Links between Synaesthesia and …..

synaesthesia notes
Blurry pic

I was writing some notes (blurry pic above) about the links between synaesthesia and empathy then looking for a picture for this blog post. Then I soon came across this article about the links between synaesthesia and poly-rhythms. That page includes a video of a TED-type talk on the subject (the talk is mind blowing!).

I did first see the idea suggested in an article in the Independent newspaper (UK) that featured an interview with Kevin Shields from the band, My Bloody Valentine, talking abut his synaesthesia. Many years ago, I realised that when I experience/enjoy music that I see a visual representation of it subconsciously. But I think I always knew it but never questioned it.

Since then I have kept an eye out for articles and info on the subject. The Independent article above also described how one person was able to use the subconscious visualizations to see a model of that person’s psyche (something like that anyway). This is all sounding quite weird and kooky when I type this but that’s not a problem to me as this is more real to me than most other things.

This would probably be classed as quite an autistic thing. I have often seen reference to links between synaesthesia and autism. (Ref example)

So, it blew me away when I realized that I also use synaesthesia to empathize with a person – I understand and model their “inner being” from this abstract image that is floating in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s evolved to balance out the missing neurotypical empathy function. Or maybe it’s pushed closer to consciousness because of the missing typical functionality related to empathy.

When I say empathy, I’m thinking of an emotional-type empathy – where I can get to understand that person in an emotional/intuitive way.

NOTE: The blurry notes pic above shows a rough representation of how the synaesthesia manifests when I enjoy music plus a rough sketch of how it appears when I am connecting to a person.

UPDATE: Brilliant! Another 5 seconds googling and I’ve finally found a reference to the type of synaesthesia that I have – “much of their repertoire is an exploration of the timbre-to-shape synesthesia that causes Jarvis to involuntarily perceive all sounds as floating abstract visual forms.” This is describing the music of the band Flowers of Hell on Google Play. Read all about them on Rate Your Music and their Wikipedia page and check them out on Soundcloud.

Autism | Emotions | Duality | Reddit (draft)


Close up of woman's eye
This is a PNG rendered from a SVG vector file from the Open Clipart website –

Autism – two states – up/down – happy/sad – joyful/depressed. I used to feel that it was due to some kind of bipolar disorder. But it seems that I’m learning that autism can cause this “fault line”. So rather than have many emotional states with lots of shades between hyper and hypo there seems to be just two states – up and down. Or happy and sad. No subtle levels of emotion in between. Or so it seems anyway.

There may be a third level – neutral/level/ambient. Maybe it’s just the emotions that vary from the neutral state that are extreme or polarised.

Update: after discussing this concept with someone I need to include the idea that subtler emotional states are all there but are not seen externally. These other shades exist internally but might not be outwardly expressed. It seems with autism that the “Theory of Mind” idea causes a flipside problem – we feel that others can see our emotional and mental states; we feel exposed so we try to hide our inner selves and squish those delicate emotions.

And even that can be seen as a Theory of Mind problem – because, if you think about it, that can be seen as another failing in the ability to intuit another person’s thoughts. In short, poor understanding of another person means we think that they have a great understanding of us. What a mess!

Autism subreddits:




Autism | Pain | Article

Autism and pain
This image is a representation of how one child described the feeling he had when someone was singing near him.

I tend to find that American articles online are much longer than the typical effort you might see in the UK. I might be wrong but that’s my impression anyways..

This article is about the links between autism and pain – there is a lot of familiar stuff in here. If you or someone you know has autism then I can pretty much (almost definitely probably) guarantee you will already be familiar with a lot of the points raised in the article.