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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

Is this right?

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

Is this right?

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mucha mosaic
I read stories about differing perceptions- about personality quirks or mental 'disorders'- and I find myself thinking 'this makes sense to me; but is it right? Is this what someone who has synesthesia perceives in the world?
'Is this how multiple personality syndrome works?'
If you 'suffer' from a difference of perception- profound depression, synesthesia, MPS, what have you- are there books or stories you'd recommend as being a good reflection of your own experience? I hear it described- and it always seems like language is failing the person describing, and I find myself wondering...
...and the Jeffrey Ford story in the first link, above ('The Empire of Ice Cream', nominated for the Nebula) left me thinking 'this SOUNDS like what synesthesia might be like, but-- does it sound right to someone who has a knowledgeable perspective?'
I am curious- I find the concept of how differently people can perceive the world hugely intriguing- and perhaps indicative of the 'truth' under our perceptions. If what I am conditioned to believe shapes how I perceive the world, then someone who 'suffers' from a condition that runs contrary to the preconceived world has insights that I lack. And I want to know.
Because I'm nosy. Or insatiably curious. You decide.

If you feel that you'd rather not comment publically without anonymity, anonymous comments are enabled- and feel free to tell me I should set up a poll where you can put your answers up so that anyone can answer, but only I can read. I don't want to make you feel like an oyster who's being opened up with a knife- I want you to feel like you're speaking to someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to say- and what you experience.
  • synaesthesis

    And while it's not really a book or story, this is the best explanation of bipolar disorder I've ever seen. (for the record, I'm BPD II, which means I don't get quite as bad as this woman.)
  • only mildly helpful, at best

    i can offer second-hand input only, but input.

    the person who was, for a while, my girlfriend's girlfriend, claimed to be*, and apparently had been diagnosed with, mps. i interacted with a person who answered to the name on this woman's driver's license, and also with several of her alters (or with her, giving the impression of being different people, if you prefer).

    her/their reaction to reading aristoi, by walter jon williams, was to excitedly tell my girlfriend that for the very first time someone understood and described exactly what it was like to live in her body. my girlfriend did, in fact, write to wjw, included this information, and asked what research he had done. he answered (i paraphrase) that he hadn't, really; he had just thought, "maybe it's like this," and written a book. but he was flattered.

    *a friend who had regular contact with her about a year ago reported that she now attests to having a different diagnosis, so make of that what you will.
  • Is that how it works? Well it depends on the person and the crossed wires. I have an article somewhere around here (an issue of Smithsonian from a couple years back) about synaesthesia that details a lot of different variations. People who think the letter U is orange or Tuesdays are green and I have a friend of mine who sees pain as colors. Heck check this link out from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s528838.htm

    For myself, my perception of music falls somewhere between Fantasia and Parappa the Rappa.

    I see sounds and it's rather like the description in that link, some instruments definitely have direct connotations: bass is typically purple, strings in the greens and on like that. Then there are some pieces of music that just, as a whole, are a color. There's a song by Angie Aparo that I have to describe as green, but I think that's mostly because there are so many guitars in it. There are also shape patterns at play ranging from simple lines to complex "glyphs".

    It also depends on my concentration and my mood. If I'm in a good mood it clicks, if I'm not the colors are muddled and vague. If it's background chatter and background music (or I'm actively ignoring whatever it is) then I don't notice it. If it's front and center, unavoidable, I see it.

    Voices too, but I have to be paying a certain kind of attention. Going to readings or listening to books on tape, for example.

    Concerts are a blast.

    The weird part for me is that it used to be a big distraction when I joined VamoLa, my samba group, but it's become a huge boon in intuiting when/where/how to play. I know that if I want to hit with the group, I need to see that white circle... NOW! *boom!*

    I'm weirdwired. It's cool :)
    • Re:

      Exactly why I put 'suffer' in quotes: to me, that doesn't sound like suffering at all, that sounds fun! I can certainly see learning to deal with it when nobody else is experiencing it as suffering (and then some), but-- the actual perception itself sounds enjoyable.
    • Re:

      Oh the perception's a blast :) But very hard to explain to people without sounding like some kind of new ager ("Your aura is so... purple!"). The most concise way I can explain it is to ask people to think of the visualization on a MP3 player (Winamp, WinMedia, Sonique, etc) and lay that "over" what you see.

