Mirror-Touch Synesthesia: Pain & Empathy

A doctor places a stethoscope on a patient's back. Used to illustrate sense of touch.If you’ve ever accompanied a friend or family member on a doctor’s visit and sat in the very room the checkup ritual took place, you’ve likely had the fortune of empathizing with that friend or family member, watching as the stethoscope was pressed to the bare back, the reflex hammer hit the knee, or the vaccination needle penetrated flesh. Now, for a second (and no longer), imagine that, in watching these actions take place, you also felt them. A tingle on your back. A knock to your knee. A pinch on your skin. That is mirror-touch synesthesia.

Synesthesia and Empathy

Think about the last time you watched someone take a bad fall or listened to a friend grind his or her teeth. For a split second, you cringe at the thought of physically feeling what they must feel. In a sense, we all empathize to some degree with the physical feelings of others. For an individual with mirror-touch synesthesia, however, the area of the brain that creates this empathy is hyperactive. These individuals don’t just cringe at the thought of comparable pain, but they might actually feel it themselves.

It’s an extraordinary thought, isn’t it? – your own sense of touch being activated by watching what’s happening to someone else. In this article from LiveScience, two mirror-touch synesthetes talk about their experiences and how this accentuated empathy has shaped their lives. I found Jane’s quote to be particularly interesting:

Another, Jane, said she felt her synesthesia is “a positive thing because I believe it makes me more considerate about the feelings of others.”

For non-synesthetes, like me, the best way to relate to this sentiment might be to think about pains or ailments we’ve suffered and how those experiences have shaped the way we empathize when others have similar misfortune. For instance: I’ve never broken a bone, so I’m not sure that I can truly empathize with someone who does. I just can’t be certain of what it feels like. On the other hand, I have had a pretty deep flesh cut – so when I observe someone accidentally cut themselves when chopping up lettuce, I can certainly empathize with the sting.

Are You a Mirror-Touch Synesthete?

While the answer to this question might be painfully obvious (pun fully intended), there are actually tests for this type of synesthesia. One of them, wherein a sensory interference task is used to verify the presence of mirror-touch, is described here (complete with a nice diagram). Another, which involves the user of fMRI, is discussed at length here.

Piggybacking off of the first test I linked, we might design a simple synesthesia test ourselves. You’ll need two friends to help you – one standing behind you and the other in front of you. On the count of three, have the friend that you can see place a finger on one cheek, both cheeks, or neither cheek. At the same time, have the friend behind you place a finger on one of your cheeks, both of your cheeks, or neither cheek. At the end of each trial, have the friend behind you record what you felt (left cheek, right cheek, both, or neither), along with what each of the two friends physically did. You can label them “visible friend” and “non-visible friend,” or something like that.

Repeat this process as many times as you’d like (try 50 or so to start), having your friends switch up their finger placements throughout the process. Once you have a nice collection of data, sit down and do some analysis. How many times did you feel that both cheeks were being touched when the visible friend was touching his or her right cheek and the non-visible friend was touching your left? Were there times when you felt that both cheeks were being touched, when in reality neither was? There are a range of possible combinations here, so it could get messy. Just something interesting to try on a rainy day!

That’s all for now, though. As always, we encourage you to share your mirror-touch experiences in the comments below! Catch ya later! πŸ™‚

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*Image from Time.com

69 Comments on “Mirror-Touch Synesthesia: Pain & Empathy”

    • by AC

    The first experience I remember of this was when I was very little and was watching the movie, Back to the Future. There is a scene where a guy is twisting another guy’s arm (in the parking lot, I think) and it seems like he’s going to break it (or it seemed that way to me when I was watching it.) I started to pass out from the pain. I will never forget that feeling and I was really scared, but I didn’t tell anyone. I’ve always been very hyper-empathetic, but I don’t always have the physical touch responses, or it could be that I’m just so used to it, I’ve tuned it out. Growing up was extremely difficult for me, especially because my mother is probably one of the least empathetic people I know. I was always being told I was too sensitive- as if it was a choice.

    • by Ingrid

    I believe I have mirror > touch synesthesia, although I don’t feel it as strongly as other types I have. I do though, feel mirror > emotion very strongly. Like an insanly huge feeling of empathy. Sort of.

    • by Elena

    When I started school in the β€˜70s, my teacher told my mother that I was possibly suffering from schizophrenia. I saw black numbers dancing. Oddly enough, only numbers with that specific color. Then, I constantly reiterated that the days of the week were as follow: Monday is black, Tuesday is yellow, Wednesday is green, Thursday is purple, Friday is red, Saturday is orange (smell like oranges) and Sunday is blue (smell like grapes). I could only smell the weekend and when the teacher pronounced the days of the week, I heard an organ note for each day. I felt pain in my knees and thighs when I saw anyone getting hurt (I still do). Sometimes the pain was in my stomach. I used to hug myself to make the pain stop. I did math in open spaces, I saw words too, and I was a top notch speller because of that advantage. I became depress since no one could understand this amazing gift. I stop telling people about the things I was able to see, feel and smell. Then, the gift slowly faded as I became older. I can’t play any instrument, but if I hear a small portion of a song that I heard before, I can immediately tell you the title. My son plays the guitar and I can tell him without looking at either him or his guitar when he makes a mistake. My pain had increased though. I can’t even hear people talk about injuries or read about them. I see movies or TV shows and I clinch so hard when someone gets hurts or killed!

