So through out most of my life I was blissfully unaware that people genuinely not only had dreams with images and colour but a conscious ability to imagine with images as well. I always struggled to understand how people can just imagine stuff so easily, like it was second nature to them, and was something that I always attempted to do but with no clear result. I was completely ignorant to the fact that this was even the norm. But when I was 29, I found an article online that describes this same exact phenomenon that I had; the complete lack of the ability to imagine with any visual imagery. After becoming obsessed over the past couple of years, trying to alter my situation, I have been attempting to ‘train’ my mind to finally see something in my dreams and for the first time, on the 30th of May 2017, I finally did. Now again, this morning, as of the 1st of August 2017, I had a second series of dreams more vivid than the previous installment but more varied. I’m going to keep this journal in the hope that it can help others one day understand what ‘Aphantasia’ is, or at least help myself focus on developing my dreams and imagination.
Just to clarify, I have never really considered this a hindrance before but as someone who loves writing fiction and sci-fi, I now feel somewhat at a disadvantage, and possibly the reason why I struggled with writing in the first place. In retrospect, the only form of imagination I have ever had consistent access to is a tactile one. I can imagine the feel of bristles on a brush, as if holding it in my hand; I can hold an imaginary ball of clay, or some other malleable substance, and style it into another object. I can’t see what it is inside my head but I know what it was and has become. I can feel myself around imaginary rooms, feel the furniture, what they are made of; all except for the visual shape, texture and colour. This is effectively how I have manage to write stories in the past, that and from the knowledge and memory of what real world objects look and feel like. Creating a story required mentally moulding everything from characters to settings, for each and every sentence at a time. The only thing I can liken this too is imagining how a blind person is capable of moving about their environment or knowing what they are holding. I also lack any audible imagination too, which exception to that inner voice—not the crazy kind mind you, the thinking to oneself kind (I at least hope they aren’t the same thing).
For the most part my dreams consist of nothing visually but black static but I have still have dreams nonetheless. I have had dreams about aliens, zombies, video games, sex and being in relationships, (all with the emotions that are generated with them) but mainly the majority of which are me as some form of super hero or, if I was upset or angry when going to bed, a villain wreaking havoc against those who wronged me. I can’t ‘see’ what’s going on but I still ‘know’ what’s happening. If there are any shapes or colours they are vague and blotchy at best, much like a fuzzy psychologist inkblot test but in inverted black and white. I have had vague images before, rarely, but these last less than a mere second, as if the act of me focusing or thinking on them causes them to dissipate. Saying this has become frustrating, certainly as a writer, is an understatement.
The first dream I had that was in vividly in colour was this year, May 30th 2017; so noticeable an occurrence this was that I remember the exact date. It started off with me on a beach, with the shoreline far, far out in the distance, and a setting sun. The sand was a beautiful rainbow of colours, that every grain of sand a different spec of the colour spectrum. Then I saw a large white wooden clad building on the beach, only to discover it was some huge shower room (which would make sense, as you’d probably want to shower and change after being on the beach) but what didn’t make sense was this huge art deco design of black vertical and horizontal lines on one of the walls, criss crossing each other, and the squares created in between were filled in with either blue or yellow. But this is where it turned weird. Leaving the building through a white wooden panel door (which wasn’t there in the first place as I entered), I continued through a series of similar doors, one after another, starting to panic because I couldn’t escape. Then I did but not back out onto the beach but into a bedroom. It consisted mainly of white decorations, toys, and white furniture; including a white vanity desk. And again, on the white bedsheet, the exact same pattern as before; black vertical and horizontal lines, with the squares in between blue or yellow. The next part consisted of me proceeding towards the window from which I could see out into a field of snow, surrounded by a white picket border fence, and in the distance dark grey mountains. Then, out in the distant field, a pure red light erupted from the ground and a golem of rock and lava climbed out of rubble and proceeded towards me and the room I was in. When it finally reached me outside the window the dream ended.
The second series of rapidly changing dreams, today as of 1st August 2017, were hard to make out but mainly consisted of varying landscapes, one even in the style of Minecraft blocks. Another where I was being instructed by someone to perform ballet or a dance move, but couldn’t due to my physique, and next to me lying in my bed. At this point I was fully aware that I was in this twilight of being awake and dreaming at the same time. Wanting to awaken myself and move but couldn’t, and reached out calling for help in a weak voice, and panicking. I only awoke properly due to my alarm going off and the minor pump of adrenaline giving me that nudge.
After all these years of never having dreams to having a few in such a short time span has been a weird but thrilling experience. These couple of times I have had dreams with vivid imagery, I can consciously feel myself mentally being pulled into one and they have only ever occurred when I have slept for some hours, awoken to use the bathroom and since gone back to sleep. As if my dreams only arrive in reverse to my sleeping pattern. I truly hope they continue, as I keep focusing on having them and develop techniques for myself to do so. Only staring at the black static behind my eyelids before inevitably losing consciousness has always been so tediously dull and now having dreams has become addictive pursuit. I still can’t imagine shapes or colours while conscious yet, and I doubt I ever will. It hasn’t stopped me living my life so far. I hope now that striving for mental imagery isn’t going to become some kind of white whale in my life, at least with sleeping anyway.
Laura Steel © 2017