Imagine that when you see Dubai’s skyline, you taste strawberries.
Or when you hear some qawwalis, you see smoke that changes from purple to red to blue continuously. Perhaps, you are convinced that Wednesdays are a deep orange. So is October. And the number 8. And your seventh-grade science teacher. Actually, she fluctuated from green to orange – depending on her mood.
If any of that made sense to you, you are amongst the 4% of the world’s population that has a condition called synesthesia.
Synesthesia is this neurological phenomenon in which one sense (for example, hearing) is perceived as if by one or more additional senses (such as sight).
The word is kind of the opposite of anesthesia (having no sensation). There are many kinds of synesthesia and having one type – such as colored hearing – gives you a 50% chance of having a second, third, or fourth type. For me personally, the strongest has always been about colors.
I basically completely think in colors.
Numbers have color, letters have colors, sounds have colors, and even emotions have colors.
Colors have emotions too. Green is calm. Blue is usually toxic or overwhelming. Silver is spiritual. Purple is shy. And though I don’t find the actual color aesthetically pleasing, I tend to wear a golden anklet all the time because faith is golden and I like to be held down by it whenever possible.
Also, and I mean this in the least hippie way possible, but people have colored auras too.
For example, my best friend is purple, my mom is a pale light green, Mahira Khan is turquoise (it is very similar to the color of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the book, not the movie)… I can go on.
Coldplay’s Yellow is, frustratingly, a sparkly pink.
Exhausted yet? I know I am.
But I can also, at times, smell certain lights, hear smells, and associate places with a combination of smells and other sensations. Karachi, for example, tastes like ridiculously cold beer. Which is extremely confusing because I don’t drink so I have no idea why my brain decided that…
And my mind has been like that since forever – I didn’t even know this was different until I read about this being a rare condition online.
It was a very “wait what doesn’t EVERYBODY think like that?” moment in my life. I just thought the constant confusion between reality and what my brain sees was normal. Guess not.
But it is not really a disorder. Experts call it a trait – like having cloned hair or brown eyes.
Just is what it is. But it turns out, most synesthetes make really good artists – Vincent Van Gogh had synesthesia. Lorde does. So do Kanye West and Pharell Williams.
Well, now I have been reading up more about it so I can get a better understanding of my mind and the most interesting I have come across so far is that I might not be so different after all… and that everyone has a little bit of synesthesia in them.
For instance, did you ever use a specific color notebook for a subject in school because it made more sense? That is a small type of synesthesia that a LOT of people experienced growing up.
Here is another test – let’s say that there are two nameless shapes in front of you.
One is a lightning bolt, one is a blob. You must name one of them Kiki, and one of them Bouba. Which one is Kiki, and which one is Bouba?
If you are like 95% of people, you would name the lighting bolt Kiki, and the blob Bouba.
This is because our brain is trying to associate things that sound soft and rounded or spiky and vibrant with a physical appearance that matches. Sight, sound, and movement map to one another very closely in the mind (synesthesia or not).
So, basically, confusion in the brain is the rule – not the exception.
I think that is pretty cool. If not for nothing, it is one way of seeing how it is possible for two people to see two different things and neither of them is wrong about it. Makes you more accepting of things you don’t understand.
Did you know about synesthesia? Know anyone who has it? Let us know in the comments below! And for similar interesting stories, follow Wajood on Facebook
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Cover image: telegraph.co.uk