Different Perspectives

speak with people Jun 10, 2024
A Big Lesson on Perspective




During the summer of 2016, I was finishing my college degree with an internship while planning our wedding. My fiance and I were in a long distance relationship at the time and it was tough, but we made the relationship work with messaging apps and online video games.

One day, about halfway through the project, my fiance sent me an article from the BBC about a condition neither of us had ever heard before called aphantasia.

Aphantasia is an inability to create mental images.

For many of us, our imagination is capable of playing movies in our heads, vivid scenes sometimes even with smells or sounds. There is a scale for how we can create images in our mind’s eye and for my now-husband, and others with aphantasia, their imagination completely lacks the visual component.

That summer, we learned that we were on opposite sides of that spectrum.

I was shocked that he couldn’t picture the route from start to destination, as I often would, and yet his sense of direction was much stronger than mine. He realized some exercises from childhood were much more literal than he thought, his classmates literally picturing themselves on a beach or what they wanted to be when they grew up. To him, there is no picture playing in his head. This revelation was huge.

On one hand, not much changed about our relationship from there. We had been friends since kindergarten so we were confident and comfortable with each other.

On the other hand, we had discovered a facet of our lives we had both taken at face value from our own perspective. For me, I assumed everyone had an ability to picture things the way I could; I thought it was a given that everyone could see things with their mind. For him, a lot of things he thought of as figurative were suddenly literal and his perspective on life was in an unexpected, nearly unknown minority.





A few months later, as we got closer to our wedding date, we were in a marriage class where they asked us to close our eyes and imagine our lives together five years from now. I couldn’t stop giggling through the whole exercise while he rolled his eyes at me.

Though the moment was funny, the deeper meaning wasn’t lost on us. The two of us were coming from different perspectives and capabilities.

My husband is a capable man and aphantasia isn't considered a disability, but we both knew that society was built around the assumption that people could conjure mental images.

From there, I asked so many questions.

This man I’d known since childhood had a facet neither of us knew about. It suddenly made sense why he didn’t enjoy reading–there was no way for him to picture the characters or settings. And why he struggled with long term goals–the future was abstract and unimaginable to him.

Of course, with his permission, I told everyone I could about this revelation and this condition. It was exciting to learn something new about someone I was so close to but it also made me realize how unknown aphantasia was. I wanted more and more people to know about it, how someone in their life they were close to could also be experiencing life completely differently.

It was a big lesson on perspective for me. While I’m great at putting myself in someone else’s shoes, as I can literally picture myself in their situation, it reminded me how important it is to consider what other people are going through when interacting with each other.

There’s no way we can consider every possibility, so we ought to approach each other respectfully and understand we can’t completely experience the perspective of another person. We can ask questions and approach each interaction with an open mind to learning and knowing that we all come from different places.

We all have a different lens through which we’re experiencing life.


By Cassidy Mayorga - Operations Administrator, Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory

As much as Cassidy likes science, she also enjoys her creative hobbies like photography, reading and writing, as well as getting outside by walking their dog, Shuvi or playing disc golf with her husband and friends.