Mindful synesthetic awareness – why people are not aware of synesthesia
There are many people with synesthesia, but most are not aware of it. Those “unconscious” synesthetes may miss their extraordinary and colorful perceptions in their daily life. They have a low mindful synesthetic awareness.
But how is it possible to be unaware of synesthesia? Do people with synesthesia not automatically perceive it?
What is a mindful synesthetic awareness? And what can be done to become more aware of synesthesia in daily life?
Mindful synesthetic awareness – perceive synesthesia in the present moment
The present moment is full of synesthetic experiences, beautiful perceptions all around us. But often we miss it.
Mindful synesthetic awareness is the state of being conscious of the external and internal perceptions and its synesthetic experiences in the present moment.
With synesthesie meditation you can train to be synesthetically mindful in your daily life.
Let me tell you my story of how I found out about the mindful synesthetic awareness. And how my journey went.
“Synesthesia: rare and special?” – It made me feel alone
When I found out that I am a synesthete at only 15 years old, I thought that I was alone with this ability. People around me were sceptical, although also fascinated. In the media report that I first learned about synesthesia it was stated that only 1 out of 2500 people have synesthesia. So I felt pretty special with it. And so this is also how I acted. I spoke about synesthesia as being something very special.
A few years later I wrote a report for school about synesthesia. I did a written synesthesia test with some of my friends. The purpose was to show that they do not have synesthesia. To my big surprise, half of them passed the test! It seemed that they were synesthetes, too.
How was this possible? Did the test not work? Or could it be that some of my friends were synesthetes as well, and they just did not notice it all the time?
After long conversations with them, I realized that they are indeed synesthetes. How was this possible? They all knew about synesthesia. But before the test they said they did not have it.
I met a lot of synesthetes, but most were not aware of it
Over the last decade I have met a lot of synesthetes. But almost all of them did not know that they have this ability until I asked some questions and / or let them do some synesthesia tests.
Only a handful knew beforehand that they have synesthesia; that they are synesthetes.
It just seemed implausible that only 1 out of 2500 has synesthesia. Over time, better studies for the prevalence of synesthesia were conducted. And and indeed it turned out that it may be more frequent. Between 1% and 20% is the estimated prevalence.
A typical conversation with a synesthete may look like this:
Me: Do you see color for letters?
Person X: No
Me: Close your eyes, and imagine letter A. What color is it?
Person X: Now it is yellow,
Me: can A also be blue?
Person X: I do not like it in blue.
A new study investigated the prevalence of synesthesia in Canada and in the Czech Republic. The researchers noted that some people passed the synesthesia tests, though they stated not having synesthesia. This was surprising for the researchers since it was assumed that synesthetes always know about their synesthetic abilities.
So what are the reasons that people are not aware of their synesthesia?
Why is it some people have a low mindful synesthetic awareness?
6 Reasons why you may have a low Mindful synesthetic awareness – The journey to perceive synesthesia
There are several factors and reasons that influence whether or not somebody is aware of their synesthetic abilities. Of course, the story is different for everybody.
We still can find some factors that seem to be crucial and influences for the synesthetes mindful awareness.
1 Inattentional Blindness on Synesthetic experiences
Synesthetes have the ability to see Music in shapes, perceive letters and numbers in colors and may project the week in their mental space.
It seems as if this is very obvious if it is happening. And that somebody with synesthesia cannot possibly miss these synesthetic experiences. But that is a mistake to assume. Synesthesia is not “the firework” of senses as it is commonly described in popular media. It is something rather subtle that can be missed quit easily. Synesthesia requires attention.
“Sensation” is all the information that enters through our sensory channels into our brain. “Perception” is what the brain filters out of all these sensations. Perception is what we give our attention to.
It is a good thing that our mind works like this! Otherwise we would not be able to complete any task, since we would be distracted by all the sensations that we are bombarded with.
What we give attention to, is what we perceive. To what we do not give attention to, we miss due to “perceptual, inattentional blindness” of synesthesia.
Let’s have a look at the following video. Watch it before you keep on reading.
Did you watch the movie? Watch it before you continue reading here, otherwise this little experiment does not work anymore.
