I feel things when I see them. Like, I feel what I see, but I feel it before I can visually describe it. It’s what created, I believe, my early sensitivity to art and to space in a way that would, at times, be troubling. After all, bad spaces for me were things I felt profoundly, and I still do.
It was suggested to me that I had a form of synesthesia. It’s a way of being wired where your senses seem to link together in unique ways. For example, some people experience music as colors. Other people taste colors. Some people hear visuals. It’s all very unique and amazing.
I read more about synesthesia when I dove into the incredible book, A Natural History of the Senses.
I was intrigued. Beyond the fact that we all experience our own personal realities of the same world, we all process sensory information in our own unique ways.
Even if you are not a synesthete (and I don’t think that’s actually what I am!) , this science is spectacular and it points to how much we need to create a positive sensory environment for ourselves and for others in a big way! All of life is, essentially, sensory input on every level. Make that sensory material awesome & life becomes more awesome!
Here’s some amazing research on synesthesia. I’m particularly in love with the videos.
“The taste of beef, such as a steak, produces a rich blue….Mango sherbet appears as a wall of lime green with thin wavy strips of cherry red. Steamed gingered squid produces a large glob of bright orange foam, about four feet away, directly in front of me.” Sean Day, a linguistics professor at National Central University in Taiwan
Synesthesia dervives from the Greek meaning, “to perceive together.”
Synesthesia is a condition where the synesthete (person with synethesia) is able to simultaneously perceive additional senses as one sense. For example, a person with synesthesia will see letters or numbers as a color or might hear a specific sound in response to certain smell. It is known that only 4% of the population are synesthetes.
A leading synesthesia researcher, Dr. Richard Cytowic, MD, believes there are certain guidelines and standards to keep in mind when determining if someone is a synesthete. They were reported HERE and you can read it all completely but here’s a summary :
1 . The sense perceptio is involuntary— they don’t have to think about their perceptions, they just occur.
2. They might not see the color in their own mind, but rather, see it as something projected outside of the body.
3. The perception will be the same every time for the same stimuli. If they see the color blue when hearing their name, they will always ONLY see the color blue upon that stimulus.
4. Usually, the synesthete will remember the secondary synesthetic perception over the primary one. If they saw red when they heard your name, they will remember you more by the color red, than your name.
5. These perceptions can cause emotional reactions, and often unique reactions.
In 1987 Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD, of the University of Cambridge conducted a study on synesthesia. He asked each synesthete to describe the color of 100 different words. One year later, without warning, these same people repeated the experiment. They found that 90% of the synesthete’s answers were consistent with the prior year as opposed to the control group, who only had 20% consistency.
This TED-ed video breaks it down:
& you can find a great Documentary of Synesthetes HERE.
Mirror Touch Synesthesia is the Next Level:
Live Science HERE explores the action of mirror neurons in how we share sensations: “Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person’s mental shoes,” says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. “In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person’s mind.”
Mirror neurons have been discovered to fire when one animal or human not only performs a specific behavior, but also when it watches another animal or human exhibit the same sort of behavior. For people who have mirror-touch synesthesia, these neurons are firing at a higher rate. Therefore, if a mirror-touch synesthete was to watch someone get pricked with a pin, they would feel it as well.
University College London cognitive neuroscientist Jamie Ward and researchers devised a questionnaire designed to measure empathy and had the mirror-touch synesthetes take the questionnaire. They were asked to either agree or disagree with statements like, “I can tune into how someone feels rapidly and intuitively.”
“The mirror-touch synesthetes scored significantly higher than people without synesthesia, findings detailed in the July issue of the journalNature Neuroscience.” (you can read the entire article HERE)
I am forever blown away by how we experience space and experience life so specifically.
This is why I am so against one-size-fits all rules of creating space and living life. What you experience and how you feel is the most important. Experiencing life, as shown here, is all kinds of magic. Make it personal and embrace your own best ways!
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