      There is one situation where it's a literal pain for me and that's when there's some sort of intrusive, loud noise because that throws everything out of whack. Last summer I was working at a building that developed a glitch in it's fire alarm system so suddenly, out of the blue, the alarms blared to life and it was a literal pain because I couldn't see.

      That is to say, I could see just fine, I knew where I was, but the aural stimulus was so incredibly overwhelming that the "overlay" was a solid, chaotic gray. So I wasn't blinded but I was definitely distracted and I had to concentrate in order to function and get out of the building and, eventually, everything went back to normal. I downed three Advil the minute I got back to my desk, but it was normal.

      So fire trucks running down the street as I'm walking past and sudden squealing brakes... stuff like that causes weird reactions but they're fairly temporary, thank the gods.

      Definitely interesting though.
    • Re:


      Exactly why I put 'suffer' in quotes: to me, that doesn't sound like suffering at all, that sounds fun!

      I had a conversation with a synaesthetic friend not too long ago, and he said that he's stopped talking about his condition with people for exactly this reason: everyone first response whenever he brings it up is, "That sounds like fun!" In reality he is actually suffering terribly, and I mean suffering without any scare-quotes. He obviously doesn't speak for all synaesthetics, and I hardly have the right to speak for him, but the way he described it to me was very persuasive. His mind doesn't know how to "file" anything. For him, being involved in any intense experience (a concert, an airport) is sensory overload; it's just a rush of colours and sounds and textures and smells that all cross into one another, and which defy language and even articulate thinking. He has learned to deal with it, but he says it took years, and it is still very hard for him.

      He recommended a series of books by an Australian woman whose titles were something like Nothing Nowhere, Everything Everywhere, and Something Somewhere. I may not have the titles exactly right, but the wordplay ran roughly along those lines. Though the author is autistic and not synaesthetic, my friend says that the two conditions are very similar in a lot of ways -- a connection that a new generation of neurologists is exploring.
      • Re:

        Her name is Donna Williams. I'm pretty sure the first one is Nobody, nowhere.

        I have SID, which is the sensory part of Autism, without the cognative bits. Pain is also a sound to me, and smells are often physical to me. For example: I was visiting the Chinese Garden in Portland and slammed into a wall of yellow scent, stopping me in my tracks. I peered cautiously around the wall and found a whole lot of jazmine growing on the other side.

        I perceive people as a collection of smells as well as through visual means. If someone dramatically changes smell, it confuses me the same way as a dramatic change in appearance does. I pick up a lot of important information about people I've just met this way. (Things like are they depressed, sick, or dangerous).

        I tend to crave certain sounds and sensations. I also go through periods when the whole world is "too loud." Everything is too intense and it's a bit overwhelming. Everything is to bright, loud, and hurts my skin. At other times I really enjoy the intensity of sensation and low level synaesthesia.
  • Synesthesia.. that almost sounds like something I used to do when I was little. But definitely not the same. I've always been very word-oriented. I started playing the violin when I was five, and my teacher would tell me stories to go along with the music (it was classical music, Suzuki method, but .. I dunno, she was weird) without really teaching me how to read music. So I would learn every piece by listening to it and then playing it. To this day I can't remember all the stories she told me, but they were incorporated and usually changed around in my mind as I played, and certain songs evoke very strange imagery in my mind. The stories made sense when I was five, let's put it that way.

    It's not as strong anymore, but for a long time I would see those strange stories whenever I played certain pieces. "Likewise, the notes of an acoustic guitar appear before my eyes as a golden rain, falling from a height just above my head only to vanish at the level of my solar plexus." What I had wasn't that strong, but it was a lot like that.
  • I have Sarcastic Depressive Disorder, which is covered nicely in the poems of Sylvia Plath -- or, if you prefer, Douglas Adams's Marvin the Paranoid Android. Zaphod has quite misnamed Marvin in calling him "paranoid," since unfortunately -- mirroring the experience of real depressives -- Marvin often has a more accurate view of a given situation than anyone around him.

    I have a tendency to think of a certain tonality in Jerry Garcia's electric guitar* playing as golden or sometimes silver, but I think that's more seeing things in metaphor than true synaesthesia -- especially as my brain doesn't automatically assign incoming colors to the instruments of the other bandmembers.

    * As opposed to acoustic or pedal steel.
  • t. rev

    (Anonymous)
    The protagonist and narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is a boy with Asperger's syndrome. This book hit me pretty hard. It reminded me very strongly of many thoughts, behaviors, fixations and deficits I experienced when I was young, many of which I had forgotten about, developed coping strategies for, or otherwise become oblivious to over the years.

    The protagonist's condition is more severe than mine ever was, mind, but the narrator discusses and experiences things I had no inkling that anyone else was ever aware of or experienced; on that basis, I would say it's a pretty good window on what Asperger's is like on the inside.
  • This isn't the same as a lot of the other perceptual differences being discussed, and it's quite a bit milder, but. You said sensory, so. Here we are.

    My hearing is odd. There is damage to it in the low to mid range, and so the high ranges seem more acute to me. I used to have quite good hearing, actually, and so when my ears were damaged (which took years to discover because of the way testing is done, more on that later) I ended up with sensitivity on one end and loss on the other. It's very strange.

    I hear things that other people don't even hear -- the whine that a TV makes when it is on but the DVD player is off? I can hear that, though most other people can't, and it drives me insane. On the other hand, I have a really hard time functioning when it comes to talking to strange people on the telephone. I end up putting together a lot of what people have said by inference and filling in the holes, even when I'm talking to them in person. People who mumble can expect to be asked to repeat themselves multiple times.

    My sense of hearing is... 'flattened' compared to what it used to be, too. I miss a lot of nuances in people's spoken words, and I miss a lot of nuances in my own speech, as well. I get louder without realising it, and sometimes, my tone changes and I don't know it. People have taken me on the phone or in person to be quite angry or snotty or condescending or upset and I didn't mean it and I didn't even realise I sounded that way because my volume and tone changed, and I had no idea.

    Worst of all, however, is hubbub. I lose my sense of direction and become entirely disoriented in loud/chaotic noise situations. I can't do what most people do (and don't even realise they're doing) and 'sort' sounds by importance. I can't distinguish sounds from one another when there is a lot of background noise -- this is one of my main problems, and one of the reasons why my hearing loss went undetected for so long, as hearing tests are almost always administered in a quiet room, and in that situation, I have passable hearing. The test situations can really fail a person in terms of diagnosis.

    When I say disoriented, to come back to the main point, I get dizzy in extreme situations. I can handle clubs when music is playing, because there is ONE MAIN SOURCE OF SOUND. But don't try to talk to me, because it'll screw me up. Use gestures and basic sign to communicate, or pull me outside.

    God HELP you if you have to take me to a mall when the mall is busy. Sometimes I'm OK, but when it gets bad, it gets bad fast and often without warning to me or to my companion. I get diszzy and confused, and it feels like my body has gotten much smaller in the center of a very hostile place. (Yes. I do often at least start to panic. It's an extremely scary sort of situation.) Really the only thing that can be done when that happens is for me to grab someone's hand and be lead out of where I am to somewhere quiet. I tend to do things like put my head on someone's shoulder and close my eyes when that happens. I can't really effectively be lead and shut out my hearing, but the more sensory information I can cut out when I get overloaded by indistinguishable noise, the better off I am.

    I think that's about the core of things.
    • Re:

      Yeah, I have exactly the same problem - both with hearing small things when everything is quiet, and finding ranges 'flattened' or diminished in loud noises.

      And I've felt that for years: that feeling of being in a crowded room with a ton of conversations, and not being able to talk to the person in front of me because I can't single out his voice from everyone else's. It's maddening and the panic levels rise almost immediately for me. Interesting, interesting that it's all hearing related.
    • Different but similar in some respects. I have problems hearing noises that are directly around me, if there's any sort of constant background noise. If I'm in a crowd or group and talking to someone, half the time I can hear the conversations going on across the room better than the person I'm talking to. I can get confused and upset in crowded, noisy situations too, but not as badly as you seem to...and it could easily just be a reaction to crowds in general. I have trouble with one or two strangers, large groups of them are very disturbing.