    • by Leander Lacy

    I know this is strange, but I actually have this mirror-touch synesthesia. I have always had it and just thought it was normal until, now in my 30’s, I am realizing this is a unique phenomenon. This occurs most often with pain. For instance, if I see you cut your finger, my finger will feel pain at the exact same spot. It use to cripple me in instances when I have to help others, but because I have dealt with it openly for so long, I can push past the pain and just help the person in need. I just decided search the internet this morning for more about my condition and stumbled across the same science article. Thanks for writing up your blog!

    • by MOA

    I remember the first one to notice something was weird about me was my brother, it was a long time ago and we were watching a movie. My brother saw me clutching my stomach during a violent scene and so I told him about the pain. None of us took it seriously, and it simply became a family joke “Your conscience is in your belly” It made no difference, really, where the pain was, except for the shiver I may sometimes get on the spot of the pain along with the ache in my stomach. I’d just assumed that everybody else felt it, but simply didn’t show it. I tried mentioning it in front of some other people a few times but always got the same reaction that said they had no idea what I was talking about. That was when I gave up and decided I was just weird and it wouldn’t change anything whether or not it hurts. It wasn’t only when seeing something violent but also when I hear it that I get this ache. I’m glad I saw this article, makes me feel a lot better about myself ^-^

    • by Ani makebish

    I have a very strong mirror touch synesthesia. I don’t just feel pain and stuff like that. I can actually feel when somebody is holding something too, like balloons or styrophome. My friends think its about the coolest thing ever. And sometimes, I find it fun. But others… You know. Like someone cutting their knee on gravel.

    • by Angela

    As a child, I assumed it was normal. When I tried to explain it to people who didn’t understand, I assumed I was an isolated case. I recently discovered this form of synesthesia, and am happy to see it correlated to empathy…. I have always been told I’m too sensitive.

    I feel a shooting pain starting in my heel and shooting through my thighs when I witness someone being hurt, or hear someone explaining a painful incident. On a few distracted occasions, I’ve actually scratched through the skin on my thighs (this is rare; has only happened twice when witnessing near death situations: a horrific car accident and a quadruple bypass surgery). I always have a shooting pain through my legs, but I will sometimes feel an isolated pain as well… My grades suffered in World Geography after my teacher lost her finger in a table saw accident. My hands would experience very sharp pains from looking at her, and I felt awful pains in anatomy when we had to do dissections. I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years, and used to experience pain not from eating meat, but from witnessing it being cut. I hated steak because I would feel like my legs were being cut when I saw someone cutting it.

    I also feel a physical sensation from emotions. If I’m talking to someone who is sad, I feel something similar to the nervous “butterflies” feeling that people get in their stomachs when they’re nervous, but I feel it behind my knees. I get tingling feelings behind my knees for sadness, on my chest for happiness, and I feel as though someone is rubbing a warm feather duster over my shoulders when I witness two people in love… I don’t believe that the emotional to physical connection is mirror touch, but I do feel like they’re related in some way.

    • by wes

    This is amazing to hear that this has a name. I never imagined other people experiencing it. I’m 35 and have had it sense childhood. Movies, descriptions, and watching an injury will easily trigger it. It’s not point specific, more a shock to the nervous system rooted from the base of my skull – its awesome…

    • by Kimblie

    Elena sounds just like me. . .
    Music is so soothing but missed notes and beats hurts my nervous systems like not just my ears. I cant watch movies or anything where people are in pain or hurting in anyway. My stomach and body begin to hurt. I have had stomach problems since I was a child. I have been tested for everything but nothing can be found. I can sense and feel others problems and feelings when I am talking to them . . .it is very hard at times but sometimes I can console them and they don’t know what I sense. I have people come up and talk to me about their life out of the blue, complete strangers. My husband always ask me do you know them and I say no but they talk to me as if they do. I use to think it strange but now it just seem normal. My grandmother and mother were both this way. I cant even watch Home Funniest Videos!! I don’t find them funny at all!!! I could go on and on but. . . .

    • by Julie

    I just learned about the mirror-touch aspect of synesthesia today from a related article posted on BBC News. Fascinating. I knew for some time that I have grapheme, but interestingly I have a very successful practice as a massage therapist. The thing I hear most often from clients on the table is “how do you always know exactly where it hurts?”–I think this article just answered that. Thank you.

    • by Tammy

    I’ve always been empathetic to others; I cry easily when I see something sad on TV or hear someone tell a sad story or when I read one. When I see someone get hurt or hear someone talk about their injuries, I get a flash of pain – like one feels during a flu – on the backs of my arms and torso. It has increased in intensity in the last year or so. Watching AFV is almost torturous. I’m just glad to know I’m not alone.

