Can smells trigger trauma?
The short answer: yes.
Can you do something about it? Yes, again.
It’s taken me a bit to process what happened a few nights ago. We were all in bed and it was nearing midnight. Suddenly my husband and I smelled burning plastic. We were immediately out of bed searching the house. Appliances, outlets, the garage, the attic, each room. We pinpointed the smell in our teenagers’ room and when we turned on the light, it was smoky. Although I appeared calm on the outside, I was fighting panic and had to grab my Peace & Calming essential oil while I prayed for safety and to find the problem. We checked everything we thought it could be - the fan/light, anything plugged into an outlet. I was having flashbacks from my youth that were extremely emotional, but kept my focus on finding the issue. There were no flames.
With the girls groggily awake, one pointed to the mini camera sitting on the rug next to the outlet (not plugged in). Sure enough, it was hot, self combusting, and melting into the rug. We removed it from the house quickly, but there was no way the girls could sleep in there, so we sent them downstairs to sleep. The smell was so strong, and we were wide awake, on high alert, wanting to make sure we got the true cause. We kept checking for awhile as we got fans going, blowing the smoke out the window
Upon returning to our bedroom and feeling like we could finally sleep, my guard went down, and the tears flooded out. My husband comforted me and I cried out to God for peace and the ability to sleep (and added more Peace & Calming). You see, when I was in high school, my house burned. We lost pretty much everything, and it was extremely traumatic for our whole family. I remember it so vividly. And that smell - that burnt house smell is one I will never forget. Through an amazing church and community, the Lord blessed our family and we saw many miracles as we worked to rebuild our lives that would never be the same. As the years passed, I thought I was past the trauma simply because I didn't think of it often.
Then a few years ago, my sister’s house burned. That brought up emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time, as I cried for her loss and tried to give what little support I could from far away. When I went to visit and she took me through her burnt shell of a home, the smell triggered my past trauma, and I felt like melting into a puddle of weeping tears as I was transported back in time seeing flashes of my burnt teenage home - but I couldn’t break down there - it wasn’t my house, and there she was living a nightmare for a second time, this time as a mom, with repeat trauma herself that was much worse than mine. I consciously stuffed my feelings. But these kinds of things seem to keep coming back so that we can deal with them.
So this time, as I am still reeling from panic and anxiety, I’ve decided to take the time to process and deal with the trauma triggered by the smell and situation of the other night. Prayer is always my first go-to, as God is mindful of all of His children. And combining prayer with essential oils is powerful. The thing is - I already know how to release trauma and heal emotions as I teach classes on emotional healing with essential oils - but I have not ventured near this specific trauma myself - it was buried deep. So with this incident as a reminder that I still need healing, I am now open to letting it go through techniques I have used with success in the past for both myself and others. I am ready to heal.
Do you have emotions or trauma you have buried deep that you are in need of healing? Have you been triggered by smells?
You are not alone. The sense of smell is the most powerful sense we have and the only one that goes directly to the seat of emotion and memory in our brains. If you smell baking bread and it takes you back in time to your grandmother's kitchen, that pleasant memory is one of the ways the sense of smell works. We can see and feel where we were when we smelled that scent, especially if strong emotions were felt at the time. With trauma, it is not so pleasant. In fact, it can be debilitating for many, who struggle to heal.
There is hope. I will share more on overcoming trauma through smell in Part 2.
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