While I’m blind, so visual value of things around me isn’t always of great importance to me, I still consider myself an aesthete.
A language aesthete. It particularly applies to my mother language, but also in all the other languages I know it is important to me to write and speak possibly aesthetically – which doesn’t always mean very seriously, politely or flamboyantly, but above all just so that it is nice to read or listen and doesn’t make other innocent individuals cringe too much. I also like when other people speak or write aesthetically, and when someone messes up with spelling a lot or uses words like they don’t know what they mean, it often drives me crazy, or close to it.
I am a total language geek and besides being an aesthete as long as I can remember, I am also a synaesthete.
Since my very early childhood, I’ve had some weird connections in my brain between sounds/words and touch, or taste, or something else sometimes. For many years I was convinced that this is just how our brains work, not just my own quirk, and that everyone perceives things the same way as me. That led to many weird, and often funny nowadays, misunderstandings, for example when I tried to describe things to people.
It was not until I was like 6 that I started to see others don’t necessarily think in shapes, textures and tastes and other things like this.
Many years after I got to this conclusion I realised it has to be some form of synaesthesia, although as far as I know this form isn’t very common, that your brain transfers sound stimuli into touch related associations. I know only one person who has it similar to me in some way, and he is also blind, so I guess it has to do with my blindness, and maybe also a little that I still am somewhere on the autism spectrum apparently.
If you don’t know or don’t understand how synaesthesia works, it’s like there is a correlation between two (or more) of your senses. Most people of those who have synaesthesia seem to have auditory-visual corelations, for example they hear a sound, and see it in colour, or see numbers in colours, or even people may have their own colours apparently, or words, or colours may have particular textures/temperatures for them, etc. etc.
For me it is so that if I hear or think about a word, at the same time I sort of feel what I associate with this word. It’s not like a delusion, I know I don’t feel it, I’d rather say it’s like when you hear a song in your head. You know it isn’t playing, but you still hear it in your head.
For me it’s not only words that I associate with shapes/objects/textures/tastes, but also many separate sounds, like sounds of particular instruments, people’s voices etc. And these aren’t always sound to touch or sound to taste associations. Sometimes it’s much more complex and not always on just sensual level. Sometimes, hearing a particular word or phrase makes me feel in a very particular way, or I may even sometimes associate words or phrases with whole scenes or lots of different, unrelated things, etc. Some words I associate with objects that I can’t recall ever seeing, so I guess they have to be made up by my brain or something. I associate many words with edible things, which is quite fun, or with things that have to do with nature. I often can associate many words that aren’t objectively similar to each other with the same thing.
it’s very complicated.
I think it’s also synaesthesia that helps me understand the colours in some way, anyway I don’t know what else it could be. I am blind since birth so have no practical idea about colours, but I’ve always had some imaginary idea about colours, and even many distinct shades. It’s often very hard for me to describe them, it’s hard to put it into adequate words, but when I was in integration school years ago, I learned that my understanding of colours isn’t that far from how they really are as I could think. My classmates were doing something with one of Picasso’s paintings during art class, and since I of course wasn’t able to do the same, the teacher asked me questions about all the colours, just out of curiosity, like very speciffic questions about colours – whether they’re calm or vivid, dark or bright, warm or cold, etc. And both her and me were incredibly surprised when I said all of them right. 😀 Of course I’d already got some basic understanding of colours, like that the sun is yellow or the sky is blue, but no one had taught me about how to actually define colours nor described them for me since it’s rather impossible.
I don’t know any other person who would be congenitally blind and have it like that, people usually don’t care about colours, or have to learn about them from others, like have to memorise what colours fit together when they choose their clothes, but I am lucky and I just somehow get it, despite that I see literally nothing (and no, it isn’t black! It’s just nothing). It’s just so so weird, but I like it. It often helps me with writing for example short stories, and describing people, one of my blind friends told me that “Wow! you write as if you were sighted!” hahaha whatever that means, I guess it was just it, that I can create people and nature that looks naturally and is colourful, some blind people tend to understandably forget about visual details or sometimes make them feel not matched or not very precise.
And yet another thing that my synaesthesia helps me with are languages. So many language learning experts and teachers say it’s good if you associate every word you learn with something. I don’t have to think about the associations. They just come to me on their own. That makes things easier to remember, I guess. And more fun, and interesting. And if you have it like this it’s just normal and obvious that you’re fascinated with words. Some of my associations may be scary or something, but most of them are very positive, creative and quirky. If I’m learning a language that is a bit out there for me (like Welsh was for quite a while, despite my love for it), forming associations may take some time, you need to listen to the language a lot and immerse in it, familiarise your brain with it, and then it comes naturally. Though there still are words – even in Polish – that I don’t have clear associations with, sometimes the shapes I see in relation to them are sort of blurred, or hard to describe, or like a few unrelated things strangely and not very harmoniously stucked together. It is not a perfect strategy for learning a language, because as I said there are many words that I associate with the same things, and I may confuse them. Normal people may confuse words that are similar in sound or meaning or something and it happens to me too, but usually I confuse words because I associate them with the same/similar things and then my statements can seem a bit enigmatic for an uninitiated person, if the words aren’t objectively too similar. 😀 I’ve had lots of awkward situations in Swedish like that, and my poor teacher couldn’t figure out what I am talking about sometimes. 😀
I’m thinking about what example to give you to show you how my synaesthesia works. OK< let it be my Mum.
My Mum’s voice sounds like a piano to me. She has a rather dark voice, and when she speaks quieter/lower it reminds me of black, melted chocolate, the shade of her voice then is just similar, it just feels similar to black chocolate and I guess it is my dominant association with her as a whole. Also when I hear my Mum’s voice I feel as if I was touching the black keys of a piano. The word Mum – in all the languages I know so far, makes me think about a little plastic hat that my favourite and oly doll that I ever played with – named Eliza – had when I was a kid. 😀 That’s very weird. The word Mum as it is written in English, I associate with a little baby sleeping soundly with a dummy, and this characteristic smell of a sleeping baby. The same smell always surrounds Misha when he sleeps or is freshly awake. My Mum’s name is Anna, and the name Anna I associate with a horse – its hair, the sound of a horse galloping, the smell of horses, etc. As I mentioned in a few of my previous posts I also have other types of special associations with names, and looking this way Anna is a pure essence of femininity to me, but I won’t go into details about how I imagine a typical ANna – her appearance, personality etc. that would be way too long, I might write name characteristics some time in the future on my blog maybe. Other things I associate with my Mum are the colour black and the sound of the French language, but these aren’t only about synaesthesia, because my Mum loves black, and was learning French at school, though she doesn’t speak it now.
any other synaesthetes of any kind out there? How does your synaesthesia manifest? 🙂
Or maybe anyone would like to know what things I associate with something? Some people seem to find it quite entertaining for some reason. 😀 Feel free to ask if you’re curious about anything, be it any word/sound or any questions you have as for this thing in general, I know it’s pretty rare and I realise how weird it is, so I’m open to your questions if you have any. 😀