I have written several posts on here and on another one of my blogs that I do not share so openly – it is a blog where I tend to process and do mind dumps with my emotions through music and “in the moment” poetry. Synesthesia is one of my special interests that comes and goes. Mostly because sometimes I just cannot handle my synesthesia – I like to pretend it’s all sensory processing dysfunction or something. I have been quite curious about synesthesia because once I discovered that I was a synesthete it gave me more answers as to why my brain responds, processes, and creates the way that it does. There seems to be a correlation with Autism and synaesthesia. Many people are not familiar with the term synaesthesia. I have found if they are they tend to think of it as some uncommon phenomenon.
I have seen movies and shows where they sensationalize and create this feeling of “super hero” type of persona.
The more research being done the more they have found that synaesthesia is not so uncommon. My personal opinion, solely based on my experience, is that I believe there are many people with synaesthesic traits, but it is so “normal” to them that they are unaware that others do not see, feel, and/or hear – experience the world any different. I had no idea that not everyone saw music. I did know of certain things that others did not see or do, such as personifying words, numbers, and colors. I learned early on that people do not do that and I attributed it to my overactive imagination. However, there was another element of me who wanted to keep how I saw the world and my sensory experiences hidden from others and that is, it was my private world. No one could enter and it was my escape from the realities of the painful world that I lived in.
There was a catch-22 though; my internal world was filled with painful memories that would replay with every sensory trigger.
It was my place of solace and my place of tumultuous pain, BUT I was in control of hiding that pain. I could filter it through my colorful world and no one else could be apart of it. I had to go there to escape, but my escape was filled with reoccurring obsessive thoughts. I suppose it would be wise to explain to those who are unaware of synesthesia to give a definition so there is some understanding.
“Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimuli of one sensory modality evoke experiences in another modality. This is thought to occur as a result of insufficient “pruning” during development, so that most of the pathways connecting parts of the brain mediating the different senses remain in place instead of being eliminated. Consequently, there is too much cross-talk between sensory systems, such that activation of one sensory pathway leads simultaneously to activity in another.
Once believed to be extremely rare, synaesthesia is now thought to be relatively common. The cross-modal connections implicated in the condition are present in all of us, to a greater or lesser extent. Thus, some researchers argue that we all experience synaesthesia-like sensations to some degree, but that these sensations are particularly intense in only some individuals.” ~ Tactile-emotion synaesthesia
I happen to be one of those people whose sensory “wires” are crossed in multiple ways.
I do not have one form of synesthesia; I have them all in some sort of fashion. (synesthesia forms - Synesthesia (Wikipedia) My most prominent ones being, “grapheme → color synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities.” (Wiki) My emotions are heavily linked to smells, colors, numbers, sounds, words, etc … that are intertwined with memories – good and bad. I read this post Emotion-Color Synesthesia Examples in Song, at the end was the song Yellow by Coldplay. It is one of my favorite songs and one that induces the feeling of first love and heartbreak at the same time. When I listen to the song it unleashes feelings of being deeply wounded, but the color yellow means beauty, safe, pleasure, and delight for me. (among other positive words)
The person who wrote the post said,“Unrequited love is yellow, folks.”
My thought when I read that was, you are absolutely right! I realized that yellow was now a confusing emotion for me. It became complex and that explained why I could not have any sort of yellow in my life for several years now. I feel the emotions of colors when I wear them that is why I tend to wear solid neutral or dark colors. Bright colors make me feel anxious. I can wear certain light blues or certain patterns, but I have to be in the right frame of mind. If I wear particular colors it makes me more susceptible to absorbing other people’s emotions. I see numbers and colors around certain people too. (Numbers?) I do not consider it auras though some may believe that I can read auras. I think of it not as the person, but the color with the personality. The color or lack of color can tell me if the person is safe or not.
Many words have personality, emotion, and colors – I see them dance.
They talk to me and manifest through visual movies from words to images and vice versa. The words are alive and when they are spoken to me by others I can feel the softness of them or the daggering attacks physically. I usually (not always of course, I am human) know when someone is speaking falsely because of how the words feel against my flesh or through my body. They have weight. I know that can sound insane, but it is how my brain processes. My flesh feels words and emotions. My poetry and stories at times, come from emotions that are either absorbed from words that have been spoken to me or that I have read. I feel the emotions through people’s words, at times; I can distinguish intent. I have lost some of this ability due to self-doubt and when I have gotten too confused (emotionally or socially) to discern correctly. I do not rely solely on my abilities because I know that I can quickly become confused and my mind full of chaos from sensory overload and emotional chaos.
I can experience emotional chaos and it triggers all sorts of sensory overlap.
It intensifies my anxiety and I believe at times my anxiety is due to synesthetic bombardment. When I was a child my way of coping with life was through fantasy. My synesthesia allowed me to live in an Alice in Wonderland type of life. This transitioned into my adult life, however; as I grew older I understood that I could not live in my fantasy world as much as I longed to. It was still my way of escape, when I became a Christian the types of spiritual environments that I was in encouraged to some extent these fantasies that I could translate into spiritual dynamics. I do not dismiss the spiritual realm, but I no longer entertain everything as reality. If that makes sense. I know how I am capable of falling into a fantasy world and over the years with my short story blog and my poetry blog I have learned how to differentiate and write out my thoughts in creative expression. It feels absolutely real. I am there. I am with the person I am thinking of – I am with my characters or dancing on the Milky Way.
I feel every sensation and when I am in the moment this world feels less real and the one that is escaping through my fingers feels like reality.
I did not understand that before, my imagination and how I experienced the world scared me. When I slowly started to share some of what I actually experience with synesthesia David and my mom responded in the same way that others had, it just sounds freaky. However, through that my mom and I discovered her own form of synesthesia. She is a painter and I am a writer – we experience it differently. People have accused me of being on LSD when I explained to them how I felt the trees, saw the leaves with tracers, witnessed the sparkles of flower pedals as the breeze caught them and the breeze was a gentle man! Who says that? I do, and time and time again I caught myself saying such things believing that others too saw it. Then, I was quickly reminded that indeed they did not feel the earth and the things all around as I did. I do think that more people experience these types of things, but have never sat down and thought about it.
Or they have done what I did in the past, ignored it.
I stifled it; I pretended that it was not happening. I told myself that I was making things up. I attributed some of the things to dyslexia and possibly it is that too. There could be other learning challenges as well that contribute, but where does one thing begin and another end? I have no answer. I do not know of dyslexics tasting the color of the word clink (it is kind of rusty tasting, but it flashes silver) or hearing the color red pounce out of the number five. Or maybe … they haven’t talked about it? I see shadows that others do not see, are they ghosts, and spirits? I do not know. I do not dismiss any and everything without much thought and musing. I have changed my mind over the years so nothing is set in stone. I am skeptical, but open-minded after learning about Autism, SPD, synesthesia, and the multiplex of neurological information we know and do not know I feel that there are many things that will never be answered – quite possibly it is better that way, coming from a person who freaks out without answers? Who am I? (baby steps)
I am writing about this because I have gained new insight as to how my synesthesia has affected my trauma.
It is a factor in my PTSD episodes. My synesthesia can be triggered by one word and that word unleashes memories, not only emotional, but sensory memories. It causes a domino effect in my brain which, releases visuals, sounds, colors, dates, numbers, people, smells, songs, dreams, all sorts of things manifest and connect. They connect and wrestle their way into my real time making it challenging to distinguish between now and then. I have managed to work through much of this and I now know when I can and cannot listen to music or read certain things. However, I have not gotten any sort of grasp on this when it comes to relationships, especially romantic ones. My sensory challenges make it difficult for me to touch. I feel overcome with people’s emotions and it feels like they are seeping into my skin. I can be affectionate when I do not feel like it is expected of me or that someone is trying to get something from me. I do not like being touched because it hurts, at times it feels violating, it is awkward, and /or it is too much to process emotionally and sensory wise.
It does not mean that I never want to hug people, I do.
It just depends on many things. I used to think that it was only because of sensory processing dysfunction or that there was something else wrong with me – maybe I am just a jerk who hates being touched. No, that is not true. I think touching, looking at people, interacting in ways that many people do is just too much for my mind to process. I can do it in small doses, one-on-one, and with baby steps, but not always. My mind is consuming information at rapid speed; it is unable to determine what is useful and what is not. It is processing emotions, colors, sounds, ideas, words, and images. While it is doing that it is connecting, comparing, organizing data, computing, and analyzing my environment. I am able to make more sense of my world by understanding how my synesthesia and being Autistic enhance and challenge my daily life.
I believe that my overlapping senses have been a source of many things that I had not considered before.
I feel that my synesthesia affects how I interpret communication and emotions. I think it may also, contribute to my social confusion. My intense sensory and memory recall can spiral me into confusion, anxiety, depression, and negative thinking patterns. This stems from a lifelong misunderstanding of my gifts and challenges. Synesthesia is definitely, one that can make you feel like an outcast and cause one to see the world very different from others – intermingled with Autism, but looking and acting “passable normal” makes for a complex life. I learned to mask and hide many of my Autistic traits and I learned to do the same with synesthesia. When I think about it I feel a hint of shame when I talk about it. I do not know why and I would like that feeling to disappear. I have no reason to feel ashamed of who I am or for the way my brain processes.
I have a lot to share on this topic.
I have another post that I am working on as well and talk a little more about fantasy prone personality and my experience, it ties into my synesthsia as well. I am still researching to see if I can find information about those who have been abused and who are also synaesthetes. I would like to know how that affects those of us who have been abused. I feel that it causes me to relive PTSD episodes in extreme ways, but I am not sure if that is true or not. Any information would be great if anyone knows of resources please send them my way. Thanks!
- Inside the Mind of a Synaesthete
- There are about 60 different types of synesthesia
- First cases of touch-emotion synaesthesia discovered
- Study links synaesthesia to autism
- Synesthesia: When you hear music, and your emotions color the tune you hear
- Mirror Touch Synesthesia and the Genetics of Synesthesia
- The Synesthesia Project
- Synesthesia and Seeing Auras
A few of my posts.