Living with Spectral Sensitivity – Our only Constant is Change!

I have chosen the term ‘ambient colour sensitivity’ to describe mine and my son’s experience. I think this best describes our changing perception of colour which transforms how we momentarily perceive line, shape and pattern. Our experience changes the way we feel emotionally, feel in our bodies and the way we think. Our nervous system is also affected, confusing our brain and heightening our other sensitivities.

We have a feeling of incompleteness to our sensory experiences. A colour can suddenly appear too bright or too dull as if some hues are missing. A sound can suddenly feel harsh as if the softer tones are not there. A taste can suddenly be too sweet or too sour as if some elements of the flavour are absent. When we wear tints that give us a balanced perception of colour, our sensory experience feels constant.

When our colour perception is improved, ‘nothing is missing’. There is a feeling of completeness. On the basis of this discovery, some may say that we have Irlen Syndrome. However, whereas with Irlen syndrome, a person can usually find one or two tints to balance their perception of the spectrum on a constant basis, we are not able to do that. A few seconds, minutes or hours after we have found the right tint, we perceive the spectrum to have changed and can no longer wear the tints.

In short . . .

Whereas most people have sensory constants – where experiences can become familiar and predictable – we have no constants. Our only constant, therefore is change.

Whereas most people have a ‘complete’ sensory experience – where their brain does not question whether there is ‘something is missing’, our best version of completeness is learning to live with ‘incompleteness’.

We live by the light meaning that from when we get up the morning We have half an eye out to check what the light is doing. How we see the light affects all our choices of the day – what we wear, what we eat, what we do and how we relate to ourselves and other people.

I have chosen the term ‘ambient colour sensitivity’ to describe mine and my son’s experience. I think this best describes our changing perception of colour which transforms how we momentarily perceive line, shape and pattern. Our experience changes the way we feel emotionally, feel in our bodies and the way we think. Our nervous system is also affected, confusing our brain and heightening our other sensitivities.

We have a feeling of incompleteness to our sensory experiences. A colour can suddenly appear too bright or too dull as if some hues are missing. A sound can suddenly feel harsh as if the softer tones are not there. A taste can suddenly be too sweet or too sour as if some elements of the flavour are absent. When we wear tints that give us a balanced perception of colour, our sensory experience feels constant.

When our colour perception is improved, ‘nothing is missing’. There is a feeling of completeness. On the basis of this discovery, some may say that we have Irlen Syndrome. However, whereas with Irlen syndrome, a person can usually find one or two tints to balance their perception of the spectrum on a constant basis, we are not able to do that. A few seconds, minutes or hours after we have found the right tint, we perceive the spectrum to have changed and can no longer wear the tints.

In short . . .

Whereas most people have sensory constants – where experiences can become familiar and predictable – we have no constants. Our only constant, therefore is change.

Whereas most people have a ‘complete’ sensory experience – where their brain does not question whether there is ‘something is missing’, our best version of completeness is learning to live with ‘incompleteness’.

We live by the light meaning that from when we get up the morning We have half an eye out to check what the light is doing. How we see the light affects all our choices of the day – what we wear, what we eat, what we do and how we relate to ourselves and other people.

Let me show you how your relationship with the light can be your superpower!

What Definition Are You Seeing the World In?

When we perceive more blue light than red light, we see the world in higher definition.

When we perceive more red light than blue light, we see the world in lower definition.

When we see in high definition we can feel separate and lonely. We can find it hard to gather and maintain our energy. We can find it hard to drink in from the world and feel part of the world.

When we see in low definition, we can feel that everything is a bit too blended. Life doesn’t draw us in and we can’t quite get hold of things. We can feel tired, apathetic, depressed, as if we have no clear use or purpose.

Look at the photograph at the top. Do you want to walk into the picture and pick up the marble or do you feel you can’t reach it or do you feel oblivious?

If you feel you can’t reach it, you may not perceive enough blue light today.

If you feel oblivious, you may not perceive enough red light today.

If you want to pick it up, then you are just fine the way you are!

I Have to Wear White!

My son, who is 12 will only wear grey. And I will happily and confidently say “My son will only wear grey soft clothes – no waist bands, no pockets, no collars, no buttons.” I don’t flinch as I say these words.

Then this year I have learnt that I need to wear white soft clothes. I need to block UV, wearing bamboo clothing. And this clothing only comes in black, grey and white. I can’t wear black or grey so I have to wear white.