    • by SE

    Whenever I see someone fall, trip, etc at the moment of impact i feel a jolt, almost like an electric shock that goes through me but is strongest in the legs through to my toes. It’s like getting a strong zap. It was particularly difficult when my children were small & frequently falling down!

    • by Jacqui

    I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and in my searches on the subject also looked into why I experience physical pain when I see someone hurt. I have always experienced this and thought it normal but have come to realise that most people don’t experience this. If i see someone injured such as in a fall, I get very strong sharp pain in the top of my legs (radiating down to my knees or up to my hips), or in my shoulders or my forearms. The pain is generally quite quick but can leave a dull ache that can last for an hour or so. This is especially strong when I see a child fall over for example, but the pain I experience does not seem to necessarily bear resemblance to the injury suffered. I was quite amazed to find that this is a real condition and I’m interested to know if there is any connection to fibromyalgia and I’m thinking of broaching the subject when I see my doctor next.

    • by Catherine

    I was relieved to read one of the comments above, because it exactly describes my own experience. I don’t have true mirror-touch, as I only have it for pain and I don’t usually feel it in the same part of the body, but it’s always been there. I thought everyone had the same experience as me until I heard a radio program a few years ago about mirror-touch synesthesia and then asked my children if they felt pain on seeing (or hearing about) injury, and both said no! If I see someone injured, particularly if there is blood, I get a sharp pain in the backs of my knees and insides of my thighs, and sometimes on one upper arm, and my stomach area. Once, seeing an old lady fall and hit her head on the pavement, I had to sit down, the pain and distress were so great. Over time this has developed; bizarrely, if I were to knock the wing mirror of my car, I would get a pain in the corresponding upper arm! I also have a reaction to hearing about injury, particularly to the head, which I see as a heightened form of empathy. Thank you for your website; it makes me feel a bit less mad! Oh, by the way, don’t know if this is synesthesia or something less exotic, but if I hit my head or see someone else hitting theirs (hard), I get a peculiar acrid smell in my nostrils…

    • by Lillie

    I have come to believe (but have not been professionally diagnosed) with this. A few days ago my grandmother had a pretty rough fall she slipped her patella, fractured 2 ribs (bruised several others), and broke the thumb and hand. When I heard her diagnosis my chest, hand and knee all started to hurt in different ways. I was very confused and really kinda scared as well. I talked to my grandma and she said it was “sympathetic pain” which is usually associated with anxiety (which I have-GAD.) and people who are very sympathetic and empathetic people. (I’m a sucker. I hate seeing other people sad/pained/etc.). This article is really interesting and I’m sure even people who don’t have his also find it intriguing.

    • by Richard

    This is the first time I have heard of mirror-touch synesthesia. I only found out about it because I was trying to find out what is wrong with me. This hypersensitivity dose not happen all the time but can be very noticeable when I am or others are stressed the last event being last night talking about funeral arrangements with one of my wife’s sick relatives. She suffered from pain attack, by the end of the night I was very soar which last several hours after getting home. I also had a similar event when I visited my sister in-law in hospital, I tried to sit quietly in a corner out of the way but after a while I even had been noticed by the nursing staff who started to question my health. This only stopped by removing my self from the hospital room. These were two incidents that come to mind but their have been others. When I was younger I idolised Spock for Star Trek because he could isolate himself from his emotions. I have tried most of my life to do just that so that I would fit in and be normal so it is a bit of a relief to find out that this is not uncommon.

    • by Ashley

    I believe I have a very “light” form of this… I am an amazing Masseuse with zero experience, because I can Feel on me exactly what I am massaging on someone else

  • I have all of this and have all my long life. I hope they feel better because I suffer so with their illnesses, conditions, attitudes, whether I am willing to or not. Now I know why some become hermits, no matter how much they love people.

    • by Elle

    I am a personal assistant to an 87-year old friend who tripped on a bathroom rug one early morning and hurt herself. She was telling me her story when she touched the area of her body where it hurt and I immediately felt a shooting pain from my hips down to my legs. “My legs hurt” I told her, and then explained to her that I feel immediate physical pain when I see people get hurt; and in this case when I heard her story and she touched the area of her body that hurt. She told me that it must be why I was so in tune with her needs that even she had never thought of. Umm, I have never thought of that, until yesterday.

    It seems that my empathy is a little over-active. It doesn’t stop there for me. I truly can not look at homeless people and then look away. They have a naturally overall brown color to me, and these people grab my attention longer than most. I’ve chased many just to give them money or food. A few of them, all men, have actually taken many hours of my time and money. They have names to me. I feel a sense of duty—these men should be the strongest foundation of a family, buy they’re just wondering around, dirty and dejected. I have dreamed of being rich and removing them from the streets. I often suffer on the inside if I spot a true homeless person and I happen to be in my car or if I’m with someone.

