“I have a Secret…”
June 24, 2007
My secret is not particularly juicy (hey, some of my clients read this blog, and so do a few family members), but it is something I rarely tell people.
See, I am a synesthete. What’s that, you may ask? Technically, “Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two or more senses are coupled (Although referred to as a “neurological condition”, synesthesia is not listed in either the DSM-IV or the ICD classifications, since synesthesia does not, in general, interfere with normal daily functioning. Indeed most synesthetes report that their experiences are neutral, or even pleasant. Rather, like color blindness or perfect pitch, synesthesia is a difference in perceptual experience and is referred to as a neurological condition to reflect the brain basis of this perceptual difference” (taken from Wikipedia).
In layman’s terms, in my mind, numbers, letters, and words have specific colors assigned to them. I did not choose these colors, they do not change, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular rhyme or reason to the color scheme. It’s just always been that way. For example, eight is purple, L is fuschia, and the word “cat” is teal.
I didn’t know that other people didn’t quite see things the way I did until I learned of the existence of synesthesia in a writing class during my junior year of college – it came up because Vladimir Nabokov was a synesthete, and wrote about it extensively in his autobiography/ Like me, he was a grapheme-color synesthete, which is the most common kind (“individual letters of the alphabet and numbers are shaded or tinged with color”). In my mind, words have colors too – sometimes their colors are related to the letters within, sometimes it seems to be completely random.
Synesthesia is actually quite useful sometimes, especially when it comes to spelling words properly and other memory related things. An incorrectly spelled word will look off – it’s the wrong shade – until I fix it and it becomes the right color. Of course, if I’m typing or writing really quickly all bets are off. Generally, I think it’s a kind of cool ability to have, and besides, I’m in good company – here’s a list of relatively well-known people with synesthesia.