YOUR RESPONSES TO ITEM ON SYNESTHESIA
I am now 59 and have seen time in patterns since I was 7 or younger. I clearly remember the change from 1955 to 1956. One of my time images is a two year cycle forming a pointed elipse with Christmas Day at each end.The pattern lies flat with a southeast-northwest orientation. As a child I referred to the years as either 'up'or 'down. I can locate any event in my life on this pattern. Another time pattern is a week progressing anticlockwise round a semi-circle with Saturday and Sunday as the baseline.
I see numbers, historical periods, dates in life etc with quite elaborate landscapes and geography and have wondered about it all my life (I'm 70). I never knew it counted as synaesthesia. My daughter seems to have a different version based on the piano keyboard - she sees notes and letters of the alphabet as colours.
I see time in a very similar way to your description on the programme. When I tried to describe it to my husband he was unable to appreciate what I was saying. I could not see the year 2000 until it happened, and then everything slipped naturally into place. I thought I saw time this way because my life was seemingly so ordered, and worried what would happen when I retired. Having passed that milestone, I worried needlessly, its all there just the same!
Nice to know there's someone else out there who knows Mondays are red. I see colours for letters, numbers, days of the week and written musical notes (I'm a guitarist, and get coloured scale networks on the fretboard) - very useful.
Time is laid out in linear form in front of me, but, curiously, right to left, so my red Monday is on the right and light brown Sunday (you may not agree) on the left, with more weeks scrolling away on either side. Centuries are the same with prehistory to the right and the future to the left. Scrolling and zooming in and out are obviously necessary. I had no real millennium bug, except that that thousand year space looks frighteningly big! Centuries are also coloured according to the numbers they contain, so the nineteenth century is full of red and black industrial scenes, combining the colours of 9 and 8 (19th century, 1800s). It's a great aide memoire, though the down side is that I've just entered a black decade, which is quite depressing. Wednesdays are potentially depressing too, being dark blue, like February, so it's good to have "All in the Mind" back to liven them up.
I had never once linked my physical picture of time with it. I see the current year and all years past and those in the future as part of a large upward moving bedspring (sorry, that's the best way I can describe it). The spring curls in an anti-clockwise direction and at present I see myself and events as being at the front of the curl with last Christmas almost directly behind me and slightly lower down, while next Christmas is behind me but slightly higher up.
I had always assumed that this was perfectly normal and experienced by everyone until an incident in my first year of teaching. I spent a whole weekend preparing a large poster of the cycle of the year. Because of my conception of the year and the direction of movement I had shown the year moving in an anti-clockwise direction. At lunch time on the first day this was on the wall the Head asked me to take it down as I had the year back-to-front. (March was at 9 o'clock, June at 6 and September at 3).
How strange that people like me who see days, weeks, months and years in a visual way didn't have a plan for the future. I can see forward as well as back, I always had a view of the end of the century and now can see up to about 2050. After that it's a bit hazy, but I will no doubt be more than a bit hazy by then. The past is very organised - world wars and other 20th entury date are very clear. I have always seen numbers to 100 this way - 1-10 is out in the open, 11 - 20 under a thick wood that joins over the top. My times tables have the numbers going to 100 highlighted for the table I am thinking about. My daughter(29) associates sounds and letters with colours, so this has passed on to her. She used to play in an orchestra and assumed that everyone associated different passages of music with colours. My three sons have no idea what we are talking about when we mention this and so we presume they did't inherit it!
I was very interested to hear your piece on synaesthaesia since a girlfriend of mine connected words with colours. What's more interesting now is that I now see that I have it too, although I'd never realised. I have a mental image of time - well several in fact. If I think of centuries it's like I'm looking from the present day down towards the left and the centuries are arranged as blocks of 100 years each, one behind the other. 0 AD/BC is thus a fair distance away and it all goes out of focus and fragments. Dates after the present don't exist, and in fact the last 50 years or so is very blurred. If I think of a particular century it's arranged in decades, with 0-10 in a row at the bottom, 11-20 above this and so on. My birth year, 1963, is thus just over half way up and nearly half way in, since I view this from the 1/11/.../91 side near the top. If I look at a particular year I have two columns of 6 months each, viewed from somewhere down near May, but this image is odd in that July is not at the top of column 2, it's somewhere near June, and in fact August floats a bit as well. I think this is because there's some sort of summer connection between the months too. I see weeks as being a flattened oval, with Saturday and Sunday flat at the bottom and the rest curving around in an arc, with Monday on the left and Friday on the right, which makes counting dates very easy; I just look at my mental image and count while pointing.
Your programme has helped me understand something that has bothered me since I was a child. I usually see time as a line running past me on my left. The future is ahead and the past behind me, though I can see it quite easily if I turn my head. If I think in units of years and above, however, they are lined up to the side - longer ago is further to the left. As a child I found it very difficult to learn the meanings of "bringing forward" and "putting back" when applied to events. For me, an event brought forward would be one that moved into the future, while an event put back would be one heading towards the past. I still have to think about it when these phrases are used. Presumably the originator had a different vision of time?
