Synesthesia: an interview
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
Imagine that whenever you hear violins, you taste cheesecake. Or that your dad’s voice is a pale green. Or that whenever you see the letter “B”, you feel a tickle in your right hand. Sounds crazy right? Actually, this can be the way that a small percentage of the population experiences things. The condition they have is called synesthesia. It’s a rare neurological condition, affecting approximately four (4) percent of the population, in which one sense is joined with another. Synesthesia combines objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or words with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor.
Every synesthete (someone with synesthesia) has their own unique perceptions. Natalia Feldman is someone who has synesthesia. For her, numbers have colors as well as personalities. Feldman graciously agreed to an interview so that we can get a personal look at just what living with this condition is like.
Q: When did you first find out that you had synesthesia?
A: My synesthesia is so innate to me that I never really thought to question it. However, I guess you could say that I realized I was different in my first year of middle school, when my teacher mentioned synesthesia. She said that certain people see colors when they hear music. It was then that I realized that numbers don’t have colors and personalities for everyone. It has made things like math and physics a bit challenging because when I have numbers and colors that I like more, sometimes I’ll want to use answers that aren’t necessarily correct because my brain prefers their colors.
Q: Do you have any favorite numbers?
A: I like the number four, number one, number five and number eight. Six too, sometimes.
Q: Do you find that this affects your interactions with other people in any way?
A: No, not really. Sometimes I’ll think things like “Oh, that’s major number one energy”, a little like what people do with the zodiac signs, but I never say it out loud.
Q: How do you “see” the color? Do you actually see it in front of you or is it just in your head?
A: A bit of both, I would say. Sometimes when I look at the numbers, I’ll see them in a very cartoonish way (with a black outline all around). However, most of the time, it’s in my head.
Q: Does your synesthesia make things difficult in any way?
A: Sometimes! Which is due to the number favoritism that I described earlier. For example, on a multiple-choice test, if I don’t really know what the answer is, I’ll be inclined to pick the one that has the colors I like better.
Q:Does anyone else in your family have synesthesia?
A: I don’t think so, however, I’ve never really asked.
Q: What are some misconceptions you’ve encountered about your condition?
A: Some people assume how I experience the conditions of synesthesia based on an article that they’ve read, so I have to explain to them that every synesthete has their own unique perceptions. With that said, what they read won’t necessarily match up with the way that I experience things.
Q: How does your synesthesia affect you on a day-to-day basis, like when buying groceries or doing the laundry?
A: When I go shopping, sometimes I won’t mind paying more for something if I like the colors or the numbers, so I may not be buying the cheapest option! The washer and dryer that I use have a number two (2) on them, and so whenever I do laundry I always get really happy. But it’s funny because the number is actually written in green.
Q: Does that bother you?
A: No, I just feel like they did things wrong, and they should have hired me to do it! (Laughs)