Synesthesia is one of the most fascinating phenomena. In its simplest example, one hears a sound and sees a color associated with that sound. Stevie Wonder has stated that, even though he’s blind, his music is specifically filled with colors he sees in his mind depending on the key and rhythm of the sound: Visual Hearing. In its more sophisticated form, Synesthesia changes the colors of words or numbers in a sequence depending on the context of arrangement.
For example, an outline of the number 7 might be perceived as being “seven” and trigger the color blue, but when you look closer — and learn that the 7 is actually made up of many tiny number threes — then the color changes from a 7 trigger color to a 3 trigger color like, say, gold. Some synesthetes can actually taste the colors as they view them.
The form of synesthesia I have is a “metaphoric synesthesia” where two different ideas are metaphorically set against each other to form a new concept. “Cruel wind” and “Juliet is the sun” and “bitter cold” and “magnificent loser” are all general use examples of a textual, metaphoric, synesthesia.
The greatest example I have written here is likely my — Passionate Mind and Intellectual Heart — article where the two expectations are flipped to create a new, and perhaps greater, reality for living a proper life. It is a thrill to take two separate things and place them together to create a new, dynamic relationship.
I have often written about the magical moment as we fall asleep into the sky and the process we use in finding those twilight moments in our determined, active, lucidity. We must learn to clear the mind so we may sharpen our sensations. We can choose to sleep or we can choose to dream of sleep. Have you ever discovered yourself asleep in a dream while you are sleeping?
As we are finding our natural magic hour, many of us experience the myoclonic jerk — I prefer the word “tick” instead of “jerk” or “sleep start” — where our bodies uninstinctively react to our need for sleep by tensing our muscles — a sort of twitch-response synesthesia. I like to think of that process as a synesthetic repulse against the darkness of the night in anticipation of dying — synesthetically, and metaphorically speaking, of course.
When I am on the edge between awake and not, I don’t jerk or tick. I instead see an extremely bright, blinding light — as if headlights or a spotlight are being shone directly in my eyes. Some believe that bright light indicates a night terror. The overwhelming brightness used to scare me so much that I would twitch awake. Now, I prefer to accept that physiological light-response and embrace it so I may take the next, enviable, step.
I have learned to calm down and accept the piercing light — because it is my body’s process and signal into a sleeping lucidity — and if I am able to control my fear of the blinding light and let it pass, a whole new scene appears before me, and the in situ action dreaming begins and the synesthetic metaphor really comes to life. It’s as if I am opening a door and walking into a room that is already in action without me. If it often disturbing to enter that room and find myself sleeping in a chair.
As the blindness from the light passes, and the synesthesia begins, I find myself writing page after page of ideas in my mind. I am dictating my novels and articles to myself while strolling the new world and speaking with people and re-living previous experiences in slightly different circumstances. Later identifying the dreamscape with the real landmark is oftentimes a mesmerizing delight.
Sometimes, I am able to remember every single word I dreamt, while other times the memory quickly fades upon de-awakening. I have learned to accept the “unable to remember everything” moments as part of the reward for the joy when I am lucidly able to dream in real-time and recall every single word and smell and sound and color and taste that was spokewritten for me by me. It is those early moments in the morning when I know I am truly alive and not dreaming before I wake.
LOVE this – but need more time to read again, absorb and to formulate a comment properly.
Right-o, thanks! Enjoy your reading!
animated discussions here …… all good !
Okay, good! SMILE!
Find this all fascinating – it has put a name to several things I have experienced and not been able to put a name to before. I have seen/heard coloured music that does change with the key it is played in – but not all the time. Metaphoric synesthesia is something I have experienced as well. now is where I start to differ ……………. I get the twitch-kick when I drift off to sleep – but I also get what can best be described as a galaxy – ie stars on a deep blue/purple/black background – at first they pass slowly but this then speeds up rapidly and I catapult into sleep. When I dream I do not dream in colour perse – nor black and white but almost multi sensory – I get impressions, feelings, auras almost of people and places . It is very much as if I am on a journey and documenting the places I stay and the people I meet. Someimes theree are familiar presences – other times everything is totally unknown. I only remember the last events before I wake up and I can wake myself up and leave if I wish.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Nicola! How we relate to the world when we are alone and in our own minds is a keen thing to share!
I don’t have the color or the taste synesthesia, but when I listen to music or play it, I get faint image vibrations. They aren’t rhythms, really, but sort of an oscilloscope-like overlay in front of my eyes that predicts the future path of the music before it gets there. If I close my eyes, I see the patterns better. It took me a long while to figure out the readout was not in real time, I had just assumed it was, but once I learned to control my viewing, and I was listening to a song I knew well, I saw how the patterns did not match the current playing, but what was to play about 5-10 seconds later.
