“By the scent of its marquis, from afar, with my eyes closed, I would recognize Corsica. »
Do you remember the last time a smell gently brought you back to a fond memory? It's magical, isn't it?
Olfactory memory is a subject that has always fascinated me. For me it's a way of traveling, of vibrating to everything around me. Its magic is part of one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I also give it a little nickname, it’s my “Highway to heaven”. I love absolutely everything about this fleeting moment (a big 3.5 seconds) where I no longer have control, where I'm being led by the end of my nose and I feel my life.
However, as smell is not a highly valued sense in our society, studies on its subject are rather rare. However, I do not lose hope because if there is a positive point to the current pandemic, it is that the fact that the loss of smell is a major symptom of COVID, that has, so to speak, been put back in the spotlight and numerous studies have emerged in the last two years in order to know more about both its mode of operation and the relationship between our brain and the sense of smell.
I therefore do not claim to be a specialist on the subject but I would like to share with you here the information that I have read here and there over many years. Again, I'm not going to give you a 101 course on smell. If you feel like it, this information is very easy to find on the internet.
Four elements seem to be essential for accessing our olfactory memories: the first is the olfactory vocabulary . Being able to name a smell, being able to describe it and also being able to name its effect on us. Already there, you will not be surprised if I tell you that in general we are not very equipped in this area.
It smells or smells good!
What was my surprise when I began to popularize my well-being perfumery project a few years ago. Every time I asked a simple question: What smell do you like? Right away, at least half the time if not more, the response was something along the lines of “I hate the smell of roses, it stinks.” » So here I come back to the charge, no but what I want to know are the smells that you like? And there we arrived at: I don’t know! There was an absolute void, an inability to communicate. As I refuse to believe that it is out of indifference, I will rather go for a lack of vocabulary.
I sincerely believe that if we had been equipped with olfactory vocabulary, we would be able to categorize our olfactory feelings in a much more detailed and precise way.
Oh! What a surprise!
Not surprisingly, the second essential element for magic to work is the effect of surprise . This is why both onologists and perfumers all work blindly . Therefore, to have access to our olfactory memories, we absolutely must counteract the mental and analytical aspects of the process. Moreover, it is really on this point that many researchers are wondering: “how do we record odors but above all how do we classify them? ". One thing is certain, if we know in advance what smell we are going to smell, the magic will not work, because before you have even smelled the smell, your mind will have already created the perfect story for it.
Consider the smell of sweet orange. If the person knows that they will smell a sweet orange essential oil, their mind will come into play as soon as this information is transmitted to them and there they go. Mental discourse: “ah yes! Sweet orange, I know this smell very well because I drink a glass of orange juice every morning, but I am certain that the memory that my olfactory memory recorded for this smell was at least five years ago. Costa Rica, breakfast on the beach. The glass of freshly squeezed orange juice was absolutely divine! » That's it, it's settled. When you swing the dipper under your nose, the chances that you will have access to your olfactory memories are very slim or almost zero. However, if you had done the exercise blindly, it is more the memory of you and your mother sitting on a bench at the shopping center, you were 12 years old and you were enjoying a small glass of orange juice freshly squeezed buy at the Orange-shaped kiosk where people lined up to taste this tasty nectar. This is the memory that your olfactory memory had stored for you. Why this moment and not Costa Rica? In fact, it's not that simple because the third essential is precisely repetition.
Again and again…
So both neuroscience researchers and aromatherapists agree that repetition plays an important role in the mechanism of selection and recording of an odor in our olfactory memory. Being exposed to an odor regularly seems to strongly influence the process without, however, guaranteeing it. In fact, if we refer to the example above, although the person was brought into contact with the smell of sweet orange every morning via his glass of orange juice, this is not not this moment that was captured and committed to memory. For what?
There is indeed a fourth element which is the one which brings flavor and perspective to the equation and it is, without great surprise, emotion . As this is the most complex element, I dedicate the closing remarks to it and you will deliver it next week.
It is now time to leave us, but I give you this little homework in order to give meaning to my words. This week, as many times as you can, pay attention to these little fleeting moments that are delivered to you by your olfactory memory. These revelations are your pearls of life! I invite you to write them down because the beauty is that once you become aware of them you only have to put yourself back in contact with the desired smell to relive the memory. Fill your olfactory notebook with your most beautiful memories, one scent at a time.
I wish you the most beautiful and intoxicating week...
In addition, I invite you to spread the information and share it with your friends and loved ones.
See you soon