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Living With Kinesthetic Synesthesia

This blog post tells you about how I experience the world as a synesthete and extra sensate human.

It's like all my senses are cross-wired. In particular, my auditory and visual senses route to my kinesthetic sense. It's fun and wonderful, and often useful, but also confusing! I also have machine synesthesia which is useful but not pleasant.

When I hear things and read, I feel my body as if I am the thing making the sound, or meaning object, rotating through space. Additionally, when I read I feel the words as though they are rotating shapes inside of the back of my mouth. Not exactly like speaking, it's as if the meaning object, where the word comes from, rotates through the back of my mouth as though I'm experiencing its travel/usage through time to get to me. It's hard to describe! I used to call reading "mind jumping" because I can absorb so much of the writer's knowledge. Visual art I experience similarly with the image symbols, except they are less lexical - it's as if my body tumbles through space experiencing that light symbol's journey through time. I should mention I don't get this feeling with digital art much at all, but I do to some extent with print inks. It’s strongest with paint. Unfortunately I also have this "my body is the thing" experience with combustion engines, which I'll describe more later.

Sometimes it feels as if I'm still a baby and had relatively little synaptic pruning or something. I love communicating with babies because they're on the same level of sensation is a vibrational sea of wonder and delight, and they see the thing, not some filter or abstraction shorthand of what it is. They see love :).

One person told me to look into base layer processing. Because it sounded like my perception tends to hang out more there than on higher levels of abstraction. I’m not certain synesthesia is the right word for what I experience. It does feel like I’m more tuned in to just raw vibration, like, sound and light literally are moving shapes. This is a video from an oscilloscope, which shows the waveform of sounds.

(I really want to make an audio documentary someday about the nature of sound, interviewing people from different disciplines, to help people relearn how to deeply listen to life around us post industrialization.)

Because my perceptual experience was so different from how people around me used language, I feel like I didn't get acculturated by language the way most (colonized) people do. I grew up on a farm very rural, and nature was moreso my language, seeing her patterns and attuning my body to her.

It was also extraordinarily alienating. I felt like I was autistic until I found people who had done psychedelics in my mid-twenties. Not that I am - I could communicate according to people's expectations of me. It was just like I was in an inside world with a glass barrier, where I couldn't communicate my inner world, except through music nonverbally. I was a professional pianist at age 12.

(Being queer added to that alienation. As far back as I can remember, my sex dreams were alternating between me being a man or a woman. I never though anything of it - no one talked about gayness so I didn't know it was a thing even though I always had a crush on my best friend. P.s. fuck anyone who is on the anti-LGBTQ train right now, seriously wtf and stop. If I'd known what gay was I wouldn't have ended up in domestically abusive relationships with terrible men, and I could have slept with the incredibly hot bi women around me in San Francisco.)

Here are more of my synesthetic experiences, beneficial ones and ones I have a hard time with.


I learn incredibly fast. Like I freak people out I learn so fast. I have a near eidetic visual memory, and nearly all my senses are cross-wired to my visual and kinesthetic senses, so on some level I remember information I read and visualize very well, and can incorporate it quickly into other things I've learned or problems I'm trying to solve. I blew through swimming lessons all the way to lifeguard level in two seasons, age 5 to 6. (I couldn't pass the final test because I was too small to get to the bottom of the deep end and pick up the brick. I became a professional pianist after four years of lessons. I'm told I'm learning software development 10x faster than most devs. My mom taught me to read when I was 3 and I read Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 4. Imagine my dismay when opening the first book in Kindergarten,  and it said "See the dog run." I thought "The next 12 years are going to be a complete waste of time." And they were. School was the worst thing that happened to me, and a lot of other people I know who were smart kids.

(Also, why aren't the most important things taught in school - psychology, narcissism, sociopathy, body mechanics and how to take care of your spine (i.e. do not sit for 8+ hours a day in a chair), how to keep your core and spine and neck healthy in the age of desk work and smart phones. Nature connection and survival stuff. I'm a big fan of public charter schools and community home schooling.)

Textures are real fun. I have a texture fetish. I'm all about soft things, my bf calls me a connoisseur of soft. Silk velvet is mindblowing, soft and shiny and made by tiny caterpillars. Cattail and milkweed fluff are lovely. If I was a CRISPR scientist in the future I would engineer ever softer creatures. I design and sew clothes, often with fun textures on them like velvet and silk and fur. Touching fabric while sewing is super fun.

Synesthetic orgasms. They're a thing. It's like, you're cumming and suddenly you see tripper visuals, bright colors, shapes, and for me, that thing where my body is rotating as the visual. And yes, I have a friend/lover who loves to joke about “shapes in my mouf”.

It seems to me that it's a little easier for me than the average colonized person to see Reality. I tend to not abstract away "this is a chair" or "that's just a tree" - trees and plants are alive and communicative. Chair is like... sitting object made of x y and z. It makes me a good maker and craftsperson because I understand how to work with materials, their properties. It also means I don't objectify people into shorthand categories.

I say colonized person there because Indigenous people I've met from various cultures don't have that divorced from reality thing going on. Talking with them and listening to their podcasts and seeing their art is amazing.

One interesting thing about my journey with synesthesia is that I have found that eating magic mushrooms helps me be less confused. It's like when I am high I go farther into that state of synesthesia, and when I come down I'm able to see the difference between that and a more parsed out experience of what things are. That helps me hang onto the less-confused state for a while. It also helps me control depression, which I don't doubt is connected to the confusion from synesthesia. 

