~ ~ ~ The Spirit of Scent~The Proust Effect ~ ~ ~
From the book “Welcome Home” by Melissa Placzek
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
Marcel Proust, in Swann’s Way, “Remembrance of Things Past” 1913
There’s an interesting phenomenon called “The Proust Effect” that I came across while doing research for a psychology class. What it is is simply memories and emotions being prompted into recollection through the power of scent. Example: Picture yourself walking down a city street and as you pass a bakery the scent of chocolate chip cookies overwhelms you. Immediately you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time to your grandmother’s kitchen. The scent of the cookies actually brings tears to your eyes because you miss your grandmother. This is the Proust Effect in action.
Ever since this psych lesson I’ve been applying this little trick in my own life to create a sort of “scrapbook of scents.” I do this whenever I travel or know I’m about to experience something new. This is so fun, and one of my favorite things to do. It’s surprising how it keeps the memory of certain experiences, places, and people alive.
Maybe you’d like to try this? The next time you’re planning a vacation select a new perfume scent that is unlike anything you’ve ever worn before. DO NOT wear this new perfume until you arrive at your vacation destination. While on this vacation make sure you wear the perfume every day. When you return home, don’t wear the scent for at least two weeks. Then, the next time you smell the perfume it will be like being transported back to where you were vacationing. The scent of this special perfume will remind you of this place forever. I promise, this really works!
Anytime I want to escape, my perfume bottles serve as a sort of time machine. I also like to mark the seasons with special scents…for example…here is a list of some of my favorite summer perfumes! When I wear “Summer Hill” by Crabtree & Evelyn I am on Nantucket Island. When I wear “Rapture” by Victoria’s Secret it’s my wedding day again. When I wear “Pleaseures Exotic” by Estee Lauder I’m being a beach bum in Florida and touring Magic Kingdom with my family, and “Beachy” by Lilly Pulitzer transports me to the beautiful Island of Maui Hawaii. You get the idea. I can’t wait to bring this new scent, Mediterranean by Elizabeth Arden, on a new adventure so I can add to my scent library.
Do you have a favorite perfume or cologne that reminds you of a special place or time?