Touching the Colors

I have a friend who is in in treatment for a pelvic mass that may very well be ovarian cancer. She is in surgery as I write this post. My concern for her well being is somewhat tempered by my confidence in her physicians and care team at the University of California, San Francisco. I know she is in good hands. It also helps to assauge my fears when I remember that she is a detemined creature, full of fire and will, with a decades long yoga and meditation practice. Even as I fret over her health, I am certain her inner strength paired with her resourceful community will help her move forward. 

I dreamt of my friend a few nights ago. In my dream I was palpating her abdomen, using my fingers to rake the soft tissue as I would during a theraputic massage session. As I worked on her tummy, I could feel a dense and knotty growth in the left side of her pelvis. When my fingers made contact with the mass, I got a tactile sense of its shape, globular with two separate lobes, one smaller than the other. Every time my fingers came in contact with the mass, I saw it glow in vibrant colors, as if the growth was backlit. The larger lobe was flamingo pink, the smaller chartreuse green. Both were surrounded by a corona of silver filaments. 

I have touch->color synaesthesia in the waking world so it’s no suprise to me that I had a synaesthetic experience of the same sort in my dreamstate. What made this such an otherworldly experience was the intensity of the colors and their luminescence paired with the three dimensional shape of the mass. My touch->color synaesthesia shows up every single day in my massage therapy practice, where my tactile contact with people’s bodies creates a visual perception of color, texture, and pattern. The colors I typically see range from hazy and nebulous to robust, but are never as extreme as they were in my dream. And, while I typically think those two hues are quite lovely, in my dreamstate the pink and green seemed threatening, as if the colors represented some sort of alarm.

Some people feel a strong connection between their experiences with synaesthesia and their spiritual life. I’m a bit of a “neurocognitive agnostic” in that I don’t believe that my synaesthesias confer upon me abilities such as medical intuition, the capacity to diagnose illness through a sort of clairvoyance. But I do feel that the colors I witnessed in my dreamworld as I massaged my friend’s stomach have meaning. Their vibrancy speaks to my anxiety in the face of my friend’s surgical procedure, and my concern for her young adult son. The chartreuse and flamingo glob I touched also seems like a metaphor for my own worry and nervousness in the face of illness, perhaps even a symbol of my own sense of mortailty. 

Mirror sensory synaesthesia makes it difficult for me to visit people in the hospital, but I do hope I will have the opportunity to support my friend’s recovery once she is home. I’m trained in numerous soft-tissue modalities including planar scar mobilization, and I am a minor expert at post operative manual therapies. Perhaps I’ll have the chance to massage my friends tummy as she heals. If I do, I’m sure I will see all sorts of colors. But I doubt they’ll be as noxiously saturated as the hues I saw in my sleep.