Into every life a little rain must fall...The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...Your mileage may vary (YMMV)...Tit for Tat...Yin and Yang...Karma's a Bitch...Shit Happens...That Smells like... Our lives are filled with pat phrases and sayings. Probably a day doesn't go by without hearing at least one of these folksy sayings. The reason or explanation is simple. There are truths found in them. We use these tools of language as a shortcut to communicate our thoughts and feelings.
When I see a shaving group Shave of the Day (SOTD) posting I often see guys struggling to describe what a particular soap, cream, cologne, lotion or after shave smells like. Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses a human possesses. Neurologically all of our senses are linked to memories but a memory tied to a scent or aroma is one of the most powerful memory and emotional triggers. A scent can transport you immediately to a time or place long ago hidden deep in our heart, soul and memory. I have worked with traumatized adults and children for many years and some of the most difficult traumas to overcome and move past are trauma events that are associated to common scents.
It is understandable when even a color becomes associated with a traumatic event since there are so many flashing lights of rescue vehicles or strong prominent colors experienced during or immediately following a trauma incident. A particular season of the year can be a traumatic trigger, also sounds, shapes and even specific social situations or particular type of person who looks like, sounds like or acts like a person involved in a traumatic situation. The pungent aroma of burning rubber can be a very strong trigger for individuals traumatized in an automobile accident where burning tire rubber played a role. But one of the most surprising and common trauma triggers I have ever encountered involved aftershaves.
What something smells like can be both subtle and powerful all at the same time. So many things contribute to our memories and the olfactory triggers are often not recognized as trauma triggers without carefully reconstructing and examining those events in detail, which is often the exact opposite of how someone attempts to cope with them. Nevertheless, we all have scent and aroma preferences and triggers. A universally pleasant aroma is the smell of freshly baked bread or a sweet pastry like apple pie (crumble) or cinnamon rolls. Real estate agents advise home sellers to bake some bread and turn off the oven and leave the aromatic bread sitting in the oven just before potential buyers arrive. It creates a favorable "impression" of the house in general, regardless of how the house looks to a buyer.
When I worked at a residential facility many years ago I had one female client, we'll call her "Jill", who would describe some days when being around me she felt happy, safe and calm but on other days she was irritated, angry, and fearful. For the longest time we didn't understand why she felt that way. The staff rotated on a 4 days on and 3 days off basis and it took some time for us to realize what was really going on. Almost by accident one day the truth was discovered.
The staff, both male and females rotated and lived with the residents around the clock during their 4 day shift, so we would of course bring our clothes and personal care items with us as if we were on a business trip and staying in a hotel. One morning as I sat in the dining area drinking coffee and talking to the residents someone commented that they liked my cologne. I was wearing Old Spice aftershave. Jill, the female client whose "feelings" about me vacillated, piped in and said, "Yes, I love that smell. It reminds me of my 4th Grade teacher, Mr. Jones."
Upon further discussion later that day we talked about her relationship with Mr. Jones and how he had helped her cope with an abusive home life and an alcoholic uncle who began sexually molesting her a couple of years earlier. She disclosed the situation to him and he became her "hero" and he and his wife were briefly emergency foster parents for her.
The next day I wore an Avon aftershave, Windjammer I think. Again, during morning coffee the conversation turned to my freshly applied aftershave. Jill sat this day at the far end of the long dining table with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. She had moved there as soon as I entered the room. I knew it was going to be a bad day. I moved down to the end of the table and sat across from her. Just my presence irritated her further. I observed her nose twitching as she unconsciously "tested" the air, frowned and grimaced as she took in the scents in the room. That is when I realized the trigger of her feelings about me could be related to my aftershave.
I decided to do an experiment. I immediately went back to my room, washed my face, changed my shirt and applied Old Spice. I returned to the dining room and sat across from Jill. As soon as I had entered the room Jill's countenance softened. Her face lightened and a dark cloud seemed to lift from her. As I sat down she smiled and without being aware of what was happening, reached over and patted my arm and asked how I had slept the night before mentioning she had heard the 24 hour crisis hotline the staff manned ring several times during the night. She wasn't even aware of the first time I had sat across from her that morning. She didn't remember it. She had been lost in a world of unpleasant memories and sensations. We later discovered her perpetrating sexual molesting uncle always wore Avon Windjammer Cologne. It was his favorite according to Jill's mother.
This revelation for Jill became a mechanism that enabled her to dig deeper into her trauma events and gain some control over their power over her emotions and sense of safety in the world. Jill, we found out had several sensory clues and many of them were olfactory and certain aromas in the environment could dictate her general mood and color her behavioral reactions to everyone and thing around her. She started putting a small dab of a roll on cologne just under her nose so it would soften the impact of other smells. This discovery enabled her to leave our transitional living facility and live a happier, productive and independent life.
I related this story to make a point. There are certain smells and aromas we just don't like. There could be absolutely no rhyme or reason behind it. But there could be. That is why I may ask someone what something smells like, but not put a lot of weight on their personal "feelings" about a particular aroma. Without realizing it, all kinds of prior life events could be strongly linked to certain scents. Some of them pleasant and others possibly the opposite.
If a particular scent or aroma ever provokes a very strong emotional reaction it deserves at least a little exploration as to why. Sometimes, if you have experienced trauma in your past, you will need some professional assistance in doing this examination and discovery. Personal preferences are one thing...being strongly revolted is a horse of a different color and it shouldn't be allowed to continue to stampede through your life without first gaining some insight into exactly why. A wild horse can drag you to places you don't want to be dragged.
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe