I’m a mirror-sensory synesthete; my vision, my mirror neurons and the dermatomes that innervate my skin are united in a strange fusion of sensation. Although I didn’t learn the word “synesthesia” until I was an adult, some of my earliest childhood recollections include mirror-sensory phenomena, and the dissonance that comes with feeling in my body what I perceive with my eyes.
I experience a few different forms of mirror-sensory synesthesia:
Mirror-proprioception makes me involuntarily move in unison with the movements of other people. For example, when I see dancers performing on stage, the muscles in my legs twitch and contract in sync with the movements executed by the performers.
Synesthesia-for-pain is a strange and discomfiting sensation. When I see another person’s wounds, I get shocks of stinging electrical pain that shoot from my hips to my heels. It doesn’t matter if this pain is real or depicted in a film; the instant I see an injury, flashes of pain course down my legs. If I’m deeply disturbed by what I see, I will also feel pain in the back of my arms and across my chest, following the path of the thoracic dermatomes.
Mirror-touch synesthesia means I feel in my body what I see happening to the bodies I witness. This is most evident in my work. I’m a massage therapist, and when I watch my hands mobilizing my client’s muscles and soft tissue, I feel as if I’m the one getting the massage. This is an exceptional benefit of the practice of manual therapy, and I believe mirror-touch synesthesia is the key to my career’s longevity. The average massage therapist leaves the field after just 7 years in practice; next year, I will celebrate my 25th anniversary as a Certified Massage Therapist!
I hold an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco, and mirror-sensory synesthesia is a topic I explore through personal narrative. You can find my essays at the following publications:
Neuroscience website braindecoder.com published my essay regarding mirror-touch synesthesia and my career in massage therapy.
Synaesthesia-for-pain is the topic of my essay “Built for Hurt” pushed by qualia literary journal.
The Establishment published my Halloween-themed essay regarding the increasingly gory All Hallow’s Eve imagery in America as a trigger for mirror-sensory synesthesia.
I moderate a mirror-touch synesthesia page on Facebook.
Recently, I presented a Trinity College, Dublin Ireland at the United Kingdom Synaesthesia Association annual conference in April 2016. Below is a jpg of my poster presentation “Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia and the Practice of Manual Therapy”.