One compulsion leads to another

I wrote recently about this superpower I possess called synesthesia. How I see letters and words in full color. And how I am going to defeat fear once I manage to harness my power properly.

It occurred to me this morning that my superpower might be the cause of quirky compulsions I also possess like the one that prevents me from listening to the Beach Boys in December, or drives me to listen to Van Morrison when the leaves start to change color and fall from the trees (even if I’m not living in the country in which they do.)

The connection between music and emotion is a studied one that’s not unique to me, but actually quite documented in human beings. But what about music and season? For me, the music must fit the weather outside. And there are singers or albums that are just completely inappropriate in winter, or off limits when I’m driving with the top down in July.

I looked into it a little. And guess what?

There’s a connection…and suddenly my strange compulsions don’t seem so compulsive anymore.

Studies show that music is connected to color and color is connected to emotion — particularly for people with synesthesia. From there, the connection is easy.  Emotion as it relates to season is a no-brainer. Lots of babies are born in August, nine months after couples snuggle up together inside supposedly to warm up from winter’s cold. I think it’s more than shelter from the cold they seek; but love and interpersonal connection that is often sacrificed in the isolation that winter brings.

Ask the average Joe or Jane which emotion is aroused when they envision summer. Most will say joy. Freedom. Fun. Ask the same person to describe the accompanying emotions to winter, Most will say introspection, introversion or sadness.

What about you? What do you say?

Having superpowers can make a girl feel lonely sometimes. Like I’m the only one whose heart hurts as fall moves towards winter. But when I get like that I cry it out to Randy Newman … whose voice and lyrics match perfectly the melancholy and nostalgia that crop up for me in fall.

Or I listen to this video — a performance of his “I Want You to Hurt Like I Do” in Berlin– and I laugh. Knowing I’m not really as alone as I think.

What color is fear?

I have this thing.

After half a lifetime of thinking it was either a special power possessed by only a select few, or a strange sensory birth defect that generally didn’t interfere with my life, I discovered it was a thing.

With a name.

Synesthesia.

I see letters, and words, in color.

Not all words, and not all the time — only particular words and only really when I pay attention to it.

Months of the year, for instance, each appear as a particular color when I visualize them in my mind. So detailed, in fact, that June and July are both red, but different shades.

All the letters of the English alphabet are colored, too, but strangely, not the Hebrew alphabet. Some letters are (Aleph is white like “A”), and some aren’t. If I were a neurologist, I’d probably study that, but I’m not. I’m just the handicapped super hero with a colorful dictionary in her mind.

What’s particularly interesting to me, though, is how words can change color when they are paired with another.

Prickly is white. But pear is yellow. Prickly pear is white. Why?

I have no idea.

Home is red. But go is green. Go home is “green.” Does my mind automatically prefer the verb? Does the adjective always dominate?

Fear is a word whose color I’d like to change.

If  I could somehow convert fear from that rusty-tinted brown orange to a vibrant hot pink with purple polka dots, I somehow believe that my perception of fear might change, too.

Can you really be terrified of a word that is hot pink with purple polka dots?

What if, indeed, the secret power of synesthesia is the ability to use color to change the way you perceive ?

Change the color of a word in order to manipulate your world?

Into a place that’s less scary?