Art by Melissa McCracken, Portrait of John Lennon’s “imagine” — Melissa has Chromesthesia
“Metaphor creates a kind of conceptual synesthesia, in which we understand one concept in the context of another.”
– James Geary
What is synesthesia? It sounds like a Disney princess but it is definitely far from it. Synesthesia is an idiopathic condition that affects the neurological system where the brain governs our senses and they become crossed or linked – and we don’t know why or how. Hearing-touch synesthesia is among the over 20 varieties of synesthetic tendencies exhibited by the synesthetes who make less than one percent of the world’s population. It is a very rare condition in which an individual develops tactile feelings or senses upon hearing certain sounds.
Less than twenty years ago, a new scientific term blossomed into existence: misophonia. It literally means “hatred of sound” and was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds or related to repetitive sounds like breathing or pen-clicking. These sounds don’t just annoy, they cause outrage, which typically results in the person attacking verbally or physically. One study found that around 80% of the sounds were related to the mouth (eating, slurping, chewing or popping gum, whispering, etc.), and around 60% were repetitive actions (pen-clicking, foot-tapping, or heavy breathing, etc.)
I believe misophonia may be a type of patho-synesthesia and these two both need further investigation in order to develop relief for those who suffer and support for those use use their condition to an advantage. Consider the possibility of conditioning our senses so well they represented ‘psychic abilities’ found in classical Taoist scrolls. Qigong has legends of heightened abilities and synesthetic capacities used with Chinese Medicine diagnosis, treatment, and we all have the ability to use each sense for more than one purpose. Evolutionary and Developmental Biology speaks to our scientific baby-steps towards new biotechnology and human refinement. From dolphin and whale brains anatomically developing additional lobes (check that out here) and its potential that we too can evolve and change our anatomy on a cellular level and perceive the world with new eyes, feel our emotions poly-sentually.