    • by Phoebe

    I am not exactly sure if this is what I have but I would like to know if there is anyone else that feels this. I am just a teenager and when I see others whether in movies, books, or in reality experience emotional pain I get very sick and uncomfortable. I get headaches and feel very uncomfortable throbbing in my stomache. I am not sure if it is just an part of anxiety or if it is this mirror touc synesthesia. Please contact me if you have ever gone through something like this. Should I see my doctor? Please help

    • by Meg

    I’ve known of synesthesia for a while now and I have number&weekdays>color synesthesia. But after looking some stuff up I started to wonder if I might have some weird form of mirror touch synesthesia. Or maybe it’s just normal when you’re reading and you almost subconciously “mirror” (in a way) the way characters look and sometimes feel it. If it’s normal then I probably sound like some kind of person just trying to have synesthesia or something (but, no need to worry I’m not that kind of person). I’m just wondering about this. So yeah…

    • by Danie b

    I have always felt others peoples pain not in a littlary function but in the fact that i could feel it in raility my parents said i was imagining things and now i have an explination thank god thats to many years of the unknown

    • by Ann Siljegovich

    When I see someone or an animal hurt (on TV or for real) I feel a “shock” that quickly goes from my chest down to my knees. Almost like a bolt of lightning. I have only mentioned this to one other person who did not have the same feeling. I wasn’t sure if it was just me or that some other people felt the shock too.

    • by Jamie

    Hey everyone,

    I have been researching for this type of thing and glad to see there is a community out there. I had a couple of questions that maybe you could help me out with. My brother has had many experiences where he can feel every persons emotion the moment he walks into the room. However, he has also had instances where certain details come up about a certain person. For instance, dates pop up in his head that end up being very significant for the person he’s talking to. Or he feel that someone has lost a loved one. Does this sound familiar for anyone out there or do you think this is something else? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • by Dawn

    When someone speaks about something painful I feel pain behind my knees. The pain is like an electrical shock wave going through the back of both of my knees. The longer the person talks about the circumstance that I perceive as a painful circumstance, the more intense the pain behind my knees become. Sometimes the conversation continues to the point that I have had to ask them to stop explaining what it is they saw or what they know about. I am 50 Yeats old and have just learned that mirror touch synthesia exists.

    • by Connie

    I have never been able to watch tv or movies with violence in them. Some people have even asked what was wrong with me; after all, everybody else watches them, they would say.
    As a child, I often felt random pains, never thinking that they belonged to someone else.
    I found that I had a difficult time being in crowds, but didn’t know why.
    I was in my 30s when I discovered that I am an empath. I got married because I felt his feelings. Because I felt them, I assumed they were mine.
    what others feel, I feel. This is strongest with the people, and animals, that I have the strongest ties to, no matter the distance.
    When I found out what was happening, I thought it was a curse. Then I learned that I have a powerful gift.
    I have come to understand that I am a gifted healer. I know where to put my hands when doing energy healing or massage. I know what people are feeling during hypnosis. My clients feel understood.
    It is possible to shield from the unwanted feelings, both physical and emotional, of others. Apparently, I used to be a wide open book to my psychic friend, and therefore, to others not so friendly; I’ve since learned shielding. It’s not my natural way of being, so I need to be aware of how open I am.
    It’s possible to clear the pain and feelings of others from yourself. In my experience, and that of others that I know, this also comes with other abilities.
    I believe that the ability to feel others also comes with the ability to send to others. I suggest looking into Reiki and other energy healing modalities. It may just open up a whole new world for you, as it did for me.

  • I’m not sure if I have mirror-touch synesthesia or not. I don’t feel others’ physical pain, but if I am nearby someone undergoing a massage or head-rub, I vicariously enter into the sensations. There may be an element of self-hypnosis going on.
    Sometimes I can watch a person getting a haircut and feel my scalp tingle. It is a delicious feeling–very sensual, but not erotic. Witnessing a languid massage can make me feel calmer and more relaxed as a consequence of “experiencing” the sensations of the other. If there is a term for this, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

    • by Henry Emslie

    This is crazy!!! my whole life I just thought everyone felt the same things….then my wife corrected me. Yesterday I Googled it for the first time and found this and other articles!! When I see people get hurt I have a severe, sharp pain in my knees and hips. Sometimes almost enough to take me off my feet. Same thing when hearing injuries described or watching horror movies. My ex wife didn’t like to be touched, (ever fml), and when I would see people touch her I would feel the touch and cringe away, even from across the room.

    • by Roland

    Not sure if what i have is this, have only just this last hour heard of it. Have been talking about how I feel recently to find people don,t understand. It feels as if I have two bodies, mine and another body that feels sound, not vibration but a more a flurry of nerve endings. When I see some being hurt, my system gets flooded., not necessaryily as if I am actually being hurt in the same place although it is strongest in that area. Can also feel very sick. . I have tried to ignore it as much as possible and try not to let it stop me doing things. It has felt so redicculas to be this “sensitive” and I have striven to get over it but this all makes more sense. I am a strong person and very determined so I could never understand why I could be so easily reduced to tears or feel some one else’s emotions how ever much I try to block it. Interestingly many of my family members have autism or related conditions. Not an easy combination.

    • by Joanna

    I have a lot of types of synthesia but I think my mirror touch synthesia is not so strong. Sometimes I feel being touched when it happens to someone else but not as much as I feel it when someone is in pain. Since I was a kid I’d feel actual pain even when someone was talking about their pain (mostly physical pain) and it’s always a very intense experience. Now that I know this is a type of synthesia too I’m kinda relieved because I thought I was crazy

    • by Scott

    I have also had this all my life. I feel a dull throb from my tailbone, sometimes all the way to my knees when I see someone get injured. (or even think about someone else or me getting injured. Regardless of where they are injured, I still feel it in the same place. Only severity is different. I am also more sympathetic to the feelings o others. (To the point I try not to look at people. I cannot watch someone cry without feeling the sorrow myself. I thought everyone could feel it until I asked my wife about it a few day ago. (I’m over 40) I’m glad to find out it has a name. On the plus side, I can feel first love just by watching a chick-flick.

    • by Dana

    I’ve been consistently experiencing these types of sensations for years. I guess I’ve been more aware of it when I’m watching television. If someone is stabbed, hit or hurt (especially if it’s unexpected), I feel a sharp tingling of nerves in the area in which they are hurt. It’s fleeting and the pain is not horrible, but it’s always in the same area of the person who is hurt. I guess I thought it was normal and I’ve discussed it with my husband on several occasions. Recently, I asked him if he had the same feelings and he said, “no.” It stayed on my mind for several days, so I decided to search the internet and finally came up with information on Mirror Touch Synesthesia. I was amazed at what I read. I just assumed that everyone had the same experience. I started thinking about other issues which I thought could be related to Mirror Touch. I’ve never been able to watch reality shows or shows such as Jerry Springer. Particularly the shows in which people are humiliated in anyway. I seem to take on the humiliation as if It were me. It is so overwhelming and I feel horrible. It is especially bad when the people choose to put themselves in the direct path of the humiliation. I’ve never watched one episode of American Idol (I understand they aren’t nearly as bad now as when they started). I have the same experience with movies that are purported to be true and the movies are violent, sad, etc. The emotions they invoke are so overwhelming and I cry buckets of tears and feel awful for quite sometime. Years ago, I bought the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”. It’s still in the packaging. I will probably never be able to watch it. There is one other thing that comes to mind. There have been numerous times when my husband or others complain of pain in a particular area of their body. I’ve noticed that I will begin to feel those aches or pains. It’s very interesting to learn about this subject. As I said earlier, I thought it was normal and that it happens to everyone. I plan to read as much as I can on the topic.

    • by Pasie

    I think a have a minor-ish mirror touch synestesia. I’ve always thought everyone felt the same- someone scrapes their knee on pavement; My knee stings. I watch the news and someone is bitten by something (ew); Wow my thighs are pounding. I think it’s minor, though because some events don’t trigger my senses. I can’t really name them, though.

    • by Emapth

    I could write a book about my experiences with feeling other people’s “stuff” (emotional stuff, too, not just physical). I had to methodically learn how to tune out other people’s emotions and pain, because it quite literally drove me insane. It was only after a complete breakdown in my early thirties that I started to understand what was happening to me and take steps to keep myself safe (I had to learn how to tune out, how to “shield” myself, how to deflect, how to rid myself of all that ambient stuff, etc.).

    That said, I think the simplest way to describe what happens to me now is to say that I absolutely hate those “funny” videos where people fall down stairs or catch on fire or bounce off a trampoline and smash into the ground or whatever. I absolutely do not find them funny. I see people (or animals) being injured or hurt and I feel it, sometimes only mildly, sometimes quite profoundly. I see people watch this stuff and just burst out laughing and I think, “How can you find that funny? Can’t you see someone is HURT?!” But I guess that, no, they can’t…

    I also respond to things like people eating (photos, on TV, in movies, etc.), and to other kinds of feelings (I get all warm and soft when I see people who are clearly in love, for example). Those kinds of sensations I tend not to filter out as much because who doesn’t want to enjoy that warm feeling of being in love or the comforting feeling of eating delicious food? πŸ˜‰

    Most of my life, people told me I was “too sensitive” or outright accused me of being a drama queen because of my “over the top” reactions to other people’s pain or emotions. Now, at least, I can point to neurological studies and give a name to it. “No, I am not too sensitive, I have mirror touch synesthesia. Oh, you don’t know what that is? Gee, guess you don’t know everything, after all….” πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚

    • by River Walker

    Sometimes it’s overwhelming. It’s an onslaught of stimuli and makes me want to shut it out. I had my children years apart because I knew I could not handle sharing the pain of skinned knees and adolescent emotions from two children all at once. Now that I’m older I can prepare myself for what’s coming and I am able to handle all the stimuli better. My alone time is so important to me because that’s how I wind down from all the physical and emotional stimuli of the day. I climb up on our rooftop and stare at the stars and that has always been a great relief.

    • by anna mcvey

    hi I’m trying to understand what I have. I connected 9 months ago with a man who lives on the other side of the world. .we just chatted. ..then something strange happened…. energetically I began to experience a connection in my body when he thought about contacting me. Usually through messages. .it is now so strong it’s 100% correct.
    I have had something similar with past relationships but never to this extent and never such a vast distance
    I am a health professional and I do pick up unspoken thoughts and pain of clients which I can feel. ..
    just trying to get an answer

    • by j

    Self diagnosing myself here. mines kind of specific; when i see someone gets touched in the breast I feel it immediately and it is very strong that it feels real.

