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Emotion-colour, emotion-shape and emotion-image synesthesia

An alternative name for emotion-colour is coloured emotions


Note: this page is about synesthetic experiences evoked by the synesthete’s own emotions, not those observed in other people. To find out more about this latter type, see the page Perceived emotion-to-colour (and other concurrents).



This type of synesthesia consists of having visual experiences of colour (or colour and shape) in response to different emotions. Some synesthetes actually see these visual concurrents physically in front of them (projector synesthetes), while others only see them in their mind’s eye (associator synesthetes). They may take the form of a transparent colour field like an overlay, tinting their vision, they may resemble a cloud or mist, or the synesthete may feel that the colour is irradiating out of a particular part of the body, for example. When the colours also have shape it is normally a simple or complex geometrical figure, either single or multiple. Colours and shapes are the most common visual concurrents, although there is also a very rare variant where complete figurative images are seen. In general it is not a very common type: in Sean Day's study on 1,143 synesthetes, 3.24% reported having visual experiences in response to emotions. The colours perceived for each emotion are consistent, and they are also idiosyncratic, varying greatly from person to person. They are not guided by conventional correspondences such as red=anger or passion, grey=seriousness or boredom, although they may occasionally coincide. (A colour semiology chart explaining the traditional connotations symbolised by each colour can be consulted in this interesting article.)


Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:


Emotion-colour

“When I'm happy I see a blue color floating in the air. It's slightly transparent and usually lasts only for a second or two. I see yellow the same way usually when doing chores or during an endless math lesson. I see magenta when having really negative emotions.”

“I can see the colours near the top of my head, floating like a giant cloud. For me the colour also varies with the degree of emotion. Extreme happiness/Ecstatic – Golden. Contentment - Pale yellow. Energetic happiness - Bright yellow. Love is always degrees of pink. The more love I feel the paler it gets. Sometimes I don't understand all emotions so I can just see a colour floating about. Like I can see a metallic grey cloud but I can't decipher my emotions."

(Source: This post and comments on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2016.)


Sometimes when someone hugs me and I feel safe or protected, then everything is covered in a light, translucent cyan. When I’m feeling loved the world is pinker than usual (a very pale pink). When I’m angry it’s a bright but translucent red hue around everything.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)

"Stress", by nottellingunosytwat, in this post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2021.

  

Emotion-colour/shape

“The journey…. the journey always stresses me out, and stress appears to me as a deluge of little watery red spheres like caviar that crash into me and explode one by one. My emotions grow as I pack my suitcase. The idea of departure starts as carmine red, and when the time actually comes it has turned into an opaque, amorphous white goodbye. The feeling of saying goodbye is a whitish-grey mist that engulfs me, expanding all around me until it touches the rest of my family.”

(Source: the artist Pepa Salas Vilar, cited in the book “Sinestesia. El color de las palabras, el sabor de la música, el lugar del tiempo…” by Alicia Callejas and Juan Lupiáñez, pub. Alianza Editorial 2012. Original in Spanish.)


"Worry” and “Scared”, by Ailsa Brims in her blog Peppermint Sea

As my emotions get stronger, so do the visions I see in my mind. This is especially true for negative emotions, for example extreme fear. For example, in one instance, I have suffered severe panic attack because of the fear I was facing. All I could see were these glowing white branches that were gently growing into beautiful shapes, and it was as vivid as real life. It did not help me calm down tho lol. On the other hand, sadness looks like metallic-grey fog. Happiness is like cubes, spheres and pyramids coated in vaporwave shade of purple.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)


I have something like hallucination since my first memory. It's colorful bubbles in the air. … The size, color, shape and movement of the bubbles change according to my mood. For example, when I feel happy, the bubbles are small, yellow and move upward in the air. When I'm angry, the bubbles move faster from left to right.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)

"Disturbing feelings", by Bettina in the Gallery at sensequence.de

Emotion-image

Although it is very uncommon, some synesthetes perceive emotions as figurative images. Cases have been reported where feelings are consistently perceived as objects, scenes, places or people. I am only aware of cases where the pictures are formed as a mind’s-eye impression (associative synesthesia) and I don’t know whether any synesthetes actually see them physically in external space. In any case, the associations of this type appear automatically, consciously and consistently (same emotion=same image) on feeling or perceiving the different emotions:


"My emotions are physical things. Like anxiety is a knotted hollow tube. Joy is like a belt around my lower back, and so forth. They’re real to me, but when I asked others if they experience this, they say no."

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


“The way I feel about my boyfriend, I get some galactic type images, colourful star clusters and such. I also picture birds flying through clouds. I also get the image of a dark chair facing the left corner of a room, the walls are dark blue at the bottom and lighter higher up, for whatever feeling depression is.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2017.)


“For as long as I remember, when I feel certain emotions strongly or think back on a memory where I felt such an emotion strongly, I picture a character at the same time.

For example, excitement is a dark-skinned young woman, frizzy hair, dyed a pastel rainbow at the bottom, wearing a purple tank top and black denim shorts, with a unicorn horn headband. Anger is a young pale-skinned man with fawn brown hair, wearing a red flannel shirt. His body cuts off at the torso and has no arms, and he has floating purple hands.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


Related types of synesthesia:

Emotion-smell

Emotion-taste

Emotion-tactile

Perceived emotion-to-colour (and other concurrents)

Pain-colour/shape/image

This page is about emotion-color synesthesia and emotion-shape

This page is about emotion-colour synaesthesia and emotion-shape

This page last updated: 02 July 2021

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