When I’m talking to you in person, about eighty-five percent of the time, I see the words I’m saying typed out in front of me. In my mind. Kind of like closed captioning, if you can imagine it. It’s almost like an invisible screen is in front of my regular scope of vision. It’s like I’m constantly viewing a karaoke scene. Certain words are in a different font, and some are always in the same color.
That’s weird, right? I’d say the majority of you reading this right now can’t identify with that, but it’s okay! Growing up with a lot of weird stuff like tics, OCD rituals, and seeing words in front of me as I speak made it difficult for me to love myself. I had a hard time feeling like I was as cool as other people at my school, and lots of things didn’t even have labels or explanations till I was an adult. These days, my quirks make me love myself more, not fear that it will hinder leading a fabulous life in some way.
Synesthesia is a condition where some of your senses basically link up, joining your perceptions. Sometimes two or more senses occur simultaneously, and sometimes letters, numbers, or names get paired with colors, scents, or flavors. You know when you hear people talking about acid trips where they say they could “smell colors”? It’s similar, just in every day life! And it’s a part of my every day life.
My visual senses are heightened in general because of synesthesia, and it links over to my sense of sound most of the time. Concerts, especially ones with light shows, become incredibly overwhelming to me. Certain sounds are associated with colors, as well as physical feelings. I get a dark navy blue color when I listen to any jazz music, and hearing a symphony of violins feels like someone is softly stroking their fingers down my forearm. There are many different types of synesthesia, and ones I experience are Grapheme-Color, Chromesthesia, Auditory-Tactile.
I also have some psychic abilities like clairvoyancy and claircognizance, which should probably be a post of its own, but having all these things in my head does make it difficult to draw a line and distinguish what sensory experience comes from which condition inside myself. For a while, I didn’t have names for any of it, and it was actually easier because I didn’t have to label anything or talk about it with anyone, I just kept it all to myself. Now I feel the need to understand the root of each experience, and I don’t always get a clear answer. I learn more every day, though.
For example, I can see auras, and my close friends are all associated with a certain color in my mind. Some of them match their auras, but lots of them don’t. What creates this distinction? I have no idea.
As far as I know, science doesn’t know terribly much about synesthesia. They think it might be caused by some “cross-wiring” in the brain, but don’t really know what what parts of the brain. It’s not exactly something that can be officially diagnosed, either. Women are much more likely to have it, but they don’t know why. It always seems like the things I’m diagnosed with have very little research or understanding in the medical community. I wonder if that theme means anything!
Anyway, I just wanted to share that part of my life with you today. I experience colors very vividly, so now you might have a little more insight as to why I’m so obsessed with it! It’s important to accept all parts of yourself, even the not-so-common ones, and sometimes sharing your experience make it easier to accept them!
Do you have synesthesia or know someone who does? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
I really believe you are one of my favourite people. That’s really saying a lot – I generally prefer cats (take that as you will 😉). Each time I read your blog, I’m thankful for stumbling upon it. I always feel a little happier after reading your inspiring words. Thank you for sharing!
Wow that’s incredibly sweet, Darlene. That means a lot, thank you. I totally understand why you prefer cats, though. 😉 And you’re very very welcome!
I didn’t know you had synesthesia! I know I can’t really talk since I’ve never experienced it, but it really sounds like the coolest most magical brain oopsie-daisy.
Yep! I figured a lot of people didn’t know, so it would be interesting to share.
And it actually is pretty cool. The idea of it disappearing at this point sounds terrible to me. I actually refused to do any kind of hallucinogenic drugs for a LONG time because I was scared that it would alter my perception (but it doesn’t in a permanent way at all, thank glitter).
Excuse me while I sit over here on the other side of the screen and geek out a bit.
Synesthesia is something I have a decent amount of experience with in an academic sense, as I spent a few semesters studying it and writing papers on it for school, but something with which I have zero personal experience with and I think it is SO COOL of you to share (and explains a lot…in a good way!)!
There’s this artist who has synesthesia – she paints songs. Her work is really unique: http://www.melissasmccracken.com/
Hahha, I’m geekin I’m geekin!
That’s so cool that you studied it a lot in school! I took so many psychology courses in college (since that was my major) and it was rarely mentioned and if it was it was immediately glossed over. Everything I’ve learned about it I’ve learned from personal experience or internet research. I’ll check out Melissa’s work, that sounds beautiful and fascinating. And yeah! I think it does make a lot of sense that I have it, and I figured sharing that would help you guys get a better insight to me! 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Kelsey!