The other reason I have to wear white is because I am colour sensitive and most colours don’t make sense to my brain. I see them, I even appreciate them, but they don’t make sense. So even when I don’t need to block UV, I still wear white.

When outside I can wear pink or pinkish purple shoes and coats and a blue hat but that is it. I mostly wear pinkish shoes, a white hat with a piece to cover my neck and a purple scarf. I feel conspicuous, strange, eccentric. I feel like people may think I am trying to make a statement when I am only trying to make myself feel comfortable.

What do I boldly say about my son – “He will only wear grey.”

What should I boldly say about myself? – “I will only wear white.”

How come we find it easier to let children off the hook for being different but when it comes to adults we tend to move into judgement? As adults we have more conditioning to undo. It is a tougher ride but being ourselves, no matter how different we feel, is the only path to real freedom . . . and I, for one, have chosen to walk that path.

Are you worried about feeling different? Is there anything blocking you from being your real self? I would love to hear your stories. Please comment below.

My Light Sensitive Son – A Poem

My son was 12 and super sensitive to the light. The only thing I could do was to try to identify who he is and what he needs at different times of the year.

He would like you to know that he is now nearly 14 and this year discovered glasses to help his short sight and also dark tints to wear in the brighter light. His life has been transformed. He can engage with life and the world in a much deeper way, However his visual processing issues still mean that he finds activities challenging and tiring that others find easy and not tiring at all.

My Son

In January he comes to find me,
In February we like to write.
In March he likes to play outside
But by April he is nowhere in sight.
In May he shuts his curtains
And programmes his way through the day.
In June he hardly speaks,
Only Unity, C Sharp all day.
In July he likes late night picnics
And will go to the beach or the park.
In August he goes on badger hunts,
Wearing his torch after dark
In September the garden is spooky,
In October the leaves are too red,
In November he asks to do music
Now the rhythms make sense in his head.
In December he does animation
Because he can now think straight.
He creates the most heart warming stories;
It was definitely worth the wait!

How Does it Feel to Have Ambient Colour Sensitivity?

Experiencing ambient colour sensitivity, I am highly aware of my brain’s interpretation of what I perceive in the world around me. I detect the slight rise in red light in autumn, the lowering of blue light in the winter, the change between predominance of red and blue light in the spring, and the lack of red light in the summer. I feel the harmony of colour combinations all around me as soothing, or the discord of colour combinations as jarring, to my system. I detect the slightest change in luminance, changing all the colours I see and the way they interact with each other, constantly, throughout the day and seasons. I have an extreme experience of contrast. experiencing a dance between colours becoming subtly darker and lighter, altering the way I see and feel line, shape and pattern.

Read more . .

Living by the Colours I See in the Light: The Joys and Challenges of Having Ambient Colour Sensitivity

Being Highly Sensitive – Our Only Constancy is Rhythm and Pattern

I don’t have colour constancy so my brain is always trying to decide what colour something is. Are my pink trousers really pink today or are they red or are they orange? They haven’t changed much from yesterday but there is some subtle change to the hue which alerts my brain that I am now seeing a different colour.

I don’t have sound constancy so my brain is always trying to decide what sound something it. My heater is clicking in the corner of my room. Is it the same click as yesterday? Or is it slightly brighter, duller, louder, quieter? Again, not much change from yesterday but my brain still has this insatiable curiosity about the quality of sound.

I don’t have touch constancy so my brain is always trying to decide how something feels. Every day I touch the cushions on my settee and my brain wonders if they feel the same as yesterday. Are they a little softer, a little too soft, a little harsher? Again not much change from yesterday but my brain cannot help itself but ask the questions.

And then there is smell. Do the chips cooking smell the same as yesterday? And taste? Do my chips taste the same as yesterday? Yes, my brain will not be happy if it hasn’t considered these things.

Exhausting – you must think! Well, yes it is! But I have a solution.

I need to work out what the pattern is. How does my cushion feel in January, February, March . . . ? What does the kitchen tap sound like and how does it make me feel in January, February, March . . . ? What colour is my strawberry jam in January, February, March . . .?

Then when that time of year comes round again, I won’t be shocked. I will be expecting each variation of the stimuli as I move through the year. Constancy, any way you can get it, is comforting. Lack of constancy is disturbing and makes us feel insecure.

I don’t have constancy for any of my sensitivities so the only thing constant in my life is rhythm and pattern.

Help! I Over-see Contrast!