Metaphoric synesthesia has now become a large part of my waking life — in some ways I think we can teach and share these synesthesia if others are open to the process. I have an uncle who taught me how to see, and read, auras when I was younger. That is an excellent defense mechanism and fine predictor of friends — but to speak about it is to be met with curious glances and suspicion. They still burn Warlocks, don’t they? SMILE!
Love your dreamscape. It is important to be secure in these explorations, and I think our escape hatch to safety is to not be caught in Möbius strip dreaming — we can stop and return at any time.
I remember us discussing auras here before – that is another skill I seem to have fine tuned over time and one I rely on a lot.
I actually know an emplyment specialist who uses her ability to see peoples auras to match her applicants with prospective employers . She is incredibly sucessful.
I love hearing about where other people go in their minds when they are alone – it is good to know that some people go to similar places to me at times.
Do you remember where we discussed the auras? I just did a search on “reading auras” and came upon this piece:
No comments, though. It’s on older review.
I think a lot of people use forms of these synesthetic techniques to relate and interpret the real world — but they are not aware of what they’re doing or how they’re doing it — but they recognize the results.
I believe a lot of this “God Speak” is synesthesia in action. Close your eyes and concentrate — as if praying — and what do you see? God? Or musical oscillations that lead you into deeper understanding? Sure, some people will say you ARE communing with God and not fractured senses, but I prefer the scientific provable over the qualifying emotion.
I think a lot of people are afraid to be alone with their minds. It’s a scary place to explore if you aren’t confident you can deal with what you discover. So we distract and repress. We watch TV. We SMS and Tweet. We drink and do drugs. All to avoid our natural abnormal.
After hunting comments for aura –
I have to say I was taught to be alone with and explore my own mind – It is one of the best gifts I was ever given.
I usually have a color associated with a certain song, and I also visualize shapes to go with the different sounds happening in a song.
If the song is played in a different key, does the color change?
It’s really hard to explain, I guess, because I’m the only one that can see it. I visualize different textures for different guitar tones, drums bring up shapes, as does a lot of electronic music. Sometimes a song has an overall “color” to it, others are made up of individual colors that go with each sound, if that makes sense?
Ha, now that I just read that back I realize I sound like an insane person.
Not insane at all! SMILE! You are touched with a gift and an ability that about 4% experience. Synesthesia tends to be genetic and runs in families. It has been tracked down to the DNA level. Are there others in your family who share a similar talent?
Yes, I get it. Very neat. Have you ever tried to draw what you see or create some sort of visualization of your synethesia so others could be included in what you’re experiencing?
I guess I’ve never asked anyone in my family if they experience it. And yes, I’ve tried to draw it out on paper before, but it’s never come out looking the same.
You should ask around your family. Any “crazy uncles” the rest of the family doesn’t understand? SMILE!
I wonder if there would be some way to transition what you see and feel and hear into a video experience? There has to be some way to quantify your experiences that the rest of the world can discover and appreciate!
Or Performance Art of some kind. It doesn’t have to be an exact replica, just the same sort of translation of one experience into the other.
I do that too. Sometimes if I am really in to a song, I can see multiple colors or ever a full on picture. I love the powerful wonders of music.
Sounds like an interesting experience.
I have heard of this before, that people can see color when they hear music. I never really understood it, and not sure I do now. Nor did I realize there were the other forms of synthesia It is fascinating and also seems like it could be scary – as you explain about the piercing light. It has taken me a few reads to digest this post. You have given me something to investigate further as it sounds very interesting.
At first i thought I understood, as when i hear music I get a feeling I can’t really explain and I see textures, but perhaps not on the level that you write about here.
Thank you for writing this most interesting post!
Thanks for the great comment! I appreciate your wondering. You should find a way to ask family and friends about this — directing them to this article might be a good opening. Many who have synesthesia are quiet to talk about it because so many others around them do not understand the gift. Instead of being celebrated, they are mocked and marked as “weird” or “stupid” in childhood.
They way to explore synesthesia is to let it happen and start the playing from there. What is one talent can translate into another gift. Sometimes writing helps. Other times drawing. You could make a sculpture or something to find out precisely what’s happening. Some people just wave their hands in showing how thing move and change. It’s a neat thing to explore if others around you are willing to watch and listen, but it’s also best to just do it for yourself and your own take on the world.
Starting a new thread, Nicola…
Wow! Love that predestiny link!