I was a psych major too 🙂 But because my end-goal is on the research side v. the clinical side, I elected to take A LOT of neuro- and bio-based courses, so synesthesia, as well as agnosia, were pretty frequent topics of discussion. Nothing TOO in depth, but enough.
My husband has synesthesia! He tastes colors. This really helped him when he was a chef because he can always tell what the “secret” ingredients are because of the colors his brain tells him. He also has an advantage in making food taste the same every time because of the color. He says things like “Too much blue in this, and not enough shiny pink.”
Are there certain words that are horrible? Jered has certain flavors he can’t take because of the color.
Oh wow, that’s incredible. I’ve never actually met someone who has taste as an overlapping sense for synesthesia. I love it! And isn’t it so cool how it can translate into his work.
The flavor thing is interesting, too, I wonder if he would enjoy the taste of something separate from the color. You know? If the color association wasn’t so terrible if he actually WOULD physically enjoy goat cheese, or whatever it is. Haha. Yeah, there are some words that make me shudder or close my eyes really tight. And sounds. Certain words with many ‘o’s in them create a visual image of a circle spinning that I can’t stop which produces a lot of anxiety. Some sounds that most people deem unpleasant (like nails on a chalkboard or something like that) have the most disgusting color, so it just makes things way harder to deal with them since it’s double sensory displeasure.
This is really interesting! I wonder what it would be like to see colors for sounds, or taste color, etc.
It’s pretty indescribable on my end, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to taste colors! So interesting.
I love hearing about your experiences with synesthesia. I have a sort of weird relationship with it, because it does not happen with everyone- but I have a sound/taste association. It is usually with voices and sometimes I know the person well and sometimes it’s someone I hear on the radio.
I have no idea what makes me taste coffee, caramel, vanilla, or syrup- but it’s always surprising and interesting when it happens.
Oh yes yes, I forgot about that!! When you were like that word is caramel! So interesting. We should pay better attention to it and try to find patterns!
I didn’t know that synthesesia was a thing. It’s incredibly fascinating. Thank you for sharing that part of yourself.
It’s bizarre, right? I’m glad I could clue you in! Thanks for commenting!
That’s so fascinating! I’ve always wondered about it, not having the experience myself. I do have a friend who experiences taste brought on by words. He has said that he can tastes certain things when different words are spoken, not always a good thing apparently, and can be quite overwhelming from what I understand. On another note, there’s an artist named Andrew McMahon and he has a song called Synesthesia that is really nice 🙂
Hahah, that’s so funny. Andrew McMahon was my biggest crush from ages 15 to 19. I was OBSESSED with him and Something Corporate (and Jack’s Mannequin). I met him once! I freaked out when SoCo did a reunion tour. 🙂 I actually have no idea if he definitely has Synesthesia or if he just wrote about it, but it’s awesome. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Sonya Ann!
I didn’t know this about you, but how very cool! It’s wonderful that you have everything pinned down and makes me want to do some more research on the topic! I think I experience color differently from most people but I don’t know that it falls under synethesia. This post has definitely made me question some things about myself that I’ve always wondered. Great post! <3
That’s great! I’d love to hear more about how you think you experience colors differently. 🙂
What a fascinating condition. You say you see auras, do you only see them in person? Or does in work in photographs too?
Pretty much exclusively in person. If I ever forget someone’s aura, but have met them in person before, I can sometimes remind with a photograph but it’s rare.
I have chromesthesia.
Examples of this are that I see/ feel violins as a golden metallic sort of melody that is different shades and shapes with each violinist or peice. I see/ feel baritones as a metallic lined mahogany main vocal line in a piece of music that is different shades/ shifts for each individual. And many other examples that would take to long to list.
However it does not block my vision so to speak I am simply aware of it and see it in my minds eye. Because of this I am unsure if I am simply imagining this. I have not been able to find answers anywhere else, so if you could reassure me it would mean a lot. I have other types of synthesia too but I do not know the names of them. I also see words when people speak to me/ when I listen to music like it’s being typed out but again this does not block my vision I just know it’s there, I can’t explain it very well.
I have a lot more questions but I don’t know even if you will answer this so….
Thank you for taking your time to read this and hopefully answer my concerns. I am very grateful.