the spirit of scent ~

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~ ~ ~ The Spirit of Scent~The Proust Effect ~ ~ ~

From the book “Welcome Home” by Melissa Placzek

~page 96~

“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?

XO,

Melissa

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  10 comments for “the spirit of scent ~

  1. Addie
    July 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    When I had Caleb I bought myself DAISY by Marc Jacobs. Everytime I see the bottle burried in with the rest of my ginormous collection of scents, I think of when my son was a newborn baby and all of the special moments I had with him. I only wear it once and a while and everytime I feel a huge sense of peace and happiness..and a little baby fever!

  2. admin
    August 28, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Addie,
    Thanks for commenting! sorry it took me so long to respond. The blog was under the weather for about a month. LOVE “Daisy” by Marc Jacobs!…well, I pretty much love everything by Marc Jacobs 😉 My baby scent for Andie was “White Shoulders” and for Gracie… “Nantucket Briar” by Crabtree & Evelyn. I know what you mean! Pure nostalgia!

  3. Kimber Dunn
    October 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

    That is such a special thing to do for yourself! I wish I could handle the perfumes the way you do, but I get the Proust Effect in many other ways. I have one suitcase that every time I open it, takes me back to Ireland. Cheap vanilla wafer cookies always remind me of my grandparents house. Fall trails remind me of the many years at my parents, traipsing through the back woods with my friends, riding our bikes & building forts. Every so often I’ll get a scent from out of nowhere that reminds me of my grandpa or a previous boyfriend or some prior place from my past, and it’s hard to pinpoint or hold onto, but always brings a smile to my face.

  4. admin
    October 12, 2010 at 10:04 am

    The sense of smell is a powerful thing! Are you allegric to perfume? Have you ever tried making your own perfume oils with a carrier oil (like sweet almond) and a few drops of essential oil? Garden of Eden is an excellent resource. Also, Clinique makes some great perfumes that tend to work for a lot of people who can’t handle other perfumes. (“Happy” is one that I wore a lot when I was pregnant because other perfumes made me feel kind of head-achy)… Maybe give it a try.

  5. Kimber Dunn
    October 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I allergic to most perfumes. I’m pretty much allergic to everything sadly. Oils are a big one, depending on what they’re based from. I’ve never tried to make my own, usually just go without scented things altogether. Have been trying more in recent years though. Thanks for the advice, will see if I can get some samples directly from the manufacturers since walking through the perfume sections at the stores makes me sick.

  6. admin
    October 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I hope this works for you! A girl needs her signature scent(s) 🙂

  7. July 10, 2011 at 11:02 am

    i’m not allergic like Kimber, but I don’t like many perfumes, as I find them overwhelming in some fashion or another. But I do understad the Proust Effect and think that’s really cool! I am sure it can be applied through other means for those of us not as appreciative of perfumes, like Kimber’s example of vanilla wafers. The idea is fantastic 🙂

    • Melissa
      July 10, 2011 at 11:11 am

      I think so too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  8. Cynthia Fiore
    July 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I love perfumes…started very young with a gift of Miss Dior from a favorite auntie. Charlie was a great scent in high school and immediately following I started wearing YSL Rive Gauche. I went through the designer phase (Halston, Givenchy), many Estee Lauder scents and had my own vacation scents over the years as well but I keep coming back to YSL Rive Gauche. I have quite a few scents in my bathroom cabinet but still find myself wearing what has become my signature scent. If interested, the only place I can find the original scent of YSL Rive Gauche is Amazon.com. I used to purchase it in the Las Vegas YSL shop but no longer. What a treat you are in for! Enjoy!

    • Melissa
      July 4, 2013 at 12:18 am

      Hi there, Cynthia! I love hearing about how other people reach a “signature scent.” I have a few, but I know what you mean…there are very few scents that stick with you throughout your life. For me, that scent would be Coco Chanel. I’ve been wearing it since I was 18. Before that I waor Eternity by Calvin Klein throughout high school. Now I wear Coco in the autumn and winter, Imagine by Lollia in the Spring, and several different “fresh” scents in the summer… here’s another post about my summer scents. I hope you enjoy! thanks for sharing! xo 🙂

      http://chindeep.com/2010/07/01/my-6-favorite-summer-perfume-scents/

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