Anne Welberry Smith
For as long as I can remember I have seen past time as years zigzaging backwards a bit like a cross section of an open concertina. I can quickly work out in what year events in my life happened by first remembering in which direction the zigzag was going that year.
Your article about synesthesia was revelatory for me as I thought that my mapping of the months and years in a linear form (for example the year is a rectangle with August and December being two sides and September October November being on the third side with the rest of the months squeezed on the fourth side)was just something I did!
Years are one long line from the 19th Century stretching back 14 billion years or so but which takes a sharp right angled turn at the 20th Century. I still don't know where the noughties go - they are in a straight line but don't have a set direction.
I have always seen each day of the week as a coloured square - Monday is pale pink, Tuesday marbled white & orange, Wed mauve, Thurs dark blue, Fri beigy-mustard: the weekends are slightly bigger squares Sat white with flecks of red, and Sunday a maroony colour. These squares are laid out domino fashion in a line of perspective stretching behind getting smaller, and forwards growing smaller into the future/distance. The current week is of course the largest. Months of the year are arranged similarly, with a colour for each month, as are decades and centuries. Numbers and names have colours too. My name Henrietta is blue, my husband's name, Dermot, is brown. My mother was very similar, though some of her days of the week were different colours to mine.
I see the year as a squashed oval - December and August are furthest apart- we are just on the curve into July/August - September is the start of the longer stretch to Christmas. I have assumed this picture is a corrupt version of how planets circle the sun - a bit odd that Christmas and August would then be furthest apart but it may have felt like that as a child!
I have a very convoluted ribbon of numbers / time / calendars in my head that I refer to naturally - it is not very logical but I have always had it and assume that it formed when I was a young child and it just stuck.
I couldn't describe in words how I see it but did spend some time last night drawing it out for the first time, and I realised that I see the days of the week from right to left which I didn't know before. So Tuesday is to the left of Monday (and a little bit lower). Another interesting thing about my ribbon like number line (which adapts for numbers, time or dates) is that I see it from the position of my age. I am now in my mid 40's so the numbers below 40 are behind me and the ones towards 50 are ahead. I do the same with the calendar - I see the months from the position of the month we are in. So now in June I can look over to the autumn (it's a circle but not evenly spaced out!).
I have two 'concepts'. The first is a table (tabulated data not four legged!) of years grouped in centuries. I always see it to my left but I can move about the grid with ease so as to change my view-point according to what year I am thinking about. Each century begins at the bottom and ends at the top. My visualisation of future dates (to my right, as it were) is hazy. The table is not just a black and white grid; historical facts get fitted onto it, and dates and periods (especially ones that I have studied in detail) get associated with their place on the grid. This made my history and legal degrees a bit easier!
The other visualisation occurs when I think of dates in the year. This takes the form of a circle of 'paving stones' representing the days of the year. The paving stones are not simply just days and numbers; they have an aura of seasonal associations - (such as the weather, christmas and other church customs, the academic year, and people on their birthdays etc. Like the annual date grids, the paving stones give me a viewpoint of the present, and when required, allow me to 'move about the year' and get an 'experience' of a different date. At any one time I can 'see' about 2 or 3 months ahead of me.
I see the years or history in groups of about 100 years; sometimes the direction changes if there is a significant historical event. The 20th century changes direction the most because I know the most about that period. As I learn about periods in history the map in my mind becomes more detailed. For example I did the Tudors a lot at school and this period is particularly clear. Interestingly I get very clear images that go with the period of time, I can still see very clearly a work sheet from year 5 with all of Henry VIII wives on!
I can see the coming years arranged again like 3D map but after about 2100 things become quite blurry.
I was very interested in tonight's programme.I have taken part in research. I am a colour grapheme synaesthete, and have tickertape synaesthesia. I see the present year above my right eye - the past tails off to the left, the future to the right. However I see the centuries in blocks built up in a tower. ie 1900-1910 on the top tier, 1910-1920 underneath and so on. Each period in history has it's own colour ie:- the romans are red the greeks green, the Elizabethan Era is midnight blue, and the tudors red!
I was interested to hear your piece on synaesthesia as I could relate to many of the ways of thinking. I see numbers and dates in a long corridor, with dividing doors at each decade/multiple of ten. However, I see months in a circle that is above the neighbourhood of my childhood home, the date of my birth being the month directly above my house. I visualise this circle from different viewpoints depending on the date.