      My work has me in a building alone at night, too. Sometimes people's alarms will get reset and go off at midnight. I can hear them clearly from the wrong end of the building, but once I get closer, I have problems actually locating the noise. It gets harder to hear and seems to skip around.
      • Re:

        I have a similar problem with certain kinds of background noise, but it's a processing problem. If any of my senses get overwhelmed I can't understand what people are saying even though I can hear them. They might as well be telling me they just put weasels in their pants, because this is often the kind of thing I piece together from the disjointed sounds coming in.

        Similarly, I was well into my teens before I consistantly answered to my name. I couldn't pick it out of the background noise in chaotic environments like playgrounds.
    • Re:

      I haven't noticed any substantial loss of hearing- though I have the same ability to be driven nuts by white noise that doesn't bother other people- and electrical appliances can go into that category. The stereo in my bedroom, for instance; I can't quite sleep with it turned on without music on.
  • Somewhere, but I've forgotten where, Nabokov, who was synaesthetic, writes beautifully about it.
  • I have 3 comments to add to this.

    1. I associate colors with letters and numbers. I remember seeing a TV program about synesthesia and perking up when they mentioned that. I had never heard of such a thing. I just thought that it was something I did.

    That being said, I don't think that's true synesthesia. But it is intriguing.

    2. I have a friend who shall remain nameless, who has MPS. He's a fascinating person, and I'll try and post about him in my journal for you to read.

    3. Talking about perception, and how the mind works, what happens when you read? Do you see a little movie in your head? I do, most of the time. After a moment or two, I don't even see the pages of the book anymore, I zone out. I used to do it very deeply when I was younger. You could stand in front of me and call my name and I wouldn't hear you.

    But until recently, I thought that was how everyone read. When I cannot get 'into' a book enough for that to happen, reading does seem less enjoyable. I could never figure out why other kids wouldn't want to read. But I suppose now I can.
    • Re:

      When I read, I hear the story told to me, in an imaginary voice. With repeat exposure to the same author, I get a differentiated voice: one that sounds specific to him/her.
      I became conscious of that when I went and saw Samuel R. Delany read and instead of the reverberant bass that I'd associated with the 6'4" guy I was imagining, there was a guy of about 5'8" with this sort of wheedling tenor. And it made all his work seem different after that.
    • 1) I had the same reaction when I ran across this thread. *grin* Only mine's more story and music related.

      3) I have a mixture of your and colubra's way of experiencing books. I usually hear the text being spoken as a sort of voice-over to the imagry. And like you, I wasn't aware that wasn't how everybody read for a long time.

  • Very interesting article by a guy who actually writes for 3rd edition D&D/d20 stuff, here, about his experiences with an ex-girlfriend with MPD.

    On Schizophrenia, the very best book I ever read was The Eden Express, by Mark Vonnegut (with help from his father, Kurt Vonnegut).

    I don't remember the quote that really got to me, but it was something like, "It's not like one day you start hearing voices talking to you. It's more like one day you realize the voices have always been there." It's something like that.
  • (Anonymous)
    I do not have experience with people who suffer from these conditions on the regular basis, but I have had numerous self-induced synesthesiatic experiences. Some of these were from LSD - this is actually the primary way that chemical is a 'hallucinogen', as opposed to real dissociative hallucinogens such as ketamine and DXM. I have also spontaneously experienced this on occasion since I was quite young, but those spontaneous experiences do not normally last more than a half an hour at a time. As I have gotten older I have learned how to set it off with certain breathing and meditative exercises.

    I tend to believe that people can use various techniques to metaprogram their perceptions so that they can see the world in specific ways. Some people may be 'stuck' in unusual states, but it also seems that others can train themselves to enter them.

    I think it can be valuable to experience the world from different perceptive vantage points since it helps give one a richer idea of what objective and subjective reality is, and can allow them to interact more positively with the world.
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