Synesthesia - Seeing Auras Doesn't Mean I'm Nuts
What is a tween to do when she discovers no one else sees the beautiful lights?
As a kid, I went where I was told.
"Go to church," my mom would say. So I went to church.
"Go on our historic church trip," my Sunday school teacher told me. So My mom made sure I went on the trip.
So as an impressionable 12 year old, I obediently followed our guide through dusty halls into various rooms that held some meaning that I didn't quite get. But when we entered one particular room, I saw something marvelous. A round room with imposingly tall ceilings had illuminated colors running up and down the walls. As I moved around the room, the colors moved somewhat too. It was unbelievably cool.
We were warned at the beginning of the tour not to interrupt the lecturer. Again, I did what I was told.
I didn't say anything about the colorful walls out loud. For that, I was immediately grateful.
Because when I looked around at the other students to see who else had noticed the colors. Everyone just looked bored. B. O. R. E. D. Bored.
Most were studying their feet or something else mundane. A few were even looking at the lecturer. But not one was looking up at the color filled walls. Clearly no one else saw anything - at all. To them, the walls were plain and white and boring.
So at that moment when I discovered I could see things others couldn't, my brain immediately sent me to the "Am I crazy?" corner to think about what I had just done.
Was it real? I knew it was. No one else could see it, though. So did that mean I was nuts? I mulled through all the jokes about crazy people I had ever heard. And the "seeing things that aren't there" category was well represented.
I really disliked the idea of being insane so the only other meaning I could figure out was that they were auras and I was having a spiritual experience. I was 12, remember. It's all I had to work with unless you count the idea that I was a witch.
Although I did own a black cat, I dismissed that idea fast. Mainly because I didn't want to get condemned by God and whatever else was supposed to happen to witches. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Yeah that scripture popped into my head. Not a welcome idea for me, so I jumped on the aura explanation with gusto. Again, me at 12.
At that point the world changed. Reality didn't, of course. I saw what I saw. Others saw what they saw. That's how it still is today. But at the time, I began truly searching for the meaning behind what I saw.
If it was a spiritual gift and God was speaking to me, what was He saying?
Auras are not all fun and games.
Now. Most people claim that synesthesia has no negatives, but once again, I'm seeing things no one else seems to.
As I tentatively admitted to a few people that I could see color around people and on surfaces, I was relieved to find a few people who accepted it willingly.
I was dubbed spiritually gifted because I could see auras. Only problem was nothing I saw matched anything I had seen represented by mystics and religious books. To make it worse, I couldn't see a definite pattern that showed a clear meaning.
There were some general patterns in color and size. But if this was a form of communication, it was limited to a 6 word vocabulary . Finding a meaning from that small a variation was maddening. I could guess by the aura color if a person was happy or sad, but I could tell that from facial expressions most of the time anyway. I decided it was not the most useful messaging system.
That's not the only thing that was chalked up to being a spiritual gift. I also was sensitive to others' emotions and physical pain (meaning I actually felt it). Those feelings represent another type of syn.
Syn is what synesthetes call it because the word is too freaking long to type constantly. The fact that syn sounds just like sin makes me giggle because of my background. Here is why:
As I got older, I discovered that I really didn't like a lot about the church I was in. This meant whenever I expressed a desire to just stop going I was met with what leaders and family must have thought was an ace up their collective sleeve.
(Before I continue, I want to be clear that this group thought they had a monopoly on God. I just wanted to leave them. But according to them, that was the same as leaving God himself. I firmly disagree with that belief.)
"You can see auras. How could you turn your back on God when he had given you such a great gift? There's no greater sin that to know God and then turn away."
This was used frequently against me when I tried to leave that church.
"Obviously," I was told, "if God wasn't talking to you then you must actually have schizophrenia or another mental illness." Tapping into my greatest fear was an effective method to ensure obedience.
That was a frequent argument used against me to make me stay. No one, including me, knew a third option (or more) existed.
I did eventually manage to reach escape velocity and exit that church. But it was a frustratingly painful experience that was in no way made better by having to face the aura question anew. I still saw things that were not there.
Again I was at square one on finding out why I saw things no one else seemed to. I tried my best to figure it out. The process went a little like this:
Q. Am I crazy?
A. I don't like that idea, so let's mark it "No." I can figure out why later.
Q. Is God talking to me?
A, If He is, I have no idea what He's saying because there are no clear patterns or messages to what I see. So in effect, No, God is not speaking to me. Plus I really resent how seeing auras was used against me by my old church, so let's find another idea.
Q. What else is there?
A. Well, there's brainwashing. I was in a church that a number of people consider to be a cult. So, that's possible. (At one point, I went to a licensed counselor who suggested that I saw auras because I was conditioned to.) Except for the fact that counseling and adjusting my belief system didn't make it stop. So I'll count that as a "No" too.
Q. What else is there?
It took a lot of combing through the internet and the library, but I eventually landed on a psychic debunking website that explained that seeing auras had a neurological explanation.
Described was a "neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway." That meant to me that there was some crisscrossing between senses as well as other perceptions such as emotions. This condition described exactly what I had been seeing this whole time. (From wikipedia, I couldn't find my original source.)
I was so happy to discover a non-crazy, nondenominational option. That option being, of course, synesthesia. Yay! Finally, some useful information.
A. Ding! We have a winner! I didn't have to stay in that church to protect my sense of sanity. Syn was the answer after all. (Yes, my tongue is firmly placed on the side of my cheek right now.)