Synaesthesia

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It seems my extreme empathy may be down to a condition called Synaesthesia, and more specifically something called Mirror Touch Synaesthesia. Before I go into this in more detail I would like to talk a little more about Synaesthesia in general. Synaesthesia is a cross processing of the senses. Although it can affect neurotypicals, a great many people on the autism spectrum have it. Many great composers and artists, wine tasters and memory champions often have it and it gives them a unique talent not shared by everyone. It seems, as with autism, that there are a few different genes that could be responsible and it will often run in families. See link

In addition to the extreme empathy, my own Synaesthesia manifests itself in a couple of ways, I hear colours (which I also associate with words) and when I feel textures it has a strong emotional influence on me, see Tactile Emotion Synaesthesia.

I hear colours in music which does a lot to dictate my musical tastes. I love orchestral heavy metal as it has lots of warm vibrant colours, whereas Rn’B leaves me cold as it is full of insipid blues and greys. Words and letters bring up colours in my head, which helps my memory, especially for spelling. For instance, A is yellow, B is blue, C is red, D is orange, E is green etc. Words containing those letters may have associated colours, but do not always take the colour of the first letter. “Everybody” and “Everyday” are green, probably because of the dominance of the letter E, whereas “Day” is yellow because of the A and “Dog” is yellow and white, mainly because of the O and G sound. Monday is white, Tuesday is yellow, Wednesday is orange, Thursday is navy blue, Friday is black etc. I remember the day of a meeting or appointment by recalling the colour associated with it.

The Tactile Emotion Synaesthesia influences the clothes that I prefer to wear and means that I am very uncomfortable in certain clothes. This makes clothes shopping difficult and time-consuming and I can only do it when I am relaxed.

Mirror Touch Synaesthesia can be a blessing and a curse. In some respects I can imagine what a particular thing must feel like so it keeps me away from dangerous situations. It allows me to imagine what someone must feel like, allowing me to put myself in their shoes. This could be the basis of the Intense World Theory. This would be a fantastic advantage for an actor and it is possible that some of the most charismatic actors may indeed have this ability. But it also means that when someone hurts themselves I flinch, rather than speeding into action to help them. It paralyses me for a few seconds and I have to force the feeling out of my mind.

There are many kinds of Synaesthesia and researchers believe that many of us have it to a certain extent, but to some it governs their lives, in both positive and negative ways. I love having Synaesthesia, but it means that I can be very  inflexible, and also respond differently in traumatic or emotionally charged situations . One of the leading researchers in Synaesthesia is Simon Baron Cohen from the Autism Research Centre, Oxford, UK, the man behind the AQ test.

See also link

Post Script: since I wrote this I have also noticed that certain colours make me feel cold.

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