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Synesthesia and an Interior World of Color

Synesthesia and an Interior World of Color


Synesthesia is a brain “disorder” which fills my world with color. 


 The reason I cannot pick a color I love best is because for me the whole world is a riot of color and no one color ever stands out as my favorite. But combinations of colors, especially those that blend and gently or dramatically embrace one another, are my favorites. But there are a lot of them. For example, salmon and a certain green sends me into this soft but exciting place. And then there is a green falling into a mild orange and then sucked into a magenta. Oh my, that sends me somewhere nice.

 Synesthesia is a “perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an involuntary experience in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. No one knows exactly why it happens. Four percent of people have some form of it so there is a chance someone reading this blog might also have it. And maybe you did not know what that was. Maybe you, like I once did, thought everyone’s head was jammed with color. Turns out I have it but did not find out until a couple of decades ago.

It was twenty years ago and I was reading Scientific American magazine in the bathtub. My jaw dropped into the water when I started reading this article about Synesthesia. I thought everyone’s brain worked like that. Turns out not so much. There was a great story of a man whose sense of taste and touch were connected. He would say: “that chicken is just not spiky enough.” A bunch of other stories, many that looked like my life, sucked me in.

What is this strange thing? Quite simply, a Synesthesian’s senses are kind of mixed up together. So the guy with the chicken had his sense of taste and touch all mixed up. I can on some level understand what he meant when he said the chicken was not spiky enough. I have heard sounds that were not salmon and green enough. I have smelled blue and orange. I have touched yellow.

I have the most common version of Synethesia where my vision is connected to every other sense. When I hear music, I see colors. When I feel sad or happy, I see colors. When I am touched, I see colors. A scent can turn my brain into a rainbow.  In addition I have this other form of it where I see patterns (always the same) in ideas like the months of the year, the days of the week, the seasons, numbers. For example, the months of the year always form the same pattern as do the days of the week and the days of a month. Numbers have this irregular trajectory that I really cannot explain. And they are not linear and quite frankly sometimes they don’t even make sense to me. I also have the version where letters and numbers and words all have a certain color. My name, Claudia, is white.  But “C” alone is white and “l” is blue and “A” is red and “U” is slate and “D” is orange and “I” is blue and “A” is red. Numbers also come in colors in addition to some pretty complicated patterns.

And this is why I paint silk and dye fibers. And this is why for me it is like one of those annoying people who can instantly learn a thousand languages in a day. I can absorb color information quickly and  easily so that the act of, for example, of painting silk is just stealing those colors combinations from my head that in the past have been associated with certain feelings, sounds, touches, tastes, smells. I know these colors work together because they were created by my other senses. 




Each of the above Bobbins makes me feel a certain way whether that be excited or calm or angry or delighted.  


I have a head full of color all of the time. For some people, this “disorder” is not a gift. For some it is a disability. For me it is one of my greatest gifts because it brings me joy and creativity. I don’t imagine painting silk or dyeing yarn would be as fun without the biggest box of colored crayons in my head.

Four percent of humans have Synethesia. Hmmmm, might you have this disorder as well? I hope so.  Are you finding out just now why your brain works that way? Turns out, surprise surprise, a lot of artists of all types have Synethesia so you are in good company!

Do the color combinations above make you feel certain things?