Needham, L. (2021). A heuristic inquiry into the transpersonal experience of living with aphantasia [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Liverpool John Moores University.

Aphantasia is the inability to see mental images in the mind’s eye (Zemen, 2015). Studied previously from a neuroscientific perspective, this study explores the living experience of aphantasia through a transpersonal lens, using a heuristic methodological approach. Seven co-researchers, all with aphantasia, are asked how spiritual practices that use visual mental sense are experienced by those without mental imagery and how involuntary mental imagery in dreams is experienced. The study showed whilst visual practices were experienced differently, they nonetheless worked, with accompanying validation to the extent whereby the practice was used regularly. Alternative mental senses, such as auditory, haptic and kinaesthetic often replaced visual experiences. A feeling of being able to see vividly in some other way was universally reported. Dreams were sometimes kinaesthetic and mostly visual, although less overwhelming or intense than they felt those with mental imagery described their dreams to be. Some felt there was a purpose of protection against too intense an experience behind aphantasia, possibly originating from an early life or past life experience, or a transgenerational trauma experience from previous generations. The study offers insight to practitioners of spiritual practices and therapies which use visual imagery, lending valuable knowledge on how to make their practices accessible to those without mental imagery.

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