This is news to me. I just found this out about a week ago, and it’s been at the top of my mind ever since. So much so, that I felt compelled to write a whole post about it.
There are many reasons why I find this fascinating. I didn’t even know this was possible. All throughout my life I’ve been able to think to myself and could hear my own thoughts in verbal form. I could visualize pictures. If someone told me to picture an apple, I could see an image of a ruby red, juicy shiny apple. I could expand upon that and put the apple in a large, straw basket if I wanted. Or in a fancy fruit bowl. Or hanging from a tree. I could visualize an adorable pony eating the apple.
I thought everyone could do this. I now realize that some people don’t have that ability. And it blows my mind. (literally)
I’m sure most of you have heard these expressions, or at least some form of it:
“Just imagine counting sheep to help you sleep.”
“Picture yourself on a beautiful, pristine beach.”
“I daydream about winning the lottery.”
“If I tell you to think of a pink elephant, do you instantly visualize a pink elephant?”
And while many people might be able to do these things, it’s been known that not everyone is able to. They always thought it was a figure of speech. And they are equally as shocked to learn that people do indeed have these visualization techniques. One youtuber, Quiet Mind Inside, claims, “I thought it was a hoax.” when she first heard that people can actually imagine these things in their head.
The inability to picture things in their head, even people – that they’ve known their whole life and even live with, including themselves! – is called aphantasia. According to the studies, this phenomena is believed to occur in about 2-3% of the population, although the research is still ongoing. And some that have it, may not even know it. If they are like Quiet Mind Inside and countless others, they could have gone throughout their whole life thinking their thought process was no different than anyone else’s. And vice versa.
This is another reason why having patience and compassion for others is such a huge deal to me, and something that I focus on bringing to light with these types of subjects. Because we may never know what’s going on inside someone else’s mind. Something that I thought was common for everyone just threw a wrench in my whole way of thinking just last week! Imagine all of the things we don’t know about the human mind and thus each other if we’re still learning new things every day about how the world and consciousness works.
Along with aphantasia, some people report that they have no inner dialogue. It’s fascinating to hear people relate that as they’re watching movies depicting someone speaking inside their own head, they had no idea that this was an actual thing and wished it was real.
For an entertaining account of someone trying to come to terms with finding out about people that have no internal dialogue, check out the below post by Ryan Langdon which includes a youtube video where he interviews one of his friends who doesn’t have an inner dialogue.
I wonder if this boils down to brain development and perhaps nature vs. nurture, in a way. Some studies indicate that an inner dialogue begins to show when we’re young children, perhaps when we’re playing alone and making up fantastic stories and adventures to ourselves. It would be interesting to see a correlation between those with an inner monologue and those without due to home/family/upbringing lifestyle. How many siblings do they have? If any? Are both parents present? Adopted/foster care? Lots of friends, or not that many? Etc., etc., etc. The variables are endless.
Could it also be genetic? There is research being done on gene manipulation that can help (or interfere, if we’re being completely honest with this technology) with our mind.
Another interesting prospect to consider is if it could also be due to the different wiring in our brains, pure and simple. Along with the gene manipulation mentioned above, one has to wonder that with all the scientific progress (or regression… if one chooses to look at it in a different way…), it could be possible to block or allow certain neurological pathways that enable or disable this ability (and who knows what else) due to surgery or drugs/medication. There are also incredible accounts of people who have suffered brain damage from an accident, who then took on new talents they never knew they had; some even became a completely different person!
So I’m typing this out without even needing to really think. I’m just typing words as fast as I can without stopping to think in between. The words are just coming to me and since I’m a pretty fast typer, it’s pretty much just trickling out as I’m typing. I’m not thinking beforehand in complete sentences, although I can definitely hear out the words in my head as I’m typing. No forethought. Just bing, bing, bing. One right after the other.
Have you ever stopped to consider the way that you think? Did you know that we all think in many different ways? Does it give you a better outlook as to why some people may be more analytical/logical, as opposed to someone who’s more predisposed to feelings/emotions?
Some other reading source material to help get a broader idea of this inner thought state and to understand it better can be found here:
It’s very enlightening to hear of other people’s experiences as well. While it may all be anecdotal and hard to prove or discount, it just may give a wider glimpse into the different types of thought processes we all have to further cement the idea that, although collectively we’re all the same, we still have our own individuality and unique perspectives that we are still in the process of understanding. Once we realize that we all think differently and have our own creativity, ideas and experiences, it can help us to learn to be more tolerant and compassionate with each other, instead of holding so much bitterness and resentment and/or judgement, simply for “thinking differently”.
I do want to say I was touched and heartbroken when listening to Quiet Mind Inside lamenting how she could not recall her children’s faces if she’s away from them. I can’t even imagine how that would feel. And although we are waking up to the fact that other people think differently than each other, and there might be some forms of jealousy/envy and/or sympathy depending on the situation, it doesn’t mean that one particular way of thinking is better or more appropriate. And while some without an inner visualization may envy those who do, sometimes having an internal dialogue or visualization can be detrimental and have more harmful effects than good.
There are times where people wish they didn’t have constant chatter and visuals in their mind so that they can feel more at peace; and on the flip side, there are people who wish they could visualize images in their mind. Perhaps there’s a way we can train ourselves to think in a myriad of ways. For those who want to quiet the constant thoughts and emotions going on in their head – maybe some practice in meditation would help. And for those who wish to visualize things and have that inner monologue, perhaps they can practice different material/games to increase their imagination.
The world’s a fascinating place. And so is our mind. There are many things still left to explore. And learning more about our own self-awareness and conscious (and unconscious) thought processes would be a wonderful place to start.
Fact checking is extremely important. I want to reiterate not to take everything at face value; no matter what you read, where you read it from, or who you hear it from. And to be clear, do not rely on “fact checking” websites to give you accurate information either. These are just as likely, (if not even more likely…), to feed false information and false debunking accounts to manipulate the reader. Please take everything into consideration before adhering to a certain narrative – and always keep your mind open to other possibilities.
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