Many years ago, my sister had epileptic seizures for a while. Hers were called temporal lobe seizures and they were usually preceded by an olfactory hallucination, or the sensation of smelling a scent which was not present. The scents she would often “smell,” just before her brain caused her to blackout, would often be a very specific scent. For example, she might not just “smell” a pine scent, but she would “smell” a particular holiday or event. It seems that these scents were just part of a more complete memory that her temporal lobe held.
While I’m not a neurologist or a brain surgeon, I tend to envision the temporal lobe as a sort file card holder, holding memories of our past. Each card might hold the memories associated with a certain event.
It turns out that our sense of smell can have very strong connections to our memories. For this reason, odors can be triggers for memories – pleasant or unpleasant.
The phantom smells my sister experienced just prior to her seizures helped me understand some of the power of smell and its connection to memory. Why not make some memories – positive memories? Let’s add a some winning cards into our “deck” of memories in a deliberate way! I’ve taught people to build a scent event in order to reduce anxiety, stress, and cravings. Here’s an example:
Fill a large bathtub with very warm water that can envelop your body and give the tub a fragrance that’s pleasant and soothing. (I used to pass out lavender blossoms in class, but find a fragrance that works for you.) Add candlelight to ‘soften’ the visual input, play some quiet soothing music, sip a cup of hot tea, and recite a familiar prayer or read a favorite poem. Verbally reinforce how calm you feel as your senses are filled up with the smell and feel of the sanctuary you’ve created. The scents can be help make that event stick in your memory better.
At times when you don’t have enough time for the full blown “Calgon Take me Away” experience, you will find that just a drop of lavender oil massaged into your palm or onto your wrist might almost transport you back to your serenity tub! Give it a try and tweak it until it works for you. It really will!
Thank you for taking good care of you. Have a beaYOUtiful day!
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