First Person Synesthesia

This is why synesthesia fascinates me. I LOVE hearing from ‘synnies’ around the world, and I thought I’d share this with you. Read more comments following my blog post What Color is Your Alphabet. (There’s also a synesthesia category on my sidebar with everything I’ve posted about syn if you’re interested.)

Here’s a recent comment I got from a synesthete ….

I have Synesthesia, I have for all my life as far as I can remember.

The first time I can remember being aware of it acutely, rather than subconsciously, was when I was in first grade or kindergarten trying to explain to a friend that 5 is maroon and flat, 50 is darker and deeper in the middle, like a shallow well or wading pool filled with…umm, red; 500 is ripply, and 5,000 is like n undulating wavy ocean made of blood-red velvet–but 2 was gold-ish, 20 was like a yellow fuzzy hill, 200 was like a field, and so on (but not as eloquently, I was about 6 at the time). After a few minutes I gave up on it and dropped the subject.

Then about 10 years later I read ‘A Mango Shaped Space’ and I was completely floored.

I have ‘associative’ Synesthesia — as I’m reading I don’t see them in any different colors, but I’m aware in the back of my head what colors they are, the same way you know what an elephant is, for example-it’s big, it’s a mammal, it has a trunk, and its name is light green-blue.

Numbers and letters also have personalities.

They also have ‘group dynamics’-for example, 8 and 4 don’t work together well because then 3 will get jealous and 5 and 7 and 9 don’t get along well at all. The letters seem to form cliques based on colors-J, K, H, and L are friends-J/K/H are all shades of pink. L is yellow but it likes to hang out with pinks because the other ones closer to its shade-Y and 7 and F-are all kind of elitist. Z and X are also pink, but they’re snobs who would rather do their thing than hang out with those losers farther up in the alphabet. A’s overly friendly and likes to hang out with b, C, and G, but A’s kind of clingy and her friends would rather be left alone.

I wish I had more spacial syn than I do-I know someone who sees concepts as little floating auras that change color and shape depending on what she’s going to do, and grow smaller or larger depending.

I only have time set up in a ring-like a floating belt about a foot from my waist, or a skirt. Whatever time it currently is is at about 11, if you’re standing in the center of the clock and facing 12. They’re in little bands, and every ‘measure’ of time, like an hour or a month, have the same length as all the others in it’s group, but distinct colors. They’re arranged in a band with seconds on top, then hours, days, weeks, months, and so on. Seconds are about a quarter inch thick and all of them are silver/blue, minutes are about an inch thick and turn darker and redder the farther they get from 6 AM, then hours all have tints and are about 3 inches thick, days are about a foot thick and colored distinctly, and years are about 4 inches and the color changes with the year but I only see 1 year at once. They tick like the second hand of a clock. They’re not always there but when I think about the time it’s always like that.

Isn’t that a remarkable way to experience life? Are you synesthetic? Know anyone who is? Wish you were?

9 thoughts on “First Person Synesthesia

  1. Renee

    I commented on another article about synaesthesia you wrote a while back but it bares repeating: Thank you for spreading he syn-awareness! I’m synaesthetic myself and it bothers me so much when synaesthesia is described as some sort of mental illness or a disorder when in reality, it just means that my brain is wired a little differently which means I get to experience the world in an awesome and different way.

  2. beckycc

    Thanks, Renee. It makes me deliriously happy to hear from my syn friends around the world. Every synesthete I’ve met has a different story to tell about how they realized they were syn and how it informs their world. I love every single detail! And, yes, I’m VERY jealous!

  3. kaelin

    i know rite it makes me sooo angry when someone says that syneasthesia is a illness or somthing. sadly i am only an associtive syneasthete, so i dont experiense the awsomeness of seeing colors i can only know them and i rarely know the colors for only certain smells, though i really wish i could see them. if i ever wanted to see them i would have to hurt myself and experiense pain and if i do then i would see some colors in front of me, annoying i know rite. though i am really afraid to tell anyone though my syneasthesia is no big deal. sometimes i am such a looser.
    anyways thanks 4 reading my post, if u did

    1. beckycc

      I did read your comment, kaelin, and you’re not a loser. You should seek out people with synesthesia so they can help you figure out how to talk about it. There are lots of people who’ve commented on my blog about it and lots of online resources. Find yourself some and take care of yourself!

  4. Aaron Alexander

    People don’t realize that synesthesia is not a mental illness. I Know I think I have it. People in my school are very deliouris to Synesthesia. When they saw me doing a research paper about it, they never even heard of it. I don’t think it’s very well-known around here in the US.

    1. beckycc

      I agree, Aaron, I don’t think people know much about it. I’m constantly amazed, though, by how often I mention it and people have never heard the word ‘synesthesia’ but then add a tidbit of their own that makes us both think they have it! Very cool. It seems to me, based on many personal stories I’ve heard and read about, it simply doesn’t come up in every day conversation so people just don’t realize that not everyone sees a colored alphabet, for example. I mean, I’ve never (until I began researching) talked to anyone about how I perceive the color purple. How would I know if that’s how everyone sees it?

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Vale P.

    Hi, I’m a 20-years-old Italian girl. I think this post you wrote is very interesting. Actually I don’t know if I have synesthesia, but in every text I read I see coloured letters – A is yellow, B is light blue etc. Also, every concept has it own colour. I don’t know how to be sure if this is REALLY synesthesia, because I don’t feel particular sensations or tastes concerning sounds etc. If this is synesthesia, it would probably be a “visual” one… what do you think about it?
    Thank you for your kind answer!
    Valentina P.

  6. beckycc

    Valentina … I think if you see colored letters and concepts, that qualifies as synesthesia. You don’t have to have ALL the different kinds of syn to be part of that club! I’m officially jealous of you.

  7. Denise

    Well, I am not quit sure if I am or not but I am considering going to a conference one day and ask questions. My experiences as far as I can remember involved mixing words with foods. For example, most words automatically has a food or taste involved with them. I just always thought it was a quirky silly thing I did unconsciously in my head.


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