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What It’s Like to See the World in Colors

For many years, I was under the assumption that everyone saw the world like I do: colorful.

People? They are colors.

Numbers? They are colors.

Music notes? They are colors.

Emotions? They are colors.

Little did I know that most people heard a different sound when a note was played. When someone saw a number, they saw a number. Some people struggled with putting colors together, and emotions were just feelings and not colors.

I cannot imagine how dull the world looks to others.

I mean, the number two to me is yellow and green. I always thought it was due to a book I read when I was younger where the numbers were different colors. I picked up on that.

Apparently, it’s called synaesthesia. It’s where your sensory and cognitive brain triggers another sensory. A bit cross-wired.

Typically, you should hear the notes, which would be the “norm” — but listening to music is a colorful explosion. Think a fireworks display with swirls and whooshes of different colors.

Seeing that person who makes your heart flutter? An explosion of color.

Listening to a live band you adore? Sparkles of colorful glitter.

Working out a mathematical problem? At first it’s a little confusing being told the answer is, let’s say six — but your seeing pink. However, think of it as a color-coded system.

Synaesthesia can come in different forms: sound, sight, taste, touch and smell. It does not mean you are “crazy” or there is something “wrong” with you. I thought that at first. It just means you associate things in color and see the world a little differently. (It makes my art work so much easier, and once I tune into the colors, my music and poetry come so much easier.)

Explaining my synaesthesia is hard. Sometimes I can’t explain it; there are no words. That’s because my sensory system isn’t forming a description and is instead showing me what I am feeling or seeing in color.

The Marks & Spencer advertisement with the seductive language that makes you taste the words is the closest I can get to explaining synaesthesia. Words crossing over into taste. Or Disney’s “Fantasia”, which translates music into colors and patterns.

There are so many creatives out there who have the same way of thinking. After looking into it, I do not feel so alone or “odd.”

I see it as somewhat of a superpower — an enhanced sensory system! A little bit like my sensations process sort of differently. It doesn’t mean I can’t process emotions, enjoy music or I struggle with numbers. I just have to adapt to the way I look at things.

Getty Images: Liia Galimzianova

Originally published: September 9, 2019
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