As many of you may know, George has synesthesia. Despite growing up with George, as his sister, it wasn’t until we founded THE 5TH together that I actually became aware of it. It fascinated me and I had so many questions for him. Recently we have been asked the same kind of questions from many of you and so I asked him to share his answers with you all in the form of a short interview. Here is what life is like for George as a synesthete:
SO YOU’RE A SYNESTHETE. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?
Synesthesia is basically when one sensory experience triggers another. I guess people without synesthesia would consider these automatic associations to be quite unrelated and random, however for me, they are innate. There are many types of synesthesia but mine is called Grapheme-colour synesthesia which means words, letters and numbers all have an automatic colour associated with them.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED SEEING THINGS THIS WAY?
I couldn’t really say. I don’t know if it’s something that people are born with or if it can be learnt, but I can’t ever remember a time that I haven’t seen words, letters and numbers in colour.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT IT WAS A CONDITION CALLED SYNESTHESIA?
I can’t remember the year but I’d say maybe late teens / early 20s. I love the artist Lorde and so I was reading an interview online that she did with NME and she mentions synesthesia. It was a real penny-drop moment and that was the first time I realised that not everyone has these word/colour associations. As this had always been my reality, it was never something I ever thought to ask anyone about - I just thought we all automatically had colours in mind for our friends' names or dates in the calendar.
DOES IT EVER GET CONFUSING OR OVERWHELMING TO HAVE THIS KIND OF SYNESTHESIA?
Not particularly because it’s always been the case.
COULD YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW YOU SEE PARTICULAR WORDS AND NUMBERS? DO YOU HAVE FAVOURITES BECAUSE OF THESE ASSOCIATIONS?
I definitely prefer certain words over others because of the colours I associate with them. For example the digit 5 is quite a clean and a bright green colour which has always been a favourite, whereas the word ‘five’ is a dull purple/red - ‘f’ has always been very purple, but then so is ‘Thursday’ and ‘October’.
HAS A PARTICULAR WORD, LETTER OR NUMBER EVER CHANGED COLOUR OR HAVE THEY ALWAYS BEEN CONSTANT?
I don’t have any examples in mind where colours have changed so I guess they have always been quite constant.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT HEIGHTENS ANY OF YOUR OTHER SENSES WHEN YOU SEE THINGS THIS WAY?
Possibly. I feel I’ve always been very in-tune with my senses and their associations. I don’t know if it has anything to do with my synasthesia but I’ve always been particularly good at identifying certain periods of my life or people through scent or sounds/music.
FINALLY, WHAT ARE THE BEST AND THE WORST THINGS ABOUT HAVING GRAPHEME-COLOUR SYNESTHESIA FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE?
I’d really struggle to give any negatives that come from having grapheme colour synesthesia. It only ever makes things more interesting and colourful in my mind and in life. I’m very visually led so if I stop to think about it I guess it’s nice that I have this additional colourful lens. It does also make things easier for me to remember and recall information. For example, when revising for exams at school or uni, I often remembered sources by the colours (or sequence of colours) that I’d associate with their names and year of publication.
It wasn’t until George read an interview like this that he himself realised he had synesthesia, have you just had a similar realisation? We would love to hear.
If you’re left still wanting to know more and have other questions for George, contact us via our website or social media, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you on THE 5TH,
H & G