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The strangers in my dreams

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Today It occurred to me that the people in my dreams are all strangers, apart from my angel and even when she figures in them we tend to be parted quickly. I must be very reclusive to dream only about people whom I don't know. On the other hand I doubt that I would recognise anyone in my dreams anyway because of my aphantasia, an inability to visualise mentally at any time. Very occasionally it does happen but it comes as a shock to see images inside my head because I'm not used to it. Certainly my dreams only contain the sensations arising from encountering people, which is not the same as actually seeing or hearing them. In fact my dreams may be a guide to how I actually think because the sensory inputs from the real world are missing and I'm alone with my pure thoughts.

A long time back I encountered a sensational girl in a dream. She was sensational in both senses. She only existed as sensations of her beauty because there was no image as such. I sensed her hair, her complexion and the shapeliness of her body, every detail of her, but I never actually saw her. I won't say how far the sensations of her actually went as I am happily married to my angel. Moving rapidly on, the way that my mind records characteristics of people but not their visual images probably explains why I don't know who the people in my dreams are.

In my waking life my ability to recognise people is also limited. My mind relies on detailed characteristics which I don't consciously know, so I can't even describe what people that I know look like even though I can recognise them when I see them, especially if that is in a context where I would expect them to be. Even then I usually wait for them to give some sign that they know me first, as I may easily have mistaken them for someone that I know, or rather who knows me, when they aren't. Through practice I am very adept at holding conversations with people who clearly know me even though I have no idea who they are because it happens so often. A side effect of this is that I am always polite to strangers, which generally goes down well anyway.

A point about dreams is that the people in them never introduce themselves, so I never get the chance to figure out who they might be, or rather who they might represent within my mind. From their consistent behaviour I suspect that there are some who turn up regularly, but I don't associate them with anyone familiar in real life.

I suspect that aphantasia is not necessarily just an unusual condition at all but also a different perception of how one's thoughts actually work. If I were to question a person who can visualise images about what they actually "see" the results might be interesting. I have tried this with my angel but when I do she backs away from saying that she actually "sees" anything as such, even though her ability to recall what she has seen previously far exceeds mine . For example, my own infrequent experiences tell me that the images are in colour, but I am not convinced that they are three-dimensional. Therefore when we speak of the "mind's eye" is there only one, so no stereoscopic vision, or is that taking the act of "seeing" too literally? When I "visualise" something within my mind I "see" it in three dimensions if it is three-dimensional because that is how it actually is, but in my case I know that I only "see" it conceptually, not as a projected image seen from a specific direction. To me it is more like the plans of a building with plan, elevation and side views all appearing at once. That is why I find it difficult to "visualise" complex surfaces like a human face or figure.

So, the people in my dreams are probably just conceptual characters. That ought to mean that I should be able to create very realistic characters in my writing, but there is a snag. All this conceptualisation is a subconscious process and I had no idea that my mind worked differently from those of others in this way until I heard of aphantasia. As a result if I want the characters in my writing to be realistic I can only trust my subconscious to define them and write the results blindly in pantster style, which is what I do. This does prove that how we write comes from who we are individually and there is a limit to the usefulness of advice from others. The only solution is therefore to write confidently and get others to comment on one's efforts as is done in WF.

Hey, it turns out that this wasn't a blog at all but a promotion for WF. How did that happen?

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  1. Ephemeral_One's Avatar
    Huh, go figure. I'd never even heard of the term before. Aphantasia. So, then we have something in common. I'm 'blind' through my mind's eye. Which, now that it's brought to the forefront of my mind is why I struggle so much to put details into scenes. I know what happens but I don't 'see' it. Thanks Rob. Now that I know the issue, I can work around it.
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