    • by Whutzit2U

    My friend, WhoWuntz2No, has synesthesia (many kinds). She’ll talk to me about it, and I have some of the stuff she has, but I’m mostly just using my imagination. Even though I’ve passed some synesthesia tests, I know I don’t have it. It’s not immediate, the colors, like they’re supposed to be. I have to come up with the personalities, and sometimes I’ll forget ‘synesthetic’ things I’ll make up! But my friend really is convinced that i have it, and now I am starting to get convinced too, even though I know I don’t really have it! How do I convince myself, and then tell her??? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • by Daphne

    I’ve had mirror-emotion synesthesia all my life if it’s what I think it is. I feel other people’s emotions and sometimes hear their thoughts. The largest difficulty about this is that I often don’t know what is mine and what is the other person’s unless it occurs to me to ask them directly. It’s familiar for me to feel everything in the room and I need to stay very, very anchored and observant (meditation and Gendlin’s Focusing). I tried the links someone posted above for mirror-emotion synesthesia but they aren’t working. Anyone have good resources about this?

  • There must be gradients of this. Years ago I received a call that my husband needed to be picked up because a car had crashed into his and the car was out of commission. I drove there and started feeling pain in my left arm. He got into the car, and the pain intensified. I asked him if he had been hurt. He said his left arm was in pain.

    In another possible area of this phenomena, when I meet people, I’ll remember more about how they were feeling than what they looked like. Their feelings come through to me very loudly even though they don’t mention it.

    • by Kath

    I’m 46 and only recently realized that others don’t feel pain when seeing someone with an injury..I was talking to a friend and said..you know when you see someone hurt and it hurts? She said no..so I asked a few other friends who all said no..it feels like my nerves jolt and hurt and has happened as long as I can remember. Anyway I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling this

    • by elton caicedo

    I don’t have a website.

    Now I think I do have a name for the empathetic feelings when I see or hear about others’ pain… mirror-touch synesthesia. I feel a tingly pain in my feet and ankles and calves when I see others in pain. It is short-lived but marked. I wonder if there is some way to train the pain away.

    • by Marty

    Hi friends! Yes what a gift / curse. It has taken me years to get to a point where I can make good use of it.

    I find Psychotherapy has been very helpful in learning to separate what others feel from what i am feeling. I feel that this is behind some peoples depression and anxiety. I find if I am depressed it smooths out the bumpy ride, and the anxiety that comes from processing conflicting messages. Meditation is super helpful as well. I think it is more stimulating to have this so easy to get over loaded, and I find I am less tolerant of noisy surroundings, and can’t isolate speech in a complex ambient sound environment. I get tired more quickly, but recover fast in quiet surroundings.

    I have known I am different, but did not know this was part of it. Like the rest of you i always thought that everyone had these physical sensations when seeing other people get hurt, or feeling the pain when people describe it.

    I feel that children with MTS (Mirror Touch Synesthesia) need some special skills so they are able to cope better and make use of the gift to make life richer. I am a psychologist now and looking at articulating a list of skills parents and professional can teach. Part of it is I think associated with the Intuitive Feeling type of person (Carl Jung’s Temperament Types, i.e. Myers Briggs. Read about this type in “Please Understand Me” where there is a good description of children with the NF type.)

    Children with this sensitivity, in my experience, do really well with good support, and really bad without it. My daughter has this and works doing message with horses.

    • by Marty

    Almost forgot. Mindfulness is a key skill for people with this sensitivity.

    • by Marty

    The thing I remember most vividly is when I first saw the “Three Stooges!” I was four and at a friends house. I thought is was just horrible, so painful to watch, and what is everybody laughing at? Hard to understand why people were laughing, and so isolating. My reaction was so different from my friends.

    • by J

    I feel a clenching pain behind both my knees when someone is describing something painful. I don’t get the same response if I see someone with an injury, unless it is more gory. Just when people tell stories.

    • by Alice

    I’m not alone! I feel pain, physical and emotional. It’s weird.. At least I know I’m not alone.. I tried to explain it to some but got odd looks so I just kept to myself.

    • by Sandy

    I stumbled upon this while finally looking on line to see if this “thing” has a name. I feel what I describe as an electric shock that starts at my feet and goes up my body very quickly when I see (ie: watching tv) someone being hurt, or if someone tells me of an incident where they are hurt (“Today I sliced my finger”). It came on a few years ago and is very pronounced. I am glad I can now label this “gift”. I simply cover my eyes now when watching tv if I know the scene will invoke the reaction.

    • by Dr. Greg

    I am a Mirror-Touch Synesthete. I have had this as long as I remember.

    If I see someone fall, even on television, I get an intense sharp pain that starts in my lower back and radiates through my legs and particularly in my knees. It is brief but intense. It is such a weird feeling.

