January 31st, 2008

No worries, I haven’t turned emo. I’m just talking about “mirror-touch synaesthesia.”

Mirror-touch synaesthesia is a sort of sensory confusion that makes one person can actually feel the pain of another. Synaethesia in general is a mental condition that messes up the senses–intertwining touch and taste, smell and sight, etc. It means some people taste shapes, or smell road signs. The most common type of synaesthesia makes you see letter and numbers in color. In fact, that’s the kind of synaesthesia your truly “suffers from.” Sweet, my very own mental defect!

According to a new study though, mirror-touch synaesthesia can confuse the senses of sight and touch–making empathy for someone who bangs their knee, or a character who gets killed in a movie, a very physical experience. What I wonder about though is the implications this type of synaesthesia would have for BDSM, and for sadomasochism in art. When we watch someone feel pain, do we–like the synaesthetics–feel their pain? Or do we feel only our own pleasure?

It’s possible that people with mirror-touch are simply on one end of the spectrum–and that our own masochism or sadism (as well as our taste in gory in movies) is actually decided by to what extend we empathize with pain. For example, I’m a sub, and I’m no good at hurting people, for example. Then again, if I were really an empathetic masochist, shouldn’t I like watching people get hurt?

Tags: BDSM

7 Responses to “Do You Feel My Pain? Yes, You Do”

  1. darkpen Says:

    Wow…. just… I don’t know what to say. I remember seeing a comic or cartoon of a character that had the mirror thing, but I never really thought about it more than it being mildly funny.

    …so what’s it like seeing colored letters everywhere? Do the colors change depending on how your brain shifts around, or is there a designated color for each letter/number? D:

    But going back to the synaesthesia thing, it really makes you wonder about how the brain works, especially when “normal” people experience the same kind of stuff on a drastically lesser level (or perhaps on a more subconcious level), like when someone scratches a chalkboard, you feel a shitty tingling underneath your nails that temporarily paralyzes your hands (and even more so at younger ages).

    Or maybe its just me.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    especially when “normal” people experience the same kind of stuff on a drastically lesser level (or perhaps on a more subconcious level)
    That’s definitely true. One of the examples the article gave is that there are some people who have a harder/easier time watching violent movies–in theory because we’re more or less empathetic with the pain going on onscreen.

    so what’s it like seeing colored letters everywhere?
    The funny that is that more synaesthetics don’t even realize there’s anything weird with the way they experiences senses–since it’s been like that all their lives. Personally, I took me until I was 18 or so to find out seeing letters/numbers in color was strange. Apparently I asked my mother what color A was when I was little, and she tried to pretend I wasn’t crazy :).

  3. thecurse Says:

    I don’t know if I have this condition, but I certainly have similar sensations. In my last relationship, my partner was a sub and wanted me to engage in BDSM with her. I did, but it was hard. One of the things that lead to our breakup, probably.

    I’m not a sub, though. Hit me, and I will hit back. (And then feel sick about it.)

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Ah, but was the reason you didn’t enjoy hurting your ex because you felt her pain? It’s possible you just aren’t a dom by nature :).

  5. thecurse Says:

    I’ll agree to that, though I do have a dominant personality. ;)

  6. SSJPabs Says:

    Hey! I like emo!

  7. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Haha, fair enough. Though my French students played my a Linkin Park song the other day that was totally emo and totally cracked me up about not having a date for Valentine’s Day. Aw, poor rockers :(.

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