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Synesthesia - Can you see time?


Synesthesia is a synthesis of the senses.
(Photo courtesy of Crystal Jensen)

Can you see time? Do you see your schedule in your mind? Do you have a visual time-line within your mind, where you can schedule events and meetings and access it whenever you need it? The ability to experience a visualization of time is an example of a 'synesthesia', a condition where you experience something with one of your senses and another sense is activated. It is a synthesis of the senses; synesthesia comes from the Greek syn (meaning union or joining) and aesthesis (sensation).

Synesthesia can come in a variety of forms, such as visualizing time and schedules, seeing colors with numbers or the alphabet, associating numbers with personalities, or looking at a food and experiencing the taste of it. The synesthesia could be based on a past experience, such as the food example. Some synesthesia experiences are commonly experienced by everyone. Have you ever heard someone talking about a food and your mouth starts to water as you get a happy feeling stirring inside of you? Or have you looked at your list of things that need to get done and get a feeling of frustration? These are tightly connected sensory experiences that are experienced together.

Synesthesia is a synthesis of two or more of the senses.

Synesthesia occurs when two areas of the brain are activated through a multitude of extra connections between the two areas. Therefore when one of the areas is activated, it also activates the other area. Although it is not fully understood why or how some people are synesthetes, we do know that we can condition ourselves to it. How we represent our world within our mind will affect how we feel, act, say, and do. So if looking at our list of things to do gives us a negative feeling of frustration, and when we are frustrated we tend towards doing nothing about it, then we may end up in a stuck state where we do not work on our list. If we can change our feeling associated with looking at our list to something motivational, it will affect us in to action to complete the items on the list.

Changing our synesthesia experience is also useful in our strategies that we rely on, such as our learning strategy. Adding additional sensory experience to the learning process can make things easier to remember. Although we all have a primary sense that we use for learning (such as visual for reading about it, going to a lecture to hear about it), by combining the other senses into the learning experience and training our mind to make use of the additional inputs we can excel.

Richard E. Cytowic. Synesthesia: Phenomenology And Neuropsychology
A Review of Current Knowledge. PSYCHE, 2(10), July 1995.

Victoria Gill. Can you see time? BBC News. Sept 11, 2009.

Learn more about NLP:  What is NLP?