Thursday, October 27, 2011

In which I talk about my Abby Normal brain.

I have synesthesia. Many of you know this, many of you don't. Here's a definition, for those who are thinking "Synna What, Now?":


  1. The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.
What this means is that a number of my wires and neurological streams cross, and colors have smells, smells have color, letters and numbers have colors and personalities, I see what less-educated people call auras, etc. I become very easily overloaded in places like malls, Dave & Buster's, music stores (people playing different things, recorded music playing, people talking, videos running). Chuck E Cheese's was a waking nightmare for me when my kids were going to parties there. I get intensely nauseated and disoriented at very bright and flashing lights, and a lot of people talking at a party sounds and actually feels like glass breaking inside my head.

The relevant part of this to this blog, though, is thoughts I've had since watching an episode of "Taboo" in which objectum sexualis was featured, focusing on Erika Eiffel, who's an internationally known American OS who has married the Eiffel Tower and taken its name as her own surname. The best OS page is here: .  I'm not OS, but I have a real sympathy for people who are.

The most relevant part of the show for me, however, was a psychiatrist commentator, who said that she doesn't think OS is a sexuality issue so much as an extreme form of synesthesia, specifically object-personification synesthesia. My scrambledy-neurons went *ZIP*ZAP* and I suddenly had a major insight to both my own synesthesia and my doll collections.

Everyone personifies objects to some extent, as it's an evolutionary part of our need to make patterns to help us avoid physical or psychological harm. Some synesthetes, however, have a much stronger sense of objects having personalities: 'We report a case study of an individual (TE) for whom inanimate objects, such as letters, numbers, simple shapes, and even furniture, are experienced as having richly detailed personalities....These findings demonstrate that synaesthesia can involve complex personifications for inanimate objects, which can influence the degree of visual attention paid to those objects." (Personifying inanimate objects in Synaesthesia, Carriere, Malcomson, Eller, Kwan, Reynolds, and Smilek, Journal of Vision, June 2007, vol. 9 # 9 article 53).  (side note: I have a MA in sociology, so I do have some credentials to back up my own bs-ing. ;D)

My point--and I do have one!--is that a large number of doll collectors invest their dolls with personalities, stories, and lives, and these can be as rich and detailed as  reality. Some collectors don't, they see their dolls as decorative objects or mannequins, and I get that -- these are the collectors less likely to show up on the "Ain't these Doll People Freaks?" types of docco shows, because the rest of the world kind of "gets it." Those of us who go farther and deeper into the personalities of their dolls may not be able to help it even if we wanted to (I don't want to help it, for the record). The dolls are people, thank you, on a different level from the truly alive beings around us (priorities! Actually alive=more important), but still people. 

Part of this pondering was sparked by my modded Tonner Rapunzel, Martie, and my very  strong emotional attachment to her. I attach pretty strongly to most of my dolls, but I have bonded hard and fast with Martie, who grabbed my heart and creative imagination the first time I saw her online. I'd been jonesing for a Rapunzel anyway, largely for that HAIR!, but this girl--*BOOMETY*BOOM*BOOM* went my heart, and I even dreamed about her before I bought her. I had a moment of real emotional pain when I though someone else had bought her, so when she was actually, truly MINE and physically in my hands.....I was afraid to open the box! What if she didn't measure up to the pics, price, anticipation....? She sat in that box for  a *week* before I finally worked up the moxie to open it.

You all know how this came out, because I've been posting primarily pics of Martie since I deboxed her, got some clothes on her, and brushed that amaaaaaaazing hair. She's my sewing muse and travel buddy now, and is inspiring me to make better pictures (as pro photographers say--that's my husband's primary avocation). She may be getting a backstory soon, as she isn't the same as the character in "Tangled." She's Martie Riley. She has her own rich life, thanks.


  1. Very interesting article, and it makes sense--no pun intended. ;-) My only issue with stuff like this is that it can lead to folks who don't get it trying to pathologize behavior that's just a bit further out on the bell curve of normal. But it's always nice to see explanations for how our brains work, and maybe somewhat of why out there.

  2. I'm not seeing pathologizing so far, but i *am* seeing efforts to rigidly define it. I took a "synesthesia battery" that had nothing to do with what I experience, and assumed that I could pick exactly the same color CODE for letters, numbers, and musical notes. UhhhhNO, not really. What color a letter is depends on the word it's in and what's next to it, and numbers have gender and personality, not necessarily color. Forget the music, I border on tone-deaf, and SONGS have color and taste and smell, not individual notes or chords. According to that thing, I'm neurotypical. According to what I know I experience compared to neurotypicals, I'm waaaaaay to the right of the bell curve. Sometimes I can tell you what year something happened in by what the event smells like in my head (2003 with undertones of May...), and how far back *in space* the week was. How the hell are these number-humpers going to quantify that?

  3. How the hell are these number-humpers going to quantify that?

    Exactly! Just like the test that's too rigid to encompass the full variety of experience, they don't get it. Maybe it's a result of health care, wanting specific diagnoses for things, but then we're back to pathologizing behavior that's simply different. Or maybe it's just a result of tests being written by people who have no clue what they're talking about. you've given me some stuff to think about--though I always come back to how did events in childhood affect these parts of my brain, and is there a correlation? Probably, but hwo much of one would be interesting to figure out. Then again, it could be a chicken/egg question, too.

  4. I'm pretty convinced it's a clear wiring issue. My environment as a child was so bleak that there's NO way it would have been triggered/developed by that. That may contribute to my easily-overstimulated brain, though, since it didn't learn to process any of that when I was a sall child.

    I think the testing is primarily developed by people who don't get it--the headblind trying to lead the synesthetics. I'm glad it's being taken seriously, but really, that "battery" left me feeling battered, all right.


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