Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smell it…Fear it:

 Our sense of smell is an automatic memory trigger, more so than almost any other sense.

“People