How do you perceive abstract concepts?

Stimulating one sense can for synesthetes lead to a multisensory experience. Smelling a particular flower can for example remind you of a certain experience or you might perceive the smell and experience a particular color. The same could occur when tasting, hearing, seeing images, or being gently touched on your arm or back.
Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who have such experiences are known as synesthetes.
Experiencing color synesthesia (grapheme) in relation to letters or numbers is a relatively known form of synesthesia. When synesthesia is related to cognition – Would it be possible to experience abstract concepts as colored for example in relation to empathy?
The phenomenon empathy is related to interactions between human beings and would thereby have an aspect of embodied sensoric properties.
Could empathy for one individual be perceived as colored? In the same way as letters or numbers could have synesthetic properties for some synesthetes?
Why not? Since synesthesia are related to cognition – I could believe that this could be the case for single individuals – not only by the theoretical possibility – I actually did come across a person that experience exactly empathy as colored.
This interesting individual is Valerie Djuurhus, she’s a writer who is working within the realms of human rights and how we can ensure those being upheld in our society.
Valerie Djuurhus agreed to meet me and answer some of my questions. Below you will see what I asked and what i found out
When you experience empathy – is it the empathy in itself that holds a color or is the color closer related to the extend the person is capable of showing empathy?


“I perceive empathy as being dynamic, dynamic in the sense that its colors can change and alter in relation to the human being and its surroundings.
To me psychopaths have no color. Empathy can attain a variaty of colors and are expressed only by those who have empathic qualities – psychopaths do not. Very few human beings do not have empathy – not being capable of feeling or perceiving empathy is to me comparable to the death of humanity.
In the other end of the scale you find the hyperempathetic humans who make up for the part sociopaths or humans who lack empathy. Most of us would be in the center of the scale and would embody the earthy colortones, without any particular intense energy.
The hyperempathetic humans hold strong, shiny and eyecatching colors. Still within the earthy colors the force of the energies struggle through and transform the surface to an all-encompassing phenomenon that is comparable to the sensation of the sun. Warm and sparkling.
A very strong natural and human color, that varies in relation to temperature and view of life. The color will expand and intensify as these souls are challenged – almost like a star – a supernova right before it dies. Supernovas that’s what I would call human beings whos notion of empathy is so strong and concrete that they see themselves forced to adapt and form their lifes accordingly.
The energy reaches at this empathic supernova level and the means it takes to exercise it a high point. Thereafter only death can replace it.
Empathy makes up for such a big part of them, that they do not truly perceive, they live it. True connectivity occurs within them, their opinions and actions.
Close to 90% of human beings have colors that can be influenced and enhanced.  The empathetic colors are easily manipulated – empathy often shows as caring or sympathy. Quite temporary and only slightly concrete.
Empathy is a concept I think about – it has manifests itself physically for me – it appears visually for me which is quite onesided.”
So empathy manifests itself visually for you – but you still don’t seem to not really trust it’s validity – why is that?


I only know how I perceive empathy – how I experience it. To me the concept of empathy is a strong, orange color when it is most intense and tactile. I know that I am capable of sensing empathy in my surroundings and in the interaction with others.


Synesthesia multisensory experiences come in various deliscious editions. The notion of abstract concepts appearing as colors, through sensory modalities are actual – give it a place in the world by trusting it and acting accordingly.


Thank you Valerie for your openmindedness and interview!

Check out Valeries blog here

This entry was published on May 27, 2014 at 11:30 am. It’s filed under Art, Linda Post, Philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “How do you perceive abstract concepts?

  1. Pingback: Interview about Empathy | THINK!

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