Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011.07.17 The Nose Knows

My earliest olfactory memory is the pungent odor of ammonia. My mother who overvalued her first adorable child, me, used to clean my bassinette with it—probably more than she needed.

(After all, don’t some say that Americans have created such a clean germ-free environment that we don’t build up antibodies to strengthen our immune systems? But ammonia is stringent.

At 35 or so I entered my first therapy experience with a bioenergetic (a therapy developed by Alexander Louwen to access emotions that were forgotten by the mind but stored in body muscle) therapist.

Imagine body work for my first ever encounter with psychotherapy!

Imagine my having no mental control over what emotions arose. Terrifying. Through body postures, stances far less graceful than yoga, and encouragement to make totally un-pc sounds like a lion’s roar or a baby’s waaah, I discovered my body’s voice.

Then my therapist and I would process whatever came up and out by which I discovered lost feelings like anger and sorrow, feelings I needed to be whole.

One of my earliest feelings came through my nose. I lay with my back stretched over a stool my feet on the ground, hands at my side and head hanging over the edge. The rack—sort of. Comfy? Not.

Suddenly I got a strong whiff of ammonia. Of course there was no ammonia around. Alarmed I tried to sit up. In the process I experienced a sorrow seizure so strong it took a few minutes to subside.

I think the therapist was as surprised as I was. As we talked I made the connections between what my nose knew and the emotional pain I’d stored in my heart-lung area from not being able to connect securely with my mother.

Science tells us that olfactory memories connect to the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain, those in charge of memory and emotions.

I consider my bioenergetic experiences spiritual because of my Christian faith. The body stores healing memories. It is holy, a sanctuary for the wisdom and healing of the Divine within, the Word made flesh.