By Trina Otero
How many of you have synaesthesia? Synaesthesia [also spelled synesthesia], in simplest terms, is when the stimulation of one of your senses automatically stimulates one or more senses, which causes you to experience something with two or more of your senses. For example, have you ever tasted something and associated it with a color or a musical note? Have you ever associated numbers with colors? Or do you see numbers and dates like a 3D timeline, making it easy to recall past events and freaking people out with your impeccable memory?
I’m a word nerd, so I like to know the origins of a word to better understand it. So here is a break down of synaesthesia, which shows our modern interpretation to be pretty accurate. It is from Greek syn – “together” + stem aisthe – “to feel, perceive,” related to aisthesis – “feeling,” from PIE root *au – “to perceive.” So this word literally means to feel, to perceive together. [Source: Etymonline.com.]
Fun Fact: Synaesthesia is purported to be seven times more common in artists, poets and novelists than in the rest of the population. [Source: Live Science]
I always thought how I experienced the world was how everyone else did…until I began describing to people how things tasted, sounded, felt, etc. and they looked at me like I was crazy. Or they told me I have a “vivid imagination” [hey, I have that too!]. Lol… For the longest I thought I was very weird — until one day a documentary about synaesthesia happened to be on TV while a friend was flipping through channels. I asked him to leave it on so I could listen. That is the day I was able to put a “word,” a “label,” on what I experience every day. I experience four forms of synaesthesia that have clear titles: chromesthesia [sound-color], spatial-sequence, number form, and auditory-tactile.
I also experience two forms that I don’t know the name for: I experience emotional responses or feelings when I hear certain sounds/pitches/tones, and I experience a fusion of taste, smell, sound AND color. On Wikipedia it says the former [emotional responses] could be misophonia, but I am not quite sure about that because I do not have tourette syndrome, I don’t mimic, nor do I associate all sounds with negative emotions. I admit that some sounds irritate me, but this usually happens when I am trying to have a conversation and I easily pick up on background noises. I have a heightened sense of hearing sometimes. This makes it hard for me to concentrate or hear what the other person is saying. I am also sensitive to the tone a person uses when speaking – this allows me to associate it with a mood, energy, a feeling. I feel this has helped me to be a very good communicator, and I intuitively pick up on things the speaker may not be aware of. Some sounds cause me to feel very “high,” elated, and joyful [which is why I have gravitated towards electro and ambient music choices]. I am wondering if this is common among empaths? This is a random question floating in my mind..
How about you? What do you experience? I am curious to see if any of my readers, family, and/or friends experience any of this!
I find it amusing that synaesthesia is considered an “illness” or “disorder!” Ha! What primitive thinking! Synaesthesia is just proof that life is not black and white, there are no boxes or boundaries…. And that everything is truly connected! Why shouldn’t sound have a taste and color? Is not everything made of the same thing — energy? I have never had any hallucinogens, but I know that people who do consume hallucinogens experience what synaesthetes do. Research will show you that many progressive thinkers and researchers believed [and still do] that hallucinogens actually help people see true reality. My theory at this point is that ANY human being is capable of experiencing synaesthesia if they learn to develop their intuitive/psychic abilities [hint: reactivate your pineal gland].
This topic is truly fascinating, and this is my first time researching it in depth like this. Like I said, this is “normal” to me so I don’t give it much thought. But I was having a conversation with a new friend yesterday, and somehow synaesthesia was brought up, and can you believe at first I did not even recognize or know the definition of this word?! After finding the definition I said aloud to myself, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, yeah.” Lol… This conversation triggered my memory of watching the documentary five years ago. This conversation sparked my curiosity about the way I perceive the world. 🙂
I thought this website gave a really good list of ten disadvantages/stereotypes of synaesthesia — 10 Disadvantages to Synaesthesia.
But guess what? I found sites with advantages as well: Artistic Advantages; Why It Pays to Taste Words & Hear Color; Possible Evolutionary Advantages ; Memory & Language Advantages.
But I’m biased, anyways. 🙂 Hope you found this informational and enjoyable!
8 thoughts on “Synaesthesia: Do You Experience the World This Way?”
Really good article Trina. You are a smart girl, I like the images you selected.
Thank you so much! 🙂
Welcome! Carry on.
I’m finally at my desk today! :S I’ve been out of town for almost a whole week. Alot to catch up on!!! Happy writing ❤
This is absolutely superb, and really well researched!
I had no idea that there was just so much depth to it all. One revels sometimes in a sort of superficial thinking about the way we are and most likely we do this because it’s just easier to accept mechanisms of sensuous feeling for what they are inside us: we grow accustomed to what we get used to and are born with and don’t second guess it, or go in search of an explanation of it. But I really am fascinated to know more about this whole experience and have taken note of the links and will be following up on many of the areas mentioned. What a scintillating blog! thanks Trina, you’re a star.
I’ll not intuit my Muse ever again in quite the same way 🙂
DN – 04/04/14
Hi Dewin! Thank you very much! 🙂 It did take some time to write, and the funny thing is it took more time to find good fotos. The selection is limited. And not much is shown for the union of taste, smell, sound, and color. This is the one I experience the most actually. Thanks again for reading. You are pretty much my most frequent reader, lol! Namaste.
You should be praised for having done such a fantastic job of writing this. I imagine there is insufficient published research done on such phenomenon that is available to the wider world. What you have found however is more than enough to bring forth a much, much better understanding. And the graphics are great! But perhaps if ever the right pieces of imagery can’t be found, you could use your artistic gifts to generate your own. After-all, an image does paint a 1000 words and you have a much better understanding of how such experiences are intuited by you than others could ever possibly know 🙂
I read your Blog because I find it a pleasure to do so. I like the mix and variety of your posts, the depth of the feeling in your writing, and the honesty and integrity that is ever present. You work hard to create something unique and always it is presented professionally. All these attributes working together so well just suit my Virgo disposition. What is more important than that is I know you enjoy writing it and find so much freedom to consider life from numerous perspectives whilst doing so. Your output is quite prolific, the flow of your ideas fast-paced, keen, insightful and always current to the moments happening inside and outside of you. And that is the most deeply rewarding aspect to doing it of all and I am here to applaud that as well.
At least I am the most frequent at something in life lol 🙂
DN – 04/04/14
Thank you so much Dewin 🙂 you’re very kind! I truly appreciate that you take the time to read my work. Yes, I do enjoy it 😀 I love researching and writing. Namaste, T.O.