Such a short article and a long tail discussion!
It went so many ways as well – I am loving the fact there is now science to back up what might have once been called magic or madness. I cannot wait to see what other “experiences” are going to get a scientific explanation in the future.
Yes, it was expressive and dynamic and had a life of its own! Love it when that happens.
I, too, am thrilled with the scientific quantifications.
I read something today that said, in the future, everyone will have to be synesthetic in order to survive because what we are now is “not enough” to thrive in light of what’s in store for us.
Would love to read that too – source- ?? – ……….. think this is going to be on my exploration list for this year.
I would tend to agree with that ………….. more and more people are dissatisfied with the world, with reality, with themselves . People are trying find ways to literaly expand their consiousness/reality/understanding – they are seeking ways of keeping up/keeping ahead . The mundane is NOT working any more.
Synesthesia exploration is part of our human evolution.
Thank you – nice possible tie in to indigo children and also to my experiences with “brilliant/highly intelligent people” who are on the autistic/aspergers/dyslexic spectrum. More reading to add to the list.
my understanding of indigo children is a little different to that – going to have to and hunt my sources down – it could be me applying a wrong label – or that my label has been commercialised !
Sadly savants have always been paraded by those that should know better and of course are very easy to take advantage of as they literaly do not know better.
My aunt used to teach autistic children, through her dedication and endless patience she managed to find a way for them to relate to the outside world. Music is one of the more common ways – I wonder how autistic children realte to music – do they see it in colour, in patterns?
I was lucky enough to spend some time with her and her “kindergarden class”. This class was not determined so much by age but by how much they could relate to people and the world around them.
There was one little girl – unusual in itself as boys with autism outnumber the girls by about 4 to 1 – she was a frail little thing and older than the others in the class because basically her key had not been found.
We took them on a day trip out to a local childrens farm – and I had the priviledge of seeing this little girl come alive ……………… her key was horses galloping around a field. Watching her transform into a horse and run around “being a horse” was one of the most amazing things I have seen – all of a sudden she was free.
I just took a zentangle class today. i’m not sure, but I think someone with this synthesesia might be great at zentangle. The woman teaching the class was a wonderful artist who has been doing zentangle for about 50 years. She said she sees patterns in everything and everywhere. This could be a good outlet for someone to document what it is they see during these “episodes” – though I’m not sure that is a good term for it.
Just a thought. SMILE
I think you found your first article for us: Zentangle! SMILE! It sounds like a wonderful and inspirational way to form a new worldview.
YOUR REPLY IS MAKING ME TASTE RED!
Starting a new thread… SMILE!
Wow! What a story about the key and the horses. That’s a whole article you wrote in your comment! You should formalize it a bit and we’ll publish it!
In the USA, “Indigo Children” were a fad that quickly died because the children being pushed on us as “Indigo” were really nothing special upon closer examination — and that crushed the kids. The parents used that self-adhering label to feel important. It really had nothing to do with the kids at all.
Enjoying reading through all the links in these replays. A lot to think about – wish I had more time. Let me say quickly about the Inigo Children theory – sounds like a perfect way to raise a little sociopath. I noticed when I was subbing at an elementary school a few years ago, there was a real trend of parents making claim to how special their kid was. Seemed every kid was either “gifted” or “challenged” in either case those kids all needed special understanding or accommodations. No one wants to admit their kids are average. Too bad we can’t see that average is not a bad thing, a child can be average in many areas and still live a very successful, rich life.
Whoo! Right on! You certainly belong here!
Im definitely looking forward to following those links later. I just wanted to add, I will be the first to admit both my kids are wonderfully average with the intelligence and abilities to excel and with their own talents that make them a real pleasure to be around. It was always such a great compliment to me to have a teacher, parent, babysitter tell me how polite my kids are. Manners and people skills can get you pretty far in life.
Now – I really gotta go. SMILE
I love that you said “average” and not “normal.”
Enjoy your day!
David! Love this. If anyone said to me “can you fathom that Stevie Wonder sees colors in music?” I’d say “well yes, having heard his music…” It’s quite evident! This is the kind of article of yours that I rediscover once a year and fall in love with all over again. So very thoughtful, and a joy to read! Love your word combinations.
Thanks, Gordon! It was a challenge to write. I thought about making two articles: Synesthesia and Myoclonus. Then, I realized, I had to push them together into one to explain the whole metaphor thing.
This is a great topic to explore. I can tell you chose every word carefully to describe the oddities of our senses. This was so interesting to read– it had a dreamlike quality even in its most analytic spots.
Thanks for the comment, Emily! It was a challenge to put it all into words.