When fantasising unfurls as fantasy

aphantasia featured

A definite trait of humankind and one that is what entails out of the world a version in beauty that occurs to each as his/ her own, the surreal power of the imagination is what has forever guided our notions of fantasy eked out even from within the extents of the real and rendering us therefore with such experiences of existence that are what we call too good to be true. And yet it is by virtue of this conjuring up of images by and in the mind that human beings have been blessed to chart out expanses of their own, whether that be in raking up exclusively personal images of the most ideal inclinations or induced instead by the idea stemming from others to aspire for that same haven of surreality in one’s own precise terms. This peculiarly enriching ability that is so natural an endowment upon the human brain and therefore upon the bearer of that being necessarily characterise each and every single individual of our species, or so we tend to believe. The assertion is seemingly well founded as well, for those in the realm of the creative arts often display such impeccable skill in this brainy disposition that serve as not just the basis of their passion but also the definer of their very identity itself- as writers and illustrators, creators and artists, musicians and actors and directors, et al across a spectrum of what essentially incorporates anything that possesses more than enough potential to be real but still is dreamy enough to be best reserved as being under the purview of the fictional. But while this set of people might be more than sufficiently lucky to find themselves dwelling on the titillatingly ‘arousing’ edge of this curious world of the imaginative, there dwells also another set of as definitely human identities residing on the exact opposite end of this vison of immense fancy and flurry. Devoid of the ability to conjure up images in their mind that manifests therefore as a forever blank canvas are these people experiencing the phenomenon of what has rather recently come to be known as aphantasia.

aphantasia
Source: Sarah Graham

However, this rather late recognition of the condition that surely has been characterising the mental state of a considerable many existences of the human world does not mean that aphantasia evaded any kind of attention as skillfully as it leads the bearers of it to escape the otherwise endless images almost cramming the human mind. Described first as early as in 1800 by English polymath Sir Francis Galton though without any definite term to adhere to in further and future references of this phenomenon, aphantasia finally had its own defining identity eked out by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter after a study conducted by his team in 2015. Coined out of the ancient Greek word phantasia with the prefix a attached that has since long been denoting what it does in the current context as well, and asserting immediately the apparent nature of it in being alluding to the synonymous contemporary understanding of fantasy, aphantasia thus has come to be more definite a phenomenon in experience, availed out of the non experience of the trait of visual imagery by some among us, though it continues to be as lesser explored in researched and/ or scientific studies of it.

For those unable to submit to the more universal experience of creating images out of just an idea of or alluding to it across the infinite expanse of their human mind, it’s almost as if they do not have the mind’s eye to effectively derive the sensation of ‘seeing’ something within their own and out of their imagining as well, something that is otherwise so ordinary a part of how people of the world tend to go about their lives. Whether that be a striking setting across which the character of their favorite book spans out as a ‘life’ of its own or instead the more real life scene of a typical experience whether that be the vivid revealing of the colors of nature on the mere mention of a picnic outing or the ordinary but prominent still occurring of what a certain animal would look like, not to mention more personal and therefore profound awarenesses of the image resembling of say one’s life partner or some long lost dear one, people with aphantasia simply go blind in the eye of their mind when it comes to visualising in not the physical sense of it.

No matter how familiar or how personal, how universal or how regular, or for that matter how eccentric or how unexpected an entailing that might be from the supposed fore of the imagination, aphantasis surely and stubbornly refuses to yield in to the immersive nature of what humans are (perhaps) capable of in their mind’s unbounded fancies. Sometimes characterising of human existences innately that is by birth while at other times tending to be ‘acquired’ instead as in emerging to be a condition after the experience of some sort of physical brain injury or emotional trauma or even triggered by certain bouts of depression or psychosis and the like, and sometimes tending to be as prominent as even denying the individual access to viewing up images in their mind even through the half conscious but totally involuntarily realms of the dreams while otherwise asserting as just an experience in the conscious, awake or voluntary awareness in living, aphantasia can be as intricate a phenomenon as any other. And yet, despite such fascinating indeed nature of its expression, aphantasia has largely and for long evaded coming under the scanner partly because it does not really serve as a problem. That, despite the fact that imagination is indeed considered a crucial element of the entire human existence, whether in such necessity of furthering fancies or of more realistic notions like working one’s way to a career for instance and aphantasia indeed has not yet emerged to be sufficiently intriguing perhaps because it is less understood and lesser reported and even the least recognised as well. But even no less surprisingly though, aphantasia still has not managed to stop a lot many artists from dwelling in that identity of their own, whether that be emerging from the field of cinema or from the world of the words and such related realms of which the ability to imagine is expected to be the basis.

In such unusual occurrences of it, aphantasia might strike to be some stuff of fantasy quite ironically but for those adhering a bit too much to the fantastical furtherings of their imagination, the opposite manifests on the other end of the spectrum as hyperphantasia instead. As variations therefore along the conditioning in which the human brain has always been believed to be performing, the diverse dealings of the fantasy in dual dimensions of the phantasia are both revealing indeed awareness of how the human mind is indeed a definite phenomenon harbouring perhaps of a capriciousness in its many musings as infinite as the uniquely different individuals of the world. Not impeding in any significant way the development of one’s individuality as a human being in its assertion as aphantasia while making rather vivid a case of the imagination passing of therefore as almost real along its expression as hyperphantasia are these deviations from the largely universal range of the homosapiens’ imagination approximating not any surprisingly towards the modest meanderings of the median, presenting therefore as not any disorder but unfurling instead as more plausible an understanding of the diverse dimensions along which the human identity manifests. And it is in such expansive scope of it, even when pertaining to the apparently limiting premise of the aphantasic attribute of conjuring up visions of even the most private entities ,that these mind bogglingly dramatic cases in the contrary each makes for a phenomenon as idiosyncratically appealing as could be.