I have been trying to get to the bottom of my issues with processing pattern for three years now. First I thought it was astigmatism, then I thought it was my binocolular vision. Sometimes I do have these issues but I knew there was something else going on. It isn’t just lines or grids that I can’t process. It is the pattern of blades of grass and branches on a tree. Or looking at the shelf above our fireplace, the sharp edge of my desk, or the food on my plate.

Some days the problem is there and some days it isn’t. It all depends on my perception of the spectrum. If the spectrum feels more balanced, then pattern feels more integrated. If the spectrum feels unbalanced, then lines and patterns seem to stand out.

My experience of the spectrum is that if I perceive a little too less of one or more colours, then I have an unbalanced perception of colours around me. For instance, if I perceive a little too less red, then all colours will be affected and some of them , especially white, will lack warmth. A sky, for instance may appear more stark than it would do with more red light. This stark feeling is hard enough, but if I then look at a pattern of brown branches on a tree against the stark white, the contrast becomes too great and I feel disturbed by what I see.

My difficulty with pattern is more pronounced between the brighter months of February and October, although it drops off and things appear visually softer from April to May, only to reappear again in June and drop off from and July to September. I can only describe the feeling like watching the television on a setting beyond high definition. It is not comfortable and confuses my brain.

Help! I Have No Colour Constancy!

Colour constancy is learnt when we see things again and again. If we see a red apple, our brain files that piece of of information. Next time we see a red apple, we recognise it. We don’t usually mind if it is a little more pink than the last one, or a little more crimson . We don’t usually mind if the light we are seeing the apple in, is a little more blue or a little more yellow. To most people, it is still a red apple because most people learn colour constancy.

But what happens if you don’t learn colour constancy? What happens if every time you look at an apple that someone else says is red, your brain challenges that suggestion. What if your brain says “Is that really red, or is that orange or even slightly green ?” What if your brain says “I know that apple is red but in today’s light it really looks yellow and in yesterday’s light, it looked orange.”?

Well, that wouldn’t be too bad if your brain was happy to just flick through all these colour possibilities, but it isn’t good if your brain just can’t process all the confusing information. And this is what it is like for me and my son. When we look at a colour, our brains tell us whether it does or doesn’t doesn’t match the light-waves. If there is red in a colour, but we don’t perceive enough red light, then our brain gets confused and we get all sorts of nervous system symptoms. These could be going hot or cold, getting a headache, a sore throat, feeling tight in our chest, getting indigestion or feeling knocked out of ourselves.

It is easy to think that these symptoms are just stress or some other health condition but we have tested this over and over again and they are always caused by the light.

Living with Ambient Colour Sensitivity Keeps Me in Touch with My Needs

When I don’t perceive enough blue light, I know I need to find special ways to speak my thoughts and opinions.

When I don’t perceive enough violet light, I know I need to find little ways to stay in touch with my intuition.

When I don’t perceive enough red light, I know I need to think things, say things and do things, to help me feel more secure.

When I do perceive enough blue, violet and red light, I need to remember to indulge in feeling how good it is to feel connected to all the different aspects of myself!

Living by the Colours I See in the Light: The Joys and Challenges of Having Ambient Colour Sensitivity

I Don’t Do Grounded – I Do Buoyant!

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Ah – grounded!! That word that I have heard so many times!

“Jennie, you’re not very grounded!”

“All you need to do is think yourself down into your feet!”

“Why don’t you go walking bare-foot very early in your garden in the morning dew?”

“Do yoga.”

“Do Tai Chi”

“Chant”

“Use magnets”

“Try bed linen with silver thread in them.”

“Make small talk, cook and sew!”

Well, I’ve tried them all and none of them worked. I remember a therapist telling me to feel into my feet. When I said “It doesn’t work for me” she looked hard at me and said “Well, in all my years of therapy you are the only person it hasn’t worked for!”

So . . . what do I do?

I have to come to terms with the fact that that I am not Mrs Super Grounded! It seems that the way I see the light tends to make me feel the opposite – away with my intuition most of the time! But I am happy there – in my random thoughts like I am having right now – blue sky thinking . . . thinking outside of the box. This is where life is for me.

I tend to perceive more blue on the spectrum than some which means I perceive less red which is probably why I don’t feel grounded.

Naturally I am a ‘blue light’ person so I don’t really need to be grounded.

How about you? Have you been struggling a long time to ground yourself when you might feel better accepting your expansive intuitive self and be happy to be a lighter buoyant person?

Maybe we should start a new feeling state trend and be happy to say “No I don’t do grounded, I do buoyant!”

Don’t put yourself down if buoyancy is your thing!