Synesthetic experiences can be missed easily
Most likely, you missed the Gorilla, since you were distracted by counting. This is perfectly normal. You were giving your selective attention to the basketball players. And not to the gorilla. You were inattentionally blind. Meaning you were blind to something, that is fully visible but unexpected. Once you have seen the Gorilla, you will see it always.
Similarly, it may be for certain types of your synesthesia. If you never shift your attention to the synesthetic perceptions, you may be inattentively blind to it.
Let’s say music evokes colors synesthesia. If you never shift your attention to the visual aspect of the music, you may not see that there are shapes and colors. If you never actively ask yourself, if letter and number have colors, you may not be aware of your grapheme colors synesthesia (colored letters and numbers)..
Some people with synesthesia need to be “inspired” and stimulated to perceive synesthesia. For many it does not just happen automatically.
This is a reason why we have exercises in the garden of synesthesia in which we discover the different types of synesthesia.
2 Our mind is distracting us from our synesthesia and from being mindful.
Our mind is great! It reminds us about stuff we need to do in the future and it helps us to elaborate memory from the past. But there is also a downside of it in our modern civilization.
Our mind tends to constantly chattering to us. Rumerations, worries, thinking about the future and and the past. It all is important but it distracts us from the present moment, from being in the here and now. When you are walking through a forest and you are thinking about your “to do list”, most likely you will miss the beautiful songs of the birds. And you may miss the colors of the bird’s’ song.
So, even if you are aware that you have certain types of synesthesia, you may not perceive them in your daily life. Synesthesia requires attention. Mindfulness is the process of shifting attention to your perception.
Training the mind with Synesthesia Meditation increases your sensory awareness.
It requires a little bit of training of the mind to be more in the here and now. To quiet the mind a bit, to give it a break and to perceive the synesthetic experiences that are around you.
On the path of mindfulness we train the ability to be present in the moment and to perceive your surrounding in a mindful synesthetic way.
With a consistent practise you will start to shift your attention intuitively to your synesthetic perceptions. You will gain the ability to focus, without your mind wanting to take control over it again immediately. These mechanisms are well studied and have been practised for over 1000s of years. And we add the synesthetic components to it during synesthesia meditation.
3 Information – Wrong ideas about synesthesia
Luckily, synesthesia has been portrayed in the press and media quite often in the past 10 years. More and more people have heard about the phenomenon and know roughly what synesthesia is.
Not so fortunate is the circumstance that synesthesia is often sensationalized in the press. In the journalist attempt to deliver an interesting story that reaches a large audience.Often you also find information that is just outdated and some are even wrong. For example, that Synesthesia is rare, that it is kind of an illness or that synesthetes have savant like skills
Portraying aware synesthetes sometimes delivers a different idea about the nature of synesthesia. Aware synesthetes are much more familiar about their synesthetic perception. And they know how to talk about it and to express it with words. This creates the inaccurate impression, that synesthesia is a very obvious condition and a firework of the senses. It creates the idea that there are only a few synesthetes, and those who have it, know it automatically. But in contrary, synesthetic experiences can be very subtle. And it can be missed easily.
So, as you read and learn more about synesthesia, be curious but cautious. Try to read articles that relate that cite the current research about synesthesia.
4 Identification – I do not have it!
Identification with synaesthesia, a synaesthetic coming out, is not necessarily intuitive.
Unaware synaesthetes tend to deny to have synaesthesia. Even more when there are aware synaesthetes among their peers or in their family. Unaware synaesthetes either construct false ideas about what synaesthesia is. They are too modest, insecure, or sceptical to identify with their synesthetic perception. The media contributes by either glorifying synaesthetes or stigmatising it as an illness or disorder.
It is a process until somebody realizes they “have Synesthesia”. And it needs even more courage to communicate this to others.
As reported, when I was young, my friends struggled as well to identify with synesthesia. They always thought, “Synesthesia is what Marc has. What I perceive is different”. They needed time to come to realization that they are synesthetes as well. And so you may too.
Identification with synesthesia is not intuitive
Many also struggle to be classified “as a synesthete” or diagnosed with with “neurological condition called Synesthesia”. So, in order to gain a little bit more comfort we try to drop the expression “to be a synesthete” in the Sensorium. Instead we prefer talking about “people that resonate with synesthesia”. This sounds a little bit less committing and less like a diagnosis. And foremost, it does not sound binary, it is not a yes or no.
On the opposite, there are also cases of people with synesthesia, that are aware that they perceive letters and numbers in colors, for example. But they do not have a name for it. For them it can be a relieve to hear that there is a scientific explanation, called synesthesia.
However, take your time to explore your senses. It does not matter how your perceptual world is classified and its scientific definition. Your personal experience in the present moment is what counts. Everything else is secondary.
So do you resonate with synesthesia, at least a bit?
5 Social exchange – For the good or the bad
It can be tricky to talk about synesthetic perception with your peers and family. Especially when you are not yet very familiar with your synesthetic abilities and not very confident with it. Missing information about synesthesia or feeling of not having enough knowledge about the science of synesthesia contributes to being hesitant to talk about it.
Some fear to be laughed at. Others made already negative experiences of trying to express themselves to others.
Do’s and Dont’s while communicating with others about synesthesia
DO your homework. Read and learn about synesthesia.
DON’T be hesitant or shy. Science is on your side. Reporting confidently about synesthesia makes it more credible.
DO not present yourself as something special or rare. By doing that, you will build a wall. And you will have a hard time to find other synesthetes in your surrounding
DO let them have a synesthetic experience, too. Do not just talk about your synesthetic experiences. Turn it around and ask questions to the listener about the colors of letters. Maybe this person is an unconscious synesthete.
DON’T be discouraged. Some people are just not open minded enough for the magic of the universe, nature and the human brain. Don’t struggle with them, move on.
DON’T behave like a victim: I have heard synesthetes saying things like “Life is hard for synesthetes; others don’t believe me; I struggle with it” and so on. If you send out these vibes, it is not so surprising that some people around you behave inappropriately.
Find synesthetes in your environment!
The Prevalence of synesthesia lies between 1% and 20%. So the chances are high, that there are other synesthetes in your social circle. You just need to find them.
Some aware synesthetes travel many miles to meet other synesthetes. They do not think about the possibility that they may also have friends and family members with synesthetic abilities..
Especially children may benefit if they have a social exchange about synesthesia. Synesthesia is tied to many cognitive benefits that may blossom in a synesthetic aware environment (to read more about synesthesia and children, click here).
Let’s consider two different inter-social scenarios:
A child tells their parents that the letter A is blue and that the tea smells like violet.
If the parents react negatively, (“do not talk such nonsense”) the child may develop an aversive behavior towards synesthetic perception. They may decide not to think and talk about it anymore.
See the opposite possibility: The parents encourage synesthetic perceptions by talking about it, asking more question and sharing their own experiences. This is beneficial for increasing mindful synesthetic awareness in the child’s life.
A lack of social exchange and no support in schools also leads to a decreased mindful synesthetic awareness.
Synesthetes are around you. Do not seek social exchange online, seek them in daily life
To explore synesthesia with people you know from your social circle is an excellent opportunity to discover, train and integrate synesthetic perceptions into your daily life. If you do not dare to approach them, or you just do not know how to do it, read more about Synesthesia here in the blog.
Or listen to some of our free exercises in the sensorium together. Doing mindful synesthetic training with one another is a great opportunity to exchange and to deepen the experience. Discuss your experiences afterwards.
Or send your friend or family member this link for a brief synesthesia quiz
Approach your friends and family. You will be astonished to find others in your social circle.
6 Missing application – What is it good for? Why should I do it?
Some synesthetes have a low mindful synesthetic awareness because they do not know what to do with it. And hence they do not really care.
What is synesthesia good for? Why should you be mindful to synesthetic experiences in the present moment? What it is good for and how to integrate it in their daily life?
In our society, we want to experience the benefit. Otherwise it is not worth to invest time and focus on it. And synesthesia gets dusty and forgotten.
There are more and more scientific implications for the advantages and benefits of synesthesia. But there is still a long way to go.
