The evocative nature of our senses

I do think that sounds and smells are often more evocative than sight.

I can remember a vivid dream I had just a few months after the death of my father. His voice was coming through to me so clearly – he was talking to me for some reason in a car park.

To hear his voice again after such a long time was both upsetting, and glorious.

There are some smells and sounds that can literally make my head spin with emotion.

If I smell Ralph Lauren Polo aftershave, I am immediately taken back to my dad sitting at the kitchen table at breakfast time, and the feeling of security, belonging to a happy family home.

Honeysuckle transports me back to my garden in Turkey, and the deep relaxation induced by intense heat.

The smell of stale beer takes me to the local pub in the village where I grew up – and the deep embarrassment of being scrutinised by adults.

The squawking of seagulls reminds me of the years I spent in Bath – the freedom and the frustrations of those single twenties.

Raw scooter engines in the early morning take me back to student days in the south of France, and the fear and excitement of a young girl entering unknown territory.

Puccini’s aria Nessun Dorma reduces me to tears every single time – it was played at my wedding, and reminds me once again of my father.

The whiff of lotion from a packet of Johnson’s Baby Wipes has me sat breast feeding on my sofa in the UK, watching ITV’s This Morning in my gloriously un-intellectual baby bubble.

Fresh basil simply gladdens my heart.

The evocative nature of sounds and smells actually demonstrates how strong our imagination can be.

That the mere sniff of a certain smell can take you to the depths of despair, or the heights of pleasure, is very little to do with the provenance of the smell, but rather the way we think about it.

For example, Polo aftershave is a happy, secure smell for me – it resonates with happy, secure childhood years.

For others it may fill them with dread. Maybe it is the smell of a bad relationship, an abusive father, an over-bearing teacher at school, or simply a stinking hangover the morning after.

But that whiff can set off a train of thoughts that your imagination can then grab and run away with to all sorts of places.

So good smells / sounds can set you off on a good train of thought.

Bad smells / sounds can set you off on a bad train of thoughts.

If you’re a slave to your thoughts, a bad smell can ruin your whole day. By bringing forth one bad memory/thought, you can allow that thought to ferment and grow in an overactive imagination into the biggest blackest cloud.

And if you’re prone to depression and anxiety, that is one place you really don’t want to go.

So you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Learning to manage your thinking better liberates you from being triggered by uncontrollable external influences.

Just imagine that sense of freedom.

Here’s an example – the smell of cigarettes for an ex-smoker will no longer have them reaching immediately for a pack.

Another one – that whiff of red win for an alcoholic will no longer send them into a paroxysm of temptation.

Learning to manage your thinking is not easy – a certain amount of persistent, consistent effort is required. But it IS do-able. Just go for it…….

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