How many times have you been captured by a subtle aroma wafting through the air and you find yourself transported in time, to another place from long ago? Most of us have sense memory and almost like a dream, it can instantly make you feel as though you are are reliving a moment from your very distant past. Read on and I’ll share with you ways to use scent memory to help keep your mind on the sunny side of life!
The definition of sensory memory according to Stanislavsky is a technique that involves recalling a sensual experience.. sight, sound, smell, taste or touch… to evoke an emotional reaction appropriate to a moment in a scene. Surely you’ve experienced this at one time or another, I know that it has happened to me time and time again.
Sense Memory is often a part of Acting Exercises
It was 1988, and I was in my first year of college as a Musical Theater major. It was the very first day of my very first acting class, and I was ready. I mean, READY. Like, “I just came off my gig as a lead singer/dancer in the Kids From Wisconsin, and I’m a REALLY big deal at the State Fair grand stand stage,” ready. The kind of “ready” that every “Glee” watching musical theater kid, from every small town in the U.S, can taste and feel.
My teacher, Michael Pufall, a middle aged, full head of Richard Gere-esque grey haired man, who loved the theater and referred to acting as our “craft,” was legit. He stood in the middle of the black box theater and started name dropping. The names of people who are the foundation of acting techniques… Meisner, Stella Adler… we were going to learn “Method” acting… and then he loudly emphasized the name “Stanislavsky,” and I brightly responded with, “Gesundheit!” The jaded upperclassmen slouching in the back rows guffawed as I thought Michael (he asked us to call him by his first name) had sneezed.
The Memory of Things
While he was name dropping and talking about developing our craft, he was dropping pieces of paper with single words on them around the room. He asked each of us to stand by a piece of paper and become what the paper said. So you know that song ‘Nothing” from “A Chorus Line’ when Morales is asked by Mr. Karp to become the bobsled and feel the wind blow?
It’s real, and I hummed the song in my head while I watched the other students in the class become a broom, a mosquito, a tandem bike, and I looked down at my paper and saw the word, “pudding.” Yep. Pudding. I looked around and dropped to the ground and started shaking as I envisioned a bowl of butterscotch pudding. Not the instant kind; the real deal with the skin on top pudding. Michael paused next to me, took the scene in, and said, “fantastic seizure, Melissa. I could sense you moving to a grand mal.” More jaded guffaws.
We all Have Different Types of Memory
Every day for the first week we worked through all of the senses. I felt like a complete fraud as I pantomimed being stuck in an elevator, interpretational danced to “Time in a Bottle,” until Friday, when he placed scented objects around the room. My object was a shaker of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. We were asked to close our eyes, inhale, and describe the memories it conjured up. Just the sight of the red and white shaker already had my senses resonating.
I inhaled deeply, slowly opened my eyes, and began telling about my grandmother who made scrambled eggs with Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. Soon, I was transported to her kitchen… I could see her in her housecoat and I could hear her wooden heeled slippers clacking on the linoleum floor… I could smell the Lawry’s that was added while the eggs were cooking… the jaded upperclassmen stopped to listen as I painted a vivid picture; Michael put his hand to his chin and encouragingly nodded as the memories spilled out of me… and in the words of Morales, “I felt something.”
I have always connected strongly with my sense of smell. In fact, almost every scent will trigger a memory for me. If I cannot remember someone’s name, I’ll often be able to recall it by the fragrance they’re wearing. It is much easier if the person has a fragrance they wear on the regular, but in a sea of luxury brands and celebrity licensed fragrances, how do we find our “signature scent?”
Let Scents Define Memories for You
Start with the scents that trigger positive memories for you, make a list, and identify which category they fall into.
Woody – If walking in the forest, the smell of a real Christmas tree, or freshly mowed grass on a summer’s day brings up warm memories, choose a fragrance that falls in this category. My personal signature scent falls in this category – Tom Ford Tobacco Vanilla
Citrus – Conjuring up memories of a bright sunny day and lemonade stands? This is your category. Look to Clinique Happy or Calyx by Origins
Floral – If an English garden, or walking into a florist’s chilly refrigerator excites you, a modern floral is for you. I’m not talking your classic white Anais Anais floral bottle from the 80’s, I’m talking Viktor and Rolf FLowerbomb, Marc Jacobs Daisy, and Stella McCartney’s Peony
Fruity – If strawberry flavored Bonne Bell Lipsmackers, a pint of raspberries from a farmstand, or freshly cut watermelon makes you smile, look for a fruity fragrance. My personal favorites are Be Delicious by DKNY, and Bright Crystal by Versace.
Spicy/Oriental – If you cannot live without your pumpkin spice latte, or Williams-Sonoma’s mulling spices slowly heating on the stove, give Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent or Gucci Guilty
Can I give you one last hint? Don’t spend all your money on the body lotion of your signature scent. Buy a large jar of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, scoop out the amount you need to moisturize your body, take your signature scent and add 3-5 sprays to the moisturizing cream in your hand, rub your hands together and slather all over your body.
Voila! You now have scented body lotion at a fraction of the cost, and a high quality moisturizing cream, as well. And for this sense memory girl? I do a final spray or two in the air after I moisturize and do a twirl through the mist…with feeling.
Scent memory is just one type of the sensory memory that we all possess. Here are some cool links that explore other types of sense memory:
Do you already have a sense memory and/or a signature scent? Leave a comment below… I’d love to hear yours.