Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Synaesthesia (Or...the Colorful World of Letters)

Some of you may know, but most probably don't that I have something called Synaesthesia. It's super super interesting. It involves synapses in the brain that fire....weirdly. Not really incorrectly, but on different paths than normal. There are numerous forms of this...tasting shapes, feeling colors...etc.

My form is grapheme or color synesthesia. Wiki has a great page on the whole thing. It's a much more condensed version of Cytowic's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

Anywho...grapheme. I read letters and numbers in color. I have for as long as I can remember. I figured out about third grade that other people didn't, so I never talked about it. Until doing some Young Life training, and one of the leaders and I got into a convo about it, and she showed me a magazine article.

I am part of synesthete.org and participated in a small study they did. it involved being shown 150 different letters and having to choose the color they were, in two different scenarios. I scored in the 90th percentile. (It was kind of nice to know I wasn't just making it up.) I have a smaller sense of colors with music and a few emotions. The months of the year also have distinct, individual colors. As do the days of the week. My brother John has a slight verison...he sees the months and days, but not much more.

So every single letter/number has a unique color. They are always the same. S is always a vibrant red. 5 is always a weird brownish orange. My colors are completely different from anyone else's, and vice versa.

I live with it everyday, all day. And my head exists on a weird bilateral plane. It's like I have a screen in front of my face that is scanning everything I read. I somehow see it both in black and white, and also in my colors. It's hard to explain. I have a knack for crosswords and Scrabble. Spelling is fun for me. And I have a weird skill of remembering stupid long numbers for an extended period of time. But in my head they are just lines of colors....if that makes sense. Algebra was the hardest class I ever took since it threw numbers and letters together. It was hard for me to separate which was which, as some numbers and letters have very similar colors.

As for music and emotion, these are not nearly as strong as the grapheme sense. it's only when I am in intense moments of life or worship, that it really comes out. Side note, Van Morrison's Into The Mystic might be the prettiest song ever. I see colors every time I listen.

Anywho...I often wonder what my childhood learning experiences would have been like if my teachers and I were aware of the situation. (I distinctly remember the letters on the wood blocks being the wrong colors.) I am excited to have my own children to see if they have the same experiences. Although, there is no direct link biologically, I would hope they do. It's a great way to live life. And interestingly enough, my choices of names for children are dependent on the colors the letters of the names make up. There are some downright ugly names, colorwise.

If you are looking for good book...Daniel Tammet's Born On A Blue Day is fascinating. He has synesthesia as well as Asperger's. It's amazing how the brain works in some folks. And Tammet's is just incredible.

I am willing to answer most questions. If you ask me if I think your name is ugly, I will be honest. :)