An Explanation of my Spatial-Sequence Synesthesia

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[This was originally published in January of 2009, back when I kept up with a regular (and singular) blog. My posts on synesthesia are pretty much the only ones I’ve kept and decided to re-post elsewhere, because they are a nice documentation of my experience with the phenomenon.]

In my spatial-sequence synesthesia, I see months of the year, days of the week, and hours of the day in circular sequences that occupy space.

Months of the Year

syn_ss_months1My year is a large circle around my head. The months run counter-clockwise, with January at the “top” slightly to the left of center. The months follow around the circle, until June and July are basically inside my head, then continuing around to the right until December meets January. Whenever I think of a month, I see it in its spot and its color. My calendar does not rotate. It is always the same no matter what month it currently is. If I think of a month, I can sort of move myself into it, but retain the dominance of the static calendar. I don’t know if this is making sense to anyone but me…

The idea of this circular spatial sequence is that the months are constantly flowing one into the other, in a constant, repetitive pattern. There is no break in the pattern, which is why my circle is so appropriate. Below I’ve drawn a couple of diagrams of my year, complete with each month’s color. The first one is as if you were standing behind me. The second is as if you were looking down at it from above my head.

Days of the Week

My week is similar to my hear in that it is circular and runs counter-clockwise. It is much smaller than my year, and sits in a space in front of me and slightly to the left. Sunday and Saturday and in the “back” of the circle, and the rest of the days are in the “front”. It also has less dimension/depth than the year does. Each day has a color as well. Just like my year, I can move myself into each day, but the week never changes its spatial sequence. Below I’ve drawn a diagram of the way I see my week, with each day in its color.

syn_ss_week

This is a very rough sketch of how I view the days of the week via my spatial-sequence synesthesia. It’s a circle, where Saturday and Sunday are farther away and Wednesday is closest to me. It’s really hard to depict this properly. The days are also colored based on how they are colored to me (via my grapheme-color synesthesia). This is not necessarily how the actual words look to me, just the DAYS.

Hours of the Day

syn_ss_clockThe hours in my day are slightly different from my year and week. My day is like an elongated oval, and sits vertically, as opposed to horizontally (like my year and week) in space. It is like a big oval that I could draw on the wall in front of me, and is about the same height as my body, but higher than me (it doesn’t start at my feet, but maybe my waist). It is also different in that it runs clockwise, but it is not exactly like a clock.

Midnight is at the top. 6:00 am is at the bottom. Noon is halfway through the left side. The chunks of time also have colors associated with them, but it’s mainly just the color of the sky during that time of day, so I don’t know that it counts in a synesthetic way.

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14 thoughts on “An Explanation of my Spatial-Sequence Synesthesia

  1. Hello! Interesting article :). I was amazed with the part in which you describe your day… I have the same, almost exactly the same! Also vertical, from light to dark, only that at seven o’clock there is a clear “border” in my version, and then it becomes darker, it’s almost like: at 7 the day is “finished” and the other hours are additions, it’s strange when you think about it actually… When I see the days of the week, weeks, months, years and decades… they go from right to left (past on my right, future on my left), each part is clearly segmented and has a different feeling/colour. Thaks for sharing your experience! It’s interesting to learn more about how other people perceive time (it’s only recently that i’ve discovered it’s not “normal” :)).
    Kind regards,

    • Wow, how cool that our days are almost exactly the same! Crazy that you see the past on your right and future on your left. Mine is the exact opposite. Thanks for sharing YOUR experience! I love hearing how other synesthetes experience the world. :)

    • Fascinating! Are your colors similar to mine as well? Interesting that yours in angled, too. Is it angled to the side, or away from you, or some other way?

      Thanks for sharing yours! I love learning about other synesthetes. :)

  2. Hi Herey, thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve only just discovered (at almost 50 years of age ;)) that I seem to have spatial-sequence synesthesia. A friend sent me this article:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10257633/What-do-London-Underground-stops-taste-like.html

    I wanted to know more about synesthesia so I looked it up in the German Wikipedia where some your sketches are shown (did you know this?)

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syn%C3%A4sthesie#Sequenz-Raum-Syn.C3.A4sthesie

    Anyway, I saw your weekday sketch and it was like a revelation! It’s exactly like I see a week! It’s floating in front of me (not around me so Wednesday, too, is closest to me), it’s an ellipse, it’s counter-clockwise; the only thing I don’t have are colours for weekdays or any other abstract things …

    Then I found your flickr and this site, and it’s the same with the year, exactly the same! And for me, too, the year is three-dimensional and floating around me so summer is behind me (but I still see it, of course). Again, I don’t see colours. I’d love to be able to associate colours but it means nothing to me …

    My day is rather boring, I’m afraid, it’s just a regular clock, but I use the regular clock in my head to visualise different time zones (which I have to do at work a lot). For me it’s easier and quicker than counting hours or using a time zone calculator.

