To draw you must close your eyes and sing

Do you worry what your name tastes like?  >  This question was posed in the Tonic office and met with a blank stare. The consensus was that, of all the things worth worrying about, this did not register that highly!

For those with synaesthaesia the answer would be different. This neurological condition results in one sense being experienced by another. Thus a synesthetes may hear colour, taste a sensation or feel a shape.

The cause is unknown but many researchers regard this type of condition as a type of phobia,” says a Tonic therapist. “Synaesthesias are simultaneous overlaps, meaning that sense systems are fired off simultaneously. This could mean a ‘sufferer’ could see a colour and sense a number.

“But as to whether that person is truly suffering, or just experiencing a neurological quirk where senses get jumbled up, is an interesting question. Is tasting a name really something to get upset about? Maybe the condition is like name association, or just the product of overactive imagination.”

Scientists though believe synesthaesia is a genuine illness which causes real distress. They believe it is triggered by crossed wires in the brain – extra neural connections – with areas designed to process signals from one sense also being connected to another.

The most common example is colour-graphemic, where people associate words and numbers with colours. Another is lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, where a taste or smell is triggered by reading or hearing a word.

Quest for synaesthaesia cures

But let us not get lost in long words. The fact is that if this condition is a phobia, then it can easily be cured like all the others using Tonic’s style of hypnotherapy. The problem is that we have only met one person who claims to be a synaesthaesia sufferer – and she gave us short shrift.

Why would I want to get rid of it?” she asked. “It is a blessing. It makes me different, the centre of attention – can you think of a finer icebreaker when meeting people! They are either perplexed, think I’m crazy or are jealous of my an unusual ability. So stay away from me!”

There goes another client …

4 thoughts on “To draw you must close your eyes and sing

  1. Synesthetes fear ridicule for their unusual abilities. They can feel isolated and alone in their experiences. But if you ask me – and I am one – if I wished to be rid of it, I would certainly say ‘no’. For me it feels like a normal experience. To have that taken away would make me feel like I was being deprived of one of my senses.

  2. Clara T. Howard (Lincoln) says:

    It is well known that a single stimulus can trigger multiple sensations at once. This is because synaesthesia is caused by cross activation between two normally separate areas of the brain.
    A person with this illness – and yes, it IS an illness – has extra neural connections linking these separate areas. The stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary reaction in one or more of the other senses.

  3. The cause is indeed a mystery, but scientists do think it is an actual phenomenon with a real neurological basis. Some researchers now believe it may yield valuable clues to how the brain is organised and how perception works.

  4. Mike Gauterin says:

    The study of this illness has encouraged researchers to rethink their ideas about whether synesthesia is abnormal and an aberration. It is an interesting area of medical study.

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