from person to person. Both predisposition and support in childhood and adolescence influence the extent of the imagination. If you ask a person to imagine a pencil, most of them have an exact picture of a pencil in front of them. If the image is blurry and not clear, this is a sign of a slightly lower imagination, the pen has a lot of details and looks like in real life, that speaks for a pronounced fantasy. A test to find out if the inner eye is active can simply be done. Imagine your own home and mentally count the windows. Usually the rooms appear before the ghost and one flies through the rooms. A person with afantasy cannot embark on this imaginary journey. Based on facts and accumulated knowledge, she will probably be able to estimate the approximate number of windows.

Lack of Imagination: The Impact on Everyday Life

Even if people without imagination are not lacking in health, there may be restrictions in everyday life. One victim reports that he cannot remember his wedding. The date, the name of the party room and the fact that his wife looked stunning - he is aware of these facts, but there is no pictorial memory. Those affected often get lost in familiar surroundings. They lack the imagination of what is around the next corner and they cannot remember easy ways. In the supermarket, they have to walk down all the aisles in search of a product - they don't know where to find bread, pasta and the like. The fact that Adam Zeman's study gave his disorder a name makes things easier. If further research is carried out on the topic, children with afantasy can be better supported. Around one in 50 participants in a survey on the subject of imagination show signs of afantasy - the disorder is thus significantly more common than initially assumed.

A blooming imagination: hyperfantasy

The researcher calls the opposite of afantasy hyperfantasy. Affected people can create extremely detailed and vivid images in their minds. Artists, authors and people in creative professions in particular benefit from the increased imagination. The ability to visually imagine an end result and then work on its implementation is a beneficial skill in some professional fields. But even people without imagination have success in creative fields: They develop other possibilities and ways to achieve a result - without any mental visualization.

Improving the imagination: what methods are there?

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, but imagination encompasses the whole world. ”This quote from Albert Einstein shows the importance of imagination and fantasy. If the imagination is rather weak - without an afantasy being present - the mental ability to visualize can be improved. As with exercise, regular practice can make your imagination stronger and stronger. It is sufficient to imagine a certain object, a melody or a smell with closed eyes every day. If the object is at some point clearly visible to the inner eye, you can change the variables: Let the object become larger or smaller, change its color, texture or shape. Make the melody louder or quieter, distort the sound or vary the speed. Over time it becomes easier to imagine the object and at some point playing with the variables becomes easier. Positive side effect: the mind game can have a relaxing effect after some practice.