Attention all non-synesthete reporters who are about to write an article on synesthesia!
I don't know if other synesthetes are feel frustrated by these sorts of headlines, but this is what I typically find:
"Synesthesia is a confusion of the senses..."
"Mixed up senses...."
My senses are not mixed up or confused. They feel very orderly .
Am I wrong to feel insulted? But I do.
When I try to describe my synesthesia, some people may understandably muse about how my mind must be like I am on a constant LSD trip. I don't know what it is like to be on an LSD trip, and won't judge people who have been on them, but I suspect that synesthesia and an LSD trip are very different experiences. The drug analogy implies my world is random and mixed up and disorienting, and nothing could be further from the truth. I am often distracted by predictable stimuli, for example, I know that robin chirps will intrude in my mind as little twisted dark shapes, predictably. But this is not the same thing as having random stimuli surprise you. Robin chirps always look the same way to me.
"Autistic senses may be muddled" is the first line in a (November 20, 2013) New Scientist mini-article. The article reports that synesthesia is more common in those with autism than the non-autistic population. But I am offended by the term "muddled". It implies a randomness that is the opposite of what I have. My associations are not the slightest bit random. That non-randomness is a hallmark feature of synesthesia:
The persistence of the redness of my letter A has made it predictable, unchanging, ever since I can remember, it has been red. Things that change are random. Synesthete associations rarely change. They are dependable.
In fact I wonder if my senses are more organized than a non-synesthete's. I don't understand how a non-synesthete can remember things without color associations. I couldn't remember anything without it. I have consciously used my synesthesia late in life to finally learn how to sight read music, for example. The only way I could assign meaning to these little black dots on a page was to deliberately associate each with a color, which took some work, mentally.
Esters are a white category of molecules. Halogens are a red category. If you have an ester which is also a halogen it is both red and white. Pieces in the key of G are orange. All metallic bell sounds have a grey tone with a bluish tinge. This color association lends itself to more categorizing, not less.
It is not a mess in my head. It feels very organized. And I find the idea that it is random and messy offensive. I realize the writer did not know any better and just imagined that the synesthete's mind is a mess. That would only be true if the color associations were random, but they are not random. I suspect the synesthete's mind could lend itself to more organization.
I'm reposting the thoughtful comments that I received on this post, as I migrate to a new site, as I didn't want them to be lost:
Hi, I'm a high schooler who has a very difficult time with sound-color synesthesia. I have never told anyone - by now, if I did, I don't think they would believe me. I mean, I have only casually mentioned it when I was little (around five or six - 11 years ago) and have never mentioned it since (I picked up the hint that something was not quite right when I asked my mom if the glasses I was getting would make the colors go away. She looked at me with absolute confusion and asked if something was wrong with my eyes). I stumbled across "A Mango Shaped Space" in sixth grade and just knew that I was like that. I love my synesthesia, but it often makes life difficult - school especially. I often spend time alone in my room or in the library. How can I manage it better? Is there a way to may the over stimulation of my senses less harsh?
Hi, I'm a sophomore in highschool and have sound-color synesthesia. I have never told anyone, and until 3 years ago, never knew that not everyone hears a fire alarm and sees green splotches. I just never mentioned it because it is an integral part of how I experience the world. However, in school I find it extremely hard to concentrate due to the level of noise (I perceive all shapes and colors outside of my mind; that is, I see them clearly in front of me). This sometimes goes as far as to obstruct my vision and often distracts me. How can I deal with this successfully? I know that it would never go away (and I wouldn't want it to) but is there a way to manage it?
Posted by: Holly Phaneuf Erskine | 05/02/2022 at 04:02 PM