I have never found anyone else who 'sees' time laid out in a physical 3-D form. I still count and do arithmetic on my imaginary scale at the age of 61. It seems to be as I pictured it as I first learnt it. Numbers 1 to 10 are close to me and much larger, 10 is a little marked before the teens head away to a sharp, rightangle bend at 20 (which, incidentally changes from red shades to yellow greens!). A spiralling line of numbers then heads off up and round to 100,which is marked by a less severe bend, and is white. 20,30,40,50 etc are a little stronger in colour and size than ordinary numbers. There is a French version where 70 and 90 are the same as ordinary numbers. Negative numbers go down and away from 0.
I had always thought that the term only applied to seeing things as colours, whereas my form of it involves seeing numbers dates etc represented in lines or circles. I must have learnt numbers from the clock face to start with as 1 to 12 goes in a circle but after that numbers trail off in a rather wobbly line to the right. Prehistory starts in the top lefthand corner comes down slightly to the right until the end of BC when it goes up diagonally to the right until 1200. Then it comes down to 1940 and then goes in a downward diagonal to the left to 2008 when it appears to be going up again. Days of the week and months go from right to left.
I see time as if sitting facing a wallpaper pasting table. I sit near to the right hand edge, turned slightly sideways so that I look across and also back down the table. The paper starts close to my right hand (the present) and stretches back to the left to the extremity of the table. Ancient time is not actually on the table - like wallpaper, it is in a roll that has tumbled off the far end.
The centuries and decades are arranged in a long vertical line. For the twentieth century each decade is a coloured line - the colours correspond to the colours I see for numbers - for instance the seventies are soft orange (the same as I see for the number 7), the eighties are deep blue (the same as I see for the number eight). When someone refers to something I did in the eighties - for instance if someone asks me when I did my A levels - I look back down to the blue line of the eighties kind of as if I'm looking down a long pole. On the other hand if I listen to a whole programme about things going on in the eighties - like the Falklands war - I look directly at the blue line for the eighties. When I studied different periods in History I would either look directly at the line for the decades or the dates or it would be as if I was placed in the line so I would look up the line from 1914 to 1918 when I was studying World War I.
Briefly, my synaesthesia takes two forms: the first is a shape which represents the year (almost exactly the same shape as Zimbabwe); the second is a free floating, 3-D ‘pathway’ which twists and turns (but never curves) and represents years, decades and centuries. I’m able to travel along and around the pathway, but tend to view particular years or decades from particular positions ie. the 80s stretch out, and slightly descend, away from me, slightly to the left (11 o’clock) of middle vision. At 1980, the path takes a sharp left turn into 1979 and the whole of the 70s runs straight from left to right. At 1970, it takes a sharp right into 1969 and the whole of the 60 runs away from me much like the 80s but slightly to the right (1 o’clock).
I see time roughly like a ruler, with graduations marking e.g. weekends to delimit weeks, month ends to delimit months, etc. I have attached a rough picture of how I see a week. It's always at an angle upward, with the past on the left and the future on the right. My week view covers about 6 or 7 days either side of present and in my mind I am always looking from just below and to the right of the current day. I hope you can see what I mean, it's very difficult to describe as the week is not justr blocks of grey but the blocks are sort of mixed with other senses of what the days are - weekends are always longer and Wednesdays are usually shorter. There is distinct contrast between Sunday and Monday but I can't really explain it well. The days don't have particular colours but they have a sort of granularity that comes from the daytime hours being marked as morning and afternoon, separated by slightly longer lines at lunchtimes - all very fractal in nature.
I have always associated colours with christian names. For example, Claire is pale blue, Stephen is a golden yellow, Rosemary is dark red and rich green, Heather is a reddish purple, Katie is royal blue, Nathan is a rich brown, Keith is grey, William is bright blue etc. This has diminished over time, and some of these could be explained by external influences (Stephen means 'crown', I believe, hence possibly the gold).
I always thought everyone did this until my husband laughed about it a few years ago. I can't recall dates or know where I am in time until I physically inhabit that space on my map. I wouldn't want to be without it. Now I believe my 8 year old son is synesthesic - it started a couple of years ago when he told me (out of the blue!) that the letter A was red.
I first met synaesthesia more than 60 years ago, when a fellow-student confessed that she liked the dark brown smell of fish and chips! Since then I've become sure that I have a sort of spatial synaesthesia; I see sequences of numbers in three-dimensional space. Years form catenary curves of varying depth, the lowest point being at the 5s,but the whole sequences are oriented in ni systematic manner. Simple sequences of numbers are fairly similar, but the general arrangement is from right to left.
I have always seen the past in differently coloured sections relating to historical periods, or even to periods in prehistory,e.g. the different periods of the Greek Bronze Age. I am a professional singer & questions of tone colour have very definite meaning for me, insofar as I see musical sounds, especially vocal sounds, in powerful if not clearly defined shape & colour. As a baritone, my voice tends to range from dark brown to gold or cream, whilst my wife & daughter, both sopranos, range in colour from purple or dark blue to silver & white!