Synaesthesia Magazine Seven Deadly Sins - Page 25

It’s like these stories I hear from the past about forcing left-handed children to write with their right hand. I like to think that schools are a little more accepting of children’s differences nowadays, and that they aim to encourage young people to grow to be their best, unique selves, which in turn will make the world an interesting and diverse place.

Being left-handed was, thankfully, an accepted thing by the time I went to school, but there were other differences that probably were unheard of. Having synaesthesia isn’t something you even know you have, let alone know whether it’s helping or getting in the way. If you think about it, you’d only know you were left-handed if someone else was right-handed. Synaesthesia is an introverted perception and completely invisible.

Autumnal multiplication

Assuming at the time it was the same for all children, I didn’t feel the need to mention that on doing my times tables, the fours were pictured in a medium blue colour and the sixes were Autumn orange. I didn’t even notice it was there because it was as much part of my experience as the chair I was sitting on. Maths, in particular, started off quite difficult for me. I’d ask people how they see the numbers when they’re working things out. Some would say they wouldn’t see anything and they’d ‘just work it out’. Even now I can’t fathom being able to think without some kind of image in my mind, which is probably more of a visual thinking style than synaesthesia. But then I’d out myself by asking: “How do you know what colour the numbers are then?” It would become obvious over time that this wasn’t a normal question.

I should probably be thankful for these embarrassing moments; it’s not always been an easy road but it continuously reminds me that when it comes to others, no-one is better, only different. If everyone reacted like my having synaesthesia was the best thing since Einstein, I’d probably be just like the overly proud people I’ve talked about: “You’re practically colourblind!” I could say. “How awful and inferior it must be to see things in such a boring black and white!”

Losing your superior and proud stance on life opens you up to learning lots of new things. Since I have learnt to keep my pride in check (most of the time!), it’s led me to question things I may have otherwise taken for granted. If I can have an experience that others aren’t, what experience are those people having that I’m not? Or instead of thinking I can see all these wonderful colours, I might ask myself:what is colour? Can humans perceive all the colours, or are there some we can’t see? Or as basic as talking about working out Maths at school where I wonder how people can work out all these numbers without any visual thinking whatsoever – it’s fascinating!

The Incredible Hulk

Thanks to the internet, I’ve now heard of lots of people with similar synaesthetic experiences to me, and some with sensations that sound unimaginable! But I remember how strange I seem to some people and this helps me try and be open-minded to those people who taste sounds, for example. For me, whole words are the most interesting. I could say that ‘seven’ was blue, ‘deadly’ was brown and ‘sins’ was yellow, even though if I broke it down into letters, ‘sin’ would be s=yellow, i=pale silver-blue and n=brown. On analysing the reasons, I noticed that, for me, the word as a whole usually takes on the colour of the first letter of the word (‘S’is yellow so dominates the word ‘sin’).

It’s worth making a note, here, that too little pride could also leave you feeling a little down on yourself. I’m sure once or twice I wasn’t as secure in my differences and I have to try and not let overly proud people get to me. If I spent my life thinking my synaesthesia made me a freak of nature, I’d only become envious of those other people that I’d assumed were ‘normal’ or ‘better’.

When I think of ‘envy’, I see the word in green, because like a lot of people in our culture, I have learnt to associate green with envy. I think it first came to me in drama lessons where we talked of green lighting to symbolise jealousy in a play we were making. I don’t remember thinking: ‘jealousy looks brown though?’ as I easily could have. So, now, I get a flash of green in my mind’s eye when I think of the word ‘envy’ like I’m the Incredible Hulk, rather than what my synaesthetic colour of the alphabet would have otherwise come up with! I think without the cultural association blocking the synaesthesia, envy would be mostly mother-of-pearl silver. I don’t know if this is the same for other grapheme-colour synaesthetes or that mine is weak enough to be pushed aside by strong associations.

Colour words are strange; yellow is yellow in my mind as the letter ‘Y’ is yellow, but when I think of the colour pink, the actual colour pink shows up in my mind. This has again blocked my synaesthesia as none of my synaesthetic colours are pink at all, and the word ‘pink’ would probably look blue, normally.

"People’s reactions never cease to amaze me when they’re confronted with someone different to themselves."

"if I broke it down into letters, ‘sin’ would be s=yellow, i=pale silver-blue and n=brown."