It is not an easy task to explain to somebody, why they should become aware of their synesthesia. Making the point, that it is something very beautiful to perceive synesthesia in daily life, is not always convincing enough.
There is a lack of practical applications for synesthesia. There are not many tools and services for synesthetes available. For example, a synesthetic vocabulary trainer is not on the market. And it probably won’t be soon.
The reason for this is that synesthesia is assumed to be a rare condition. So from a business aspect, the synesthesia market is rather a niche market. Not many others are as confident or courageous as we are to develop a business around synesthesia.
Synesthesia and Mindfulness have many benefits.
Synesthesia holds a lot of different applications, especially when it come to learning.
For now, if you want to learn more about why Synesthesia Meditation is good for you, have a look at our blog article about the benefits of synesthesia meditation.
Practicing synesthesia meditation is one possible application that opens the doors to other applications for synesthesia in your daily life.
So, as you read this, be aware, that if you make it a ritual of 10 minutes per day to listen to our synesthesia meditation, you may benefit in various ways. And probably the main benefit is: you enjoy being aware of synesthesia.
8 Tips how to increase your mindful synesthetic awareness.
In the first half of this article we explored and explained the reasons and factors why some people are not aware of synesthetic perceptions.
Hopefully, you already came a step closer to identify with synesthesia. Maybe you do not yet feel completely comfortable. That is fine, too.
There are many people with synesthesia. And they come in all shapes and colors. So it is not easy to generalize them.
But still, not everybody resonates with synesthesia. This is its nature.
Nevertheless, before you say that you are not a synesthete, give it a try. One reason why many people are not aware of synesthesia is because they immediately think that they are not synesthetes. They give up on it without having explored it.
Here is the wrap up of what you should consider on your journey to an increased mindful synesthetically awareness.
- There are many types of synesthesia. Maybe you do not perceive letters in colors, but music as shapes. Take some time to listen to different exercises covering different types synesthesias.
- Do not compare your perceptions to reports of aware synesthetes in the media. It often sounds as if synesthesia is a firework of the senses. It seems as if you cannot miss that. But Synesthesia is subtle and disguised. Hence you can miss it easily.
- Don’t assume that you are doing something wrong. Everybody’s perception is different. The goal is to be aware of your senses and to find a sense of calm. Don’t wonder if your experiences are genuine synesthetic or not; just enjoy it.
- Do not get discouraged by synesthesia tests. They are a fun tool but also limited in their possibilities. In the end, it is not about the result of a test, it is your experience that matters.
- It feels uneasy to be clinically categorized and diagnosed with a neurological “condition”. Here on synesthesia.com we try to drop the word “synesthetes” as much as possible. We prefer to talk about people that resonate with synesthesia. It feels more natural and open. So there is no need that you claim to be synesthetic or not. If you feel that listening to Music evokes a sense of vision you have achieved the goal. However the experience manifested itself.
- 10 minutes per day – make it ritual. Creating a habit is not so easy, especially in the beginning. Find a good time in your day and stick to it. You will feel the benefits after one week.
- Find other synesthetes in your surrounding. Be confident! The social exchange about synesthetic perceptions is very beautiful and a key component when it comes to mindful synesthetic awareness.
- Involve it into your learning tasks. Try to apply your synesthetic perceptions for learning languages or math. The successful application will positively reinforce synesthesia in your daily life.
So, as a next step, start your journey for an increased mindful synesthetic awareness. In the sensorium you find over 100 exercises that will open the door to your synesthetic abilities.
For now, take 10 minutes and listen to our free exercises in the Gateway.
There are many people with synesthesia. But most are not aware of it. Mindful synesthetic awareness is a state of being aware of synesthetic perception in the present-moment. Reasons why some people are not aware may be that they never shift attention onto the synesthetic aspects of perceptions. We call this synesthetic inattentional blindness. Furthermore, the mind distracts us from being in the here and now. So we miss the synesthetic colors. Sometimes information about synesthesia is wrong and unaware synesthetes do not want or do not dare to identify with synesthesia. It can be challenge but very rewarding to talk about synesthesia with friends and family. Ideally, synesthesia is applied in daily life to gain the benefits.