    All I have to do to duplicate the experience is to go on You Tube and watch kids on skate boards take some horrendous falls while trying to ride a rail.

    • by SynesthesiaTrippin

    Ok, you guys are beginning to freak me out… lol I was born with grapheme (letters + numbers), sound-color, and colored notes synesthesia. I did some reading on mirror-touch synesthesia and didn’t realize nobody else feels the texture of an object across their skin before they actually touch it if they focus on it.. or watch 2 people touch and feel their touch on my own skin– or join in on feeling their touch with my vision (vision-touch?). If you could explain this for me, that would actually explain a lot. No wonder I can play 2 pianos simultaneously while blindfolded, and memorize the most ridiculous concertos simply off touch.. google it. I started longboarding and come to think of it i’m beginning to feel the texture of the road with my hands, even when i’m not looking….. kind of stoked and scared simultaneously. Does any of this sound normal? I’ve never particularly noticed vision-touch before, but, I’ve always been able to physically-feel textures of any surface, object, or person across my skin using sight if I simply zone in and think about it. When I actually touch the object physically, it feels the exact same 100% of the time as when I felt the texture with my mind. That’s completely normal, right? Oddly enough, this explains a lot of strange, and relentless boners too…

    • by PJ

    I have mirror-touch synesthesia, and like others who have left comments, which have been good to read, but also at the same time, uncomfortable, because reading their descriptions of other peoples physical and emotional pain, has made it quite difficult for me to type, as my fingertips are now very tingly and oversensitive, and I feel ‘on-edge.’

    I’ve always been described as being over sensitive. As a young child, I can remember watching a black and white film, about Billy the Kid, someone shot at him with a gun, shooting bits of his ears off, I was in so much pain, and feel queasy thinking about it now. So I tend to never watch to watch horror films. I passed out in the cinema on one occasion, when I’d gone with a friend, to watch a double bill of David Croneburgh films.

    The type of mirror touch synesthesia that I have, I used to think that everyone had.
    When I touch people, I can feel the sensation that they have, within their skin. Like others, I’m also very aware of other peoples emotions, and dislike being in crowds of people.

    I’ve been able to put my mirror-touch synesthesia to good use, as I’m now a massage therapist, and like others who also massage, I can not only feel, but I can also see the location of pain, even from a distance, through their clothing, or beneath the cotton towels. What I haven’t figured out yet is, if I’m hearing, or seeing their pain, as the pain will always have a particular sensation, which I’ll experience on one of my fingertips. I’ve also come to the conclusion that, pain emits a certain frequency, as well as having a shape and a color, which is somewhere between black/silver. When I then touch the point that I’ve seen in the person’s body, both I and they receive a slight jolt, like a static electric shock. I’ll often work with my eyes closed, as I’ll have a better sense of the pain. Different types of pain, have different sensations, some muscle pains are like a bruise, others can be sharp, like a pin prick. As I work though the massage session, I can feel the energetic release of tension, which I can only describe as a wonderfully warm tingly feeling.

    • by Jenn

    I’m not sure if I am experiencing this or not. I have always been hyper sensitive to other people’s emotions and empathize with them especially grieving people. What I feel is when someone is about to get hurt (especially my children) a sharp pain in my groin or the pit of my stomach. Doesn’t everyone feel that? The feeling like I’m falling or coming down off a ride? It’s hard to watch those “funny” videos where someone misses the pool and smashes their face ugh just thinking about it makes me hurt.

    • by Skylar

    I’m only 19 but I can feel others pain, both emotionally and physically. I don’t actually have needed to see it when it happened, but it does need to have caused some form of pain for me to feel it. Because of this, i can’t feel it when someone is getting hurt in a movie or TV show, as i am not physicality near them. What I do with the knowledge is help them by stopping any throbbing or heat that the pain is causing.

    I’ve always been able to do this,with the first time being when i was just a few years old and my mom got kicked by one of the horses on our property. its been interesting to read how this has affected other people. Over the years, I’ve been able to expand this to be able to feel any emotion with anyone around me, but i actually need to be trying to look for the emotions to feel anything except pain.

    • by Yuyuf!

    Pretty much the first time I remember feeling the synesthesia was when my friend fell and broke his tooth… It kind of felt weird and I had to stop looking. Then I saw people kissing and I almost died at the feeling of my lips. Also, at the doctors a while ago with my sister, she was getting a shot and I could sort of feel it in my arm.

  • I’ve always done this but mine is a twinge in my lower back when someone gets hurt in a certain way. For instance, stubbing a toe, cutting their foot, stepping in thorns, etc. I also have strangers want to tell me their secrets often.

    • by Rebecca

    I am a swimmer on a competitive swim team and my first mirror touch experience was when on of the kids in the younger group did a belly flop on accident and I felt it. I didn’t know what it was so I just passed it off as nothing, except for the fact that it kept happening in different scenarios. Then a little while later when I did a research paper on Synesthesia and came across mirror touch. So I went to the doctor’s office to take a test for it and it turns out that I did have mirror touch.

