Imagination: not just the mind’s eye
I’ve been listening to the Empathy Museum’s A Mile in My Shoes podcasts. It’s refreshing to get these short empathy bursts: insights into others’ lives, in their own words. Katie Hodgkins’s podcast introduced an experience that maybe seems unimaginable. Katie herself couldn’t imagine it if she weren’t experiencing it. As she says, “I have something called aphantasia. It means I’ve got no imagination, and there’s no pictures in my mind … So I struggle with putting myself in other people’s positions, and I don’t have a very good memory because of it … I need to see something to remember.” As she says, “It’s really amazing that people have full-on images in their heads!”
Although Katie successfully crafts jewellery to sell in her specialist reptile shop, making things is hard “because I can’t imagine what they’ll look like.”
Katie discusses her work with animals and the empathy that drives it. I found her story fascinating, not least because it’s clear that, although lacking visual imagination — the mind’s eye, so vivid for some — makes exercising these other faculties more challenging, it’s not an insurmountable barrier to creativity or to putting yourself in other beings’ lived experience.
There’s more than one kind of imagination.