I was once prescribed an antipsychotic - a class of drugs called filter boosters. I was in awe of how different the world was with those. I remember sitting on an exercise ball in my apartment and thinking oh, my, god, this is me, this is the ball, and that's the wall, and those were separate things. I keep thinking about those and wondering if I'd like to try to stay on a really low dose of them or something.

Otherwise to me the world is sort of one sea of vibration. It's really hard to explain what that experience is like. But I am pretty sure it's like how people describe on acid you can see the vibrational fields coming off of everything. So it is like that for me on a constant basis except it's not that I see them, it's that I feel them and my feeling sense is more loud than my visual or lexical parsing of that information. Hence the running into things I'll describe below.


Car Noise

I can't live by busy roads. I experience combustion car engines as if my body is exploding. It's a frenetic, fluttery feeling in my chest, and feels like a nervous system fire, is the best way I could describe it. I can't relax around that sound, even with earplugs in. It's the main thing I look forward to with vehicle electrification - the soundscape of cities is going to be completely different. Not to mention the smog cloud. Remember what the sky looked like in your city at the start of COVID shutdown, how clearly you could see things because the air wasn't full of particulates from a billion explosions every second? God I hate that sound.

Car noise/vibration makes it hard for me to feel my own body's rhythms, which is fundamentally disorienting. When I'm in a quiet place, I have what feels like lightyears more headspace to think and see clearly around problem sets, and intuitively surface answers and next steps I need to do with a work thing. And my body is less stressed out, I don't breathe shallowly the way I do around cars, my nervous system can chill out, I don't need coffee to muscle arm my way through the physical stress into concentration.

Machines and Code

Remember how I said around care noise I experience my body as if I'm exploding like inside the combustion engine? There is a kind of synesthesia where people feel machines as if they're their own bodies. I have that with any machine that makes a decent amount of noise, and with machine code on the internet. The internet one is pleasant unless I’m on social media or using Google because of all the tracking and behavior manipulation stuff in there. Like, knowing and sensing the inside guts of why Facebook is getting sued repeatedly for abetting genocide in multiple different countries. I'm thankful I have friends who are gradually teaching me all the ways to protect yourself from invasive data tracking and behavior manipulation. If you haven't quit Facebook yet btw, please do. You'll then notice more how people's thoughts and actions are influenced by it in a way that is harmful.

I run into things a lot.

I was nicknamed "Rebecca Wrecker" as a child because I was always getting bruises and scrapes. I almost died a couple times as an adult from accidents while climbing and biking where my awareness slipped of orientation to the ground.

It's hard for me to sense the edges of objects. In my current house, we have several pointy-edged pieces of furniture, and I reliably run into all of them every week, with consistent bruises at that object's height level on my body.

I see by vibration, it feels like. Meeting psychedelic community was a huge help in me learning how to communicate better and socially integrate in the world, because these are people who have similar perceptual experiences, they're just on drugs when they have them 😆. With an object, I can see its edges if I look straight at it. But if I'm walking through a room, sight shifts to almost a vibrational orientation, especially since when I'm thinking I often defer my vision space to my internal mental vision. I mean, my sight is shit too, I can't even tell the eye chart is letters at all, can't see the E without correction. I like that because if I don't have correction the world looks like a Monet painting, all soft, and light through trees is just dancing different shade orbs of green and gold. It's very peaceful.

That vibrational orientation thing means that I also frequently get lost when I'm in a city, because I can't hear nature or landmarks or shapes of the land that usually guide me as to where I am, it's just total acoustic chaos. It's like a whale that swam into an inlet in a city and they get stuck there because they can't hear which way to go. I rarely fly (and think it's crazy that people do so often, the carbon spend), because it takes me weeks to reorient after I get home, like my sensors are all mixed around. I would so ride a horse everywhere if I could. Nice gentle living beast, pet pet.

So there you have it, a summary of my experiences as a kinesthetic synesthete. Apparently kinesthetic synesthetes are good at understanding complex relationships between things, which is totally what I do for work. From wikipedia: 

"The result is the ability to memorize and model complex relationships between numerous variables by feeling physical sensations around the kinesthetic movement of related variables. ... Generally, those with this type of synesthesia can memorize and visualize complicated systems, and with a high degree of accuracy, predict the results of changes to the system." 

Unfortunately at some point I also drank a lot of ayahuasca and became aware of, could sense at scale, the planet's ecosystem imbalances and diagnose what human systems and cultures were causing them. I lived on gift economy for seven years to model a financial system to pay the kinds of grassroots organizers who are humanity's highest hope for dealing with, for example, a predicted 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050.

I mostly experience synesthesia as a burden. There was a pianist with eidetic memory named Sviavitlav Richter (his Prokofiev is amaaaaaazing) - a documentary about him shows him describing the names of every person he has met and how annoying it is to have that irrelevant information in his mind. I mostly like that part, absorbing information like a sponge and being able to learn a decent amount about many fields quickly. But being able to make the connections between things mean I have an alienating knowledge set, and I get frustrated with hyper specialization that means huge amounts of resources are going into things that are missing important pieces of the problem they're focused on. It's also really hard for me to see what is relevant to tell someone when I'm explaining a professional thing or trying to raise capital for the complex system I built. I'm often overwhelmed and tend to stay introverted. It took me two decades to find a balance between being intellectual but hating (American) cities (Barcelona no-car zones are totally pleasant!). Thanks, internet!

I hope this meandering blog post was entertaining :).

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