    • by Shirley

    When I was 5-6 years old my cousin got a splinter in her foot and I felt the pain, to this day when I think about this I still feel the pain, not in my foot but in the back of my legs up to my back. I’m now 70 years old and when I see or hear of someone having any sort of pain I feel this pain again up back of my legs to back. My adopted granddaughter had her wisdom teeth extracted last week (she lives in another town) and I could hardly open my mouth for several days the pain was so intense.
    When my honey hold my hand I hurt so bad I blamed him of squeezing hard he swears he isn’t. I was thinking I was normal, now I’m starting to wonder.

    • by Maddie Lamb

    Hi, I think I have some weird case of mirror touch synesthesia. If someone stubs their toe I can tell how it feels and I’ll feel a little “pulse” in that area but it doesn’t actually hurt me. Sometimes I wince if someone is describing breaking their arm or I see someone like that happen on TV. I’m not sure what to call what I have. I am able to tell in my head how it feels and can imagine the pain which is why I can’t hear stories of people breaking bones or things like that. Can somebody explain this?

    • by Anonymous please

    I had never noticed it until I watched this video on YouTube where they tried to test for synesthesia. It wasn’t like some people explained here (like passing out) but I felt a tingly and achy where they had tried to hurt themselves. I don’t know if this counts as mirror touch synesthesia, but it has been on my mind lately. Are there different degrees of this rare phenomenon?

    • by Jon Iorio

    I am currently 15 and I have mirror touch synesthesia. It is very strong and it completely sucks. Whenever I’m watching a movie or TV show whenever anybody gets hurt or has the tiniest amount of pain I twitch and squint my eyes and look away trying not to feel it. My friends like taking advantage of this and will describe great amounts of pain that I will then feel. Sometimes they even pinch themselves making me feel as if I was pinched. I’m constantly looking at people just as they happen to hurt themselves and boom, pain. Now I am a gamer and like first person shooters, but luckily THOSE do nothing. So the summary, I feel everybody’s pain no matter who they are. So when somebody is suffering from a broken bone or something, I just tell them, “Be glad you don’t live with it everyday”

    • by Debbie

    I finally googled my question about experiencing physical pain when seeing my children’s injuries and ended up here. It’s not mirror-image, but when they get hurt and I see it or they come home and show me a cut, scrape, bruise, or the like, it actually hurts in the lowest part of my stomach (I sort of think it hurts in my womb). It’s like a short stabbing pain that flutters and then goes away. Not long lasting at all – probably less than two seconds – but it’s there every time. I’ve never even mentioned it to anyone because I thought it sounded crazy!! But, I knew I couldn’t be the only one to experience something like this.

    • by L Lavender

    Has anyone else on here been told or suffered from a cyst in their occipital lobe?

    • by Carolyn

    I have this. I find as I get older it is becoming more intense. I cannot watch much violence or gore on any screen. Even comic bits with people falling or even animals I feel the pain.

    • by Karen Burrows

    I have always had associative anesthesia, Numbers are a specific color as are letters. I also hear music in color. It’s like watching a tornado build from the ground up swirling with the colors that each note in the song brings. Over the past several years I started feeling pain when seeing someone else experience it. As I cringe a wave of pain washes over me. It seems to move up and down my entire body. I honestly thought I was going crazy until seeing this article. Now it makes perfect sense!! Thank you!!

    • by Robyn

    For years I have tried to describe what happens if I see someone injured or an open wound. Tonight I went to Google & found this website!
    I started calling it the “heeby jeebies” and it feels like a sparks and tingles across the sides of my hips and upper legs. If prolonged, i.e., I am giving first aid to someone and I have to keep looking at the wound, the tingle goes up into my stomach. Just last week I said to my adult son, “Do you get this? Why is it always my outer legs”? Now I know!

  • Apparently, I can feel food in my mouth when I think of it. Also when somewhon falls I have a tingling feeling of that area.Weird, but cool.

    • by suzanne

    Mine is a bit different, but similar. i have had this ever since I was a small child. when someone gets hurt, I feel a shooting energy up my spine. it does not hurt. So not sure if this is the same, but it is set off by seeing someone have a mishap that hurts them and it is more common when i see children in a position of getting hurt. Photos do not set this off, film and live happenings do. I thought everyone had this feeling until recently when i spoke of it to others and see that they don’t.

    • by antony

    I have been suffering from this sort of thing for years and thought I was unique until I googled my condition. My pain is mainly in my private parts and is just like pins and needles which lasts for seconds. Anyone the same?

    • by Anonymous Person

    I don’t know if this is what anyone is describing but iv’e started to realize that when I see someone hurt themselves on purpose, my lungs start to feel tight, I feel like I’m being squeezed all over and I have to look away. It also happens when I see it in a movie or tv show. There is also times where… I know this will sound crazy but, I will be thinking about something and im in an argument, the other person is opposing to me and I think of something very specific and not even related to what this argument or conversation and I think a word a specific event and all of a sudden the other person blurts it out in the same exact way i was thinking it. Also, when I concentrate really hard, I can feel the words someone saying as if im saying them myself. I know I rambled a bit off topic but I just thought if maybe I said this, maybe someone out there knows and has these same experiences.

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