I was reading Dr. Seuss’ My Many Colored Days to my son tonight, and I really enjoyed it. Dr. Seuss has a way of inspiring me and entertaining my son all at the same time. This happened when I read Oh The Places You’ll Go to my son as well. My Many Colored Days talks about how different we feel sometimes; sometimes we are mad, or sad, or down, or up, or busy, and how those can manifest themselves into feeling like colors or animals.
One page reads: “Then come my Black Days, mad, and loud. I howl, and growl at every cloud.” While another reads, “Then all of a sudden I’m a circus seal! On my Orange Days that’s how I feel.” I related the most to the picture of a brown bear, with the words around it stating, “Some days, of course, feel sort of Brown. Then I feel slow and low, low down.” I’d never equated circumstantial depression to a color, though if I did I’m not sure I would’ve chosen brown. But that’s the beauty of Dr. Seuss: he makes us think about the world differently.
When I was younger, I used to categorize the days of the week by color. Mondays were yellow, Tuesday purple, Wednesdays were white, Thursday were dark blue, Fridays were yellow-orange, Saturdays black, and Sundays gray. As it turns out, this is a psychological condition called synesthesia. As Psychology Today explains:
“Four percent of the population, when seeing number five, also see color red. Or hear a C-sharp when seeing blue. Or even associate orange with Tuesdays. And among artists, the number goes to 20-25 percent! This neurologically-based condition is called synesthesia, in which people involuntarily link one sensory percept to another.”
Even today I see colors when I see numbers. Seven was always green. Two was always blue, one was always gray, three was always red, four was always a refreshing light orange. I never knew why, nor did I understand it. I certainly did not think others did this. I had colors for months of the year too.
It wasn’t until I was in college, studying Psychology at Boston University, when it came up in one of our classes. A group of us realized we were “synesthetes” and walked back from class comparing what colors we see for numbers or days of the week, etc. It was a relief, I suppose, but also I felt that I wasn’t as original as I thought I was.
Again, Psychology Today, describes the cause for synethesia as:”The primary perspective of the cause of synesthesia is a mutation that causes defective pruning between areas of the brain that are ordinarily connected only sparsely. Therefore areas that are disconnected within a human brain retain certain connections in synesthetes, which causes unusual associations.”
Now that sounds scary. Turns out, however, it’s not, and that it’s just a creative part of you coming out because you’re connected in ways others aren’t. What other connections do you think people make that we don’t? Is this why some people are better at art, music, business, numbers, and some of us are not? It makes sense, and helps explain differences in people from a neurological level.
Are you a synesthete? If so, share your colors!