Talking to others with misophonia, both on and offline, the thing that upsets me most is the sense of hopelessness that so many of us feel weighed down with.
The feeling that it’s a solely negative condition with no possible upside…
I understand this because I have misophonia and being caught in an ‘episode’ is torture. But at the same time I’ve always believed that there must be profound positives to having this condition. I’m not being all happy clappy here, I genuinely feel that something that can invoke such a fierce reaction in our brains must enable us to tap into, or benefit from creative energy in some other way.
Synaesthesia is another sensory ‘disorder’. It’s where the stimulation of one sense can invoke a completely different second sensory experience. So for example numbers may be represented as colours, or certain sounds as smells. Synaesthesia was a condition that used to be misunderstood, feared even, but now a great deal more research has been done into the condition.
We’ve since learned that some of the great authors, composers and artists of our time were almost certainly synesthetes, including Franz Liszt, Vladimir Nabokov, Vincent Van Gogh. Some more contemporary examples include Stevie Wonder, David Hockney and Apex Twin.
These are people who’ve achieved incredible things and I’ve absolutely no doubt that this is in part due to the way they experience the world. Their sensory experience is very different from ‘ordinary’ people and it’s led to the creation of some incredibly beautiful and mesmerising works of genius.
What’s all this got to do with misophonia?
Well, misophonia is a sensory disorder as well. In fact some academics believe it’s related to synaesthesia. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s an incredibly powerful force that both overwhelms the senses and the thought process. Yes, having a misophonic episode is a brutal and negative experience – but what about outside of these moments?
What about when we’re not being exposed to an episode?
I believe we experience the world through our misophonia shaped senses and that as we learn more about the condition we’ll discover that we possess unique and valuable abilities, as well as negative ones. I intend to conduct as many surveys and analyse as much research as I can on Allergic to Sound to unearth these.
Did you know Darwin almost certainly had misophonia?
This is the man who almost singlehandedly changed the way (most of us) view the world today. This is a mind of unparalleled genius and guess what… he constantly complained of too much noise when he was working. Yet there was something about his mind, when he could find quiet, that enabled him to conceive of something so extraordinary, so revolutionary and outside of conventional thinking that he formulated his theory of evolution. This was a feat akin to trying to convince people that the world wasn’t flat.
Franz Kafka is widely regarded as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. He famously once wrote: “I need solitude for my writing; not “like a hermit” – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.” Anyone with misophonia can relate to that. Kafka penned Die Verwandlung (Meditation) and Betrachtung (The Metamorphosis). It’s interesting to note that many of his works portray a sense of conflict and alienation.
Anton Chekhov was an internationally renowned author (as well as physician and playwright and misophone). Like all our celebrity misophones, he found it incredibly difficult to filter out noise.
Two of his most famous works include: The Huntsman and Uncle Vanya. Chekhov made innovations in writing that have changed the way we think of the think of the modern short story and he greatly influenced James Joyce.
Then there’s Marcel Proust, the French novelist – thought of by some to be one of the greatest authors of all time.
Among other works, Proust wrote The Prisoner, Sodom and Gomorrah and Time Regained.
Proust actually went so far as to cover his bedroom walls with cork to try to block out any outside sound. Just to make sure he’d also wear a set of earplugs while he worked. I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this, who also suffers from misophonia, has also looked into sound proofing at some point.
Montaigne is a 16th century French philosopher credited with writing some of the most influential essays ever written.
I’m in absolutely no doubt that he had misophonia. Here a couple of quotes from his great essays:
“… I have a tender head and easily discomposed; when ’tis bent upon anything, the least buzzing of a fly murders it.”
And in a humourous account of his er… poor humours he says: “To conclude the account of my poor humours, I confess that in my travels I seldom reach my inn but that it comes into my mind to consider whether I could there be sick and dying at my ease. I desire to be lodged in some private part of the house, remote from all noise, ill scents, and smoke.”
I’ll finish off with a final quote from Montaigne that encapsulates a belief that many of us may have widely held prior to learning about misophonia (and maybe afterwards!):
“He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.”
I’m convinced this is just the tip of the iceberg and that as we look further into the condition we’ll discover that more great minds in our past and present were and are afflicted with misophonia.
There’s already mounting evidence to suggest that misophones may be more prone to creative talent.
The challenge now is to find ways of coping and dealing with the condition while tapping into the unique creative possibilities.
When you’re not locked in a misophonic episode have you noticed any differing abilities or traits? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.