When Life Is Colored By a Point of View



I’ve had an interesting day. My synesthesia has been giving me troubles.

It’s not the sort of thing an aspirin will cure. Synesthesia—specifically, in my case, grapheme → color synesthesia—is a neurological phenomenon that causes people to see letters and numbers in different colors.

It’s not a “vision thing”–when I look at a page, my eyes see letters as they are. But somewhere on the way to my brain, the characters get a dye job. In general, this doesn’t interfere with my daily life. It’s fairly pleasant to have a rainbow tossing around in one’s brain, and it can work as a memory device. For example, if I want to remember a street name on the fly, I take note of its “color,” to help me recall it later.

(No, she’s not crazy. Stay with me for a minute here.)

Today, the more perverse side of synesthesia reared its head. I needed to find a certain website, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember its name. I knew that the site had a red color scheme; and without realizing it, I was trying to remember “red words” for the title. Finally, a desperate Google keyword search revealed the address I needed.

I would never have remembered it.



What’s so hard to remember about “Helium,” you ask? Well, this is how it looks in my brain:

Much as I stare at that logo, I can’t make it sink into my brain. I’ve been doing it all day, and I’m willing to bet I’ll still have a hard time remembering it tomorrow. (Thankfully, the gold version is now imprinted on my gray matter.)

I “see” certain colors assigned to letters. They’re always the same, and they often blend slightly when put together in words.

I’m finding that this color synesthesia isn’t relegated to letters and numbers alone, but also to everything associated with the characters.

The website of a friend of mine has a color scheme that’s mostly dark blue. But no matter how many times I visited, I always remembered it as purple. I think my brain just presumed it was purple, because that’s the dominant color I see when I look at her name. Another friend uses shades of rose in her sites; but that originally shocked me, because I see her name as light green!

I was always aware of this odd mental trick, but I never expected it to cause difficulties for me. Yet here I am, mixing up graphic design work and getting lost on the internet—all because of the way I look at things.

So what does the world look like through your eyes?

Whether we’re dealing with wonky color associations, or holding to a certain point of view, each of us looks at life in a different way. Sometimes our perspective enables us to contribute value to a situation; but there will be other times when what we see is not, in fact, what is really there.

In cases like that, we might find ourselves having trouble communicating, losing our way—even getting hurt, or hurting others.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from synesthesia, it’s that it can be a real challenge to change a point of view. Sometimes the brain doesn’t want to accept what’s right in front of it. But whether it’s in my reading or my everyday life, I’m eventually a lot happier if I make an effort to see things as they really are…not as I perceive them to be.


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© 2008 Christine Taylor

No Responses to “When Life Is Colored By a Point of View”

  1. Hi Christine :) Interesting post. Guess what? I have a form of synesthesia as well since whenever I read a book/magazine I always see a word that isn’t there and my brain seems to substitute another word for the original word instead. I have been wondering about this for quite some time and now I believe this must be synesthesia at work! - wow.

    I went to your friends’ websites to check them out and I’ve bookmarked both of them so I can return. I’m also a StumbleUpon addict and was considering joining Second Life and your friend Jillian is an AMAZING artist!!!!!

    See you around on Twitter or elsewhere in the Blogosphere. :)

  2. Thank you, Marilyn! :-)

  3. This kind of stuff fascinates me.

    So I’m curious… what color is “Eirewolf”? :-)

  4. Shades of blue, white, and brown. ;-)

  5. It was a wonderful post

  6. Thank you!

  7. This is fascinating, really! What happens when you view Eastern characters, such as on this page I use for my kanji studies? Or does it only ‘work’ on words you understand?

  8. What’s weird is that I have the same effect with any characters, even if I don’t understand them–like with the Kanji or Arabic, etc. It’s lessened–if I see them in a string, more of them look normal–but some go all colorful. :-)

  9. I posted a few things at Helium once. Nothing happened. Maybe I didn’t know what I was doing on there. As far as colors go, I do have a slight colorblindedness when it comes to darker colors (navy blue, black, dark purple, etc.). This is especially painful when it comes to picking out socks. Doesn’t make a good fashion statement.

    I found your blog on J.C. Hart’s blog. I’d love to exchange links sometime. I’m somewhat new to Wordpress and would appreciate any feedback and blog friends.

  10. Thank you! Your blog is great–I look forward to reading more posts! :-)

Your comments are welcome