In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote about my flash fiction piece in Cleaver Magazine entitled “Synesthesia and You.” And I mentioned that while researching for the piece I discovered I have synesthesia. So for True Tuesday, I’m going to share what synesthesia is like in my life.
What is Synesthesia?
Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory phenomenon leads to automatic and involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.
In short, one sense automatically triggers another sense. The result? People can taste colors, see sound, and hear motion. Nearly every sense we have can be linked in this way. And if you start reading about people who have this, you’ll learn what a huge variety there can be.
I remember asking my roommate last year if she ever had a tune stuck in her head and remembered later on that she had never actually heard the tune but seen it. She was clearly confused. “Like when you read the words to a song and it gets stuck in your head?” she asked. No. A little bit. But no. I was trying to explain that I had just remembered the word I had seen hours before because the tune of it was still stuck in my head. We couldn’t figure it out, so I set to googling: I’m hearing things that aren’t actually making a sound and other alarming statements. The result? Schizophrenia. That was all I could find! Clearly I didn’t have schizophrenia, but I didn’t know how else to explain it, so I left it alone.
I thought I knew what synesthesia was. People see color auras around others or the alphabet has colors or personalities to them. I was only aware of these types, but as I began researching synesthesia, I found that I have it too.
My types are hearing-motion synesthesia (or kinetic to sound) and spatial sequence synesthesia.
I hear sounds when I see things moving silently or when I’m moving and something is stationary.
People stirring food
Additional sounds of windshield wipers
Swirling loading symbols (seriously, there are so many of these and what a variety!)
Passing light posts and sidewalks while driving
Spatial Sequence Synesthesia
The calendar in my head is a big U, almost a complete circle so January and December are about to touch at the top. It spans out into a scroll and rolls up or down to navigate to a certain month. Weeks are also bent, as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday turn a corner, and I have to scroll them to the left to see the full week.
It never occurred to me that not everyone hears and sees these as well. That’s the funny thing about perception. We only experience our own.
So are there any drawbacks or advantages?
Maybe and maybe not. Some people’s experiences are so extreme, it can begin to interfere with their lives. (Like if they can’t stand the taste of your name or a color feels so bad they don’t like touching it.) But for the most part that’s not the case. In fact, most of the time synesthesia means better memory, because more than one sense is going into storing information.
It’s not unusual for people to have more than one kind of synesthesia like me. And most people, also like me, don’t know they have it for a good chunk of their lives, because they don’t know it’s an actual thing. It’s pretty liberating to put a name to something you experience on a daily basis.
Now, I have fun realizing that I’m the only person in the room who hears that person nodding her head or that person walking outside. Like most synesthetes, learning about synesthesia was a validating and exhilarating experience for me. I love recognizing it in my own life and discovering more about other people’s perception, too.
Here are some good sites and videos to check out about:
And some good stories about other types of synesthesia:
So, what about you? Do you have any types of synesthesia? If so, what’s it like in your experience? I’d love to hear your stories! Thanks for stopping by.