    My years/decades are three-dimensional again, with my birth decade (YOB 1964) right in front of me on eye level. Past decades/centuries are to my left and they go further to the left behind my back (and they descend). The 70s until now are to my right and they stay on the same level So, I, too, have the past on my left and the future to my right, like Mademoisellepoupee. 2014 is now at the right side of my head. I’m curious if this position changes when time goes on.

    I didn’t really think any of this was special up to now because I thought everybody visualises time in some way :D. My husband and I had talked about “seeing time” years ago. He visualises time in different shapes than I do, and he visualises weekdays and months clockwise. But I just found out that he associates musical notes with colours, lucky him!

    As I said, I’d love to have colour associations and other associations but I believe I don’t … My alphabeth is just a line, and my numbers are just a line, too … and they are b/w …

    Anyway, thanks again for this; it’s really fascinating! And I kind of envy you for all your other associations :)

    Best regards, Julia from Munich/Gemany

    • Hi Julia,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I hadn’t seen that article about the London Underground — nor had I realized that some of my illustrations were being used on that German wikipedia site! I’m glad for both links, so thank you (and wonderfully, the wiki site is actually crediting me for the images!).

      It is SO COOL to meet someone who sees the weekdays and the months of the year in the same sequence/pattern that I do! How fascinating. Aside from you, I’ve yet to hear of any two synesthetes agreeing on how they see anything, lol!

      I wish I could visualize time zones the way you do. That sounds really useful, as I do work with people from California all the way to Europe, and I’m in the mid-US.

      It sounds like your overall history/future calendar is similar to mine but slightly different. I wish I could keep my birth year (1982) centered in front of me, but the way mine works is that the current year is always directly to my left, and the future kind of moves to the right and up and a pretty steep incline (weird how it doesn’t go to my right. I never realized this until now.).

      I think it is AWESOME that both you and your husband have synesthesia, and some similar and some different variations! It’s so nice be able to talk to someone about it and have them understand what you’re describing.

      I do enjoy having the colors — I wish everyone could have them! Thanks again for your comment. :)

  3. Summer

    Hi Herey,
    Earlier this year a friend mentioned that my son may have a version of synesthesia. He is almost 5 and describes his day in the form of a line – it’s a straight line when he’s good and a squiggly line if he gets in trouble. When I researched synesthesia looking for an explanation of his thought process, I couldn’t quite tell if it was indeed synesthesia. However, I recognized immediately that spatial sequence synesthesia accurately described my way of visualizing time, days, etc. I had no idea that this was peculiar! I visualize the days of the week in the same manner as you’ve shown above, but with no colors. The only variation is that Mon-Fri are slightly less curved, creating less of a perfect oval for me. But, the days still exist in the same order and the weekend accounts for the entire front side of my oval, as it does yours. My months of the year vary slightly from yours (and again, no colors for me). January starts to my left and the others extend in an elliptical pattern outward and around me, with December ending at my immediate right. Once again, though, my shape isn’t “perfect”, because I face the center point which for me is between July and August. In other words, my shape curves in from the left at beginning of July and curves out to the right at the end of August, with September starting the progression of the shape back toward me. I also move myself outside of the shape and “look down” or “look out” upon it when thinking of relationships between months (ex: visualizing a birthday in August and one in February). When I do this, I always view it as if I were standing behind fall/winter and the summer months are farthest from me.

    I’m really glad I stumbled across your post, as your pictures are helpful to me in attempting to describe what I see to my family, even though mine vary slightly from yours. So far, I haven’t found another family member that seems to have any version of synesthesia. But, I think the jury is still out on my 5-year old and his “line” visions, and I can’t wait until he is older to see if we have SSS in common!

    • Hi Summer,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences here in the comments! I am absolutely astounded to have now met two people who share such similar versions of my weekday and months-of-the-year spatial sequences! I think it is just fascinating the way our years go in a circle AROUND us. I’m a bit jealous, though, that you can move yourself outside of the circle and look down upon it. Mine is always stationary around me, so I have to visualize relationships between months still with myself in the middle. I guess I can sort of “fade” so that I can see everything better, but not as clearly as you’ve described.

      I love the description of your son and his days, too! I wonder if he has any other forms of synesthesia (I almost expect that he MUST, but who knows?). One thing I Love about synesthesia is that there are so many different forms and that everyone’s experiences with it are different, even if we can have some similarities. I’m so curious to see how your sons perceptions will develop as well. :) It’s nice having someone in the family who can relate to you in this way!

  4. Acae

    It occurred to me just this morning when I decided to look at synesthesia again (doing some research for a short story in which the main character had chromesthesia) that I probably have this form of synesthesia. Though for me, time doesn’t appear in a real space, but rather one that exists in my head only, but that I can picture perfectly. For example, this year is where I am stood on this map, but I can sort of detach myself to get a bird’s eye view of the space, which is useful for looking at dates further away. The years in which I was alive curve in a sort of question mark, against a backdrop of the colours of the places I lived in during those times. The future spreads out to my right (I am always facing the past) and carries on in a straight line till 2030, where it then turns ninety degrees and continues on that way. Before my birth year (because I only see years and never dates), the backdrop is black and the years are white (whereas years I was alive for have some sort of colour) and they spread out in parallel lines, grouped into centuries. At 0 the ordered lines stop and the numbers spread out to my left and don’t stop. Years and eras that I know quite a bit about are clearer to me than the ones I’m not familiar with.
    Numbers spread out in a similar shape to the years I was alive for, whereas days of the week are spread along a conveyer belt that is always in the “same” (or what my brain perceives to be the same) direction. For example, it’s to my right as I lie in bed and straight in front of me in French lessons. Months spread out in a straight line until you get to September, where they turn ninety degrees to the right and continue on till December. January, February and March are odd months, as they are both in the straight line I mentioned earlier and in a sort of curve connecting December to the rest of the year. My perception of the hours in the day are almost the same as yours, but with 7 at the bottom rather than 6. There are no colours, either.
    I’ve always seen my years, months, days, hours and numbers this way and it blows my mind to think that my friends don’t see them as having a space at all. Maybe that’s why it took me three years after first reading about synesthesia to realise I have it, because it seems so obvious to me that others see dates in this way. I’ll definitely have to quiz them on this the next time I see them!

    • Oh oh oh, fantastic! I am very interested to read this short story of yours when it’s finished! Your description of the way you see time spatially is really very similar to mine — especially when it comes to viewing timelines longer than one year. No wait, you see yours on a MAP?! That is way too cool! I find it so fascinating the way our spatial timelines can curve and bend at very specific (but also seemingly random) points. You say that the years you were alive for are shown in colors — is a specific color for each year or anything?

      WOW, so your weekdays always seem to face some sort of cardinal direction, instead of being oriented to the way you’re facing. Fascinating!! And I think it’s interesting how so many of us seem to have similar hours-of-the-day clocks, although slightly different for each person. It honestly blow my mind to think that other people don’t have this ability, as well, because it’s just so intrinsic to the way I think and operate and make decisions. We are so lucky!

      It’s funny, I’ve have synesthesia for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t even learn about it until I was in college, and even THEN it didn’t register that that was what I had until YEARS after that! I’d love to hear of your results from quizzing others about it. I always enjoy conversation about synesthesia. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experiences here! :)

      • Acae

        Hi Herey! It’s great to hear from you. I find it interesting to hear about other synesthete’s experiences too, it’s great fun to hear about it all. To answer your questions, they sit on a coloured background of sorts, which is a blur of browns, golds, beige, whites and greys, but some of the idividual years have their own colours (2007, 2012 and 2014 all have very distinct colours, orange, red and purple respectively); I think this is due to the number>colour form of grapheme>colour synesthesia I have.

        I also asked two of my friends about it; my friend Mhea said it was confusing but cool, and it was the sort of way her dreams flowed. My other best friend Jade called me after I reblogged a synesthesia post on tumblr, and our conversation went like this: “Hey, you know that sy-ns-thsa-” “Synesthesia” “-thing you posted on tumblr? One of those sounds like what I have.” “Which one?” “The number point one?” “…I have that two!” We then had a very excited conversation about it. It turns out that we both have the same types of synesthesia, which is really strange and coincidental… Anything like this ever happened to you before?

        • Wow, how cool is that?! There is nothing quite like helping a friend discover that they also have synesthesia. And you have the same kind — that’s even MORE awesome! This has happened to be a couple of times. Once, when I was describing the synesthesia experiment I was doing to my mom, and we discovered that she also sees numbers as colors. And another time I helped a friend realize that the colors she derives from emotions when reading books is also a form of synesthesia. It’s such a freeing revelation when you discover this about yourself, so I also enjoy helping others discover their synesthesia, too. You’re so lucky to have a best friend who shares this with you! :)

  5. Ari

    Thanks for sharing your synesthesia experiences. I think it is very interesting how your goes in a counter-clockwise direction all around your head. I personally see sequences in a sideways “J” shape, they start in a curve on my left side but after the center it straightens into a line on the right side. My synesthesia is purely spatial though, no colors.

    • Glad you enjoyed this, Ari! How fascinating that yours goes into a J shape and doesn’t circle back around onto itself. I love how everyone’s is different, but we can still discuss them and understand each other (to a point). My dad’s synesthesia is purely spatial, too. His calendar is some crazy cube thing that he can shift and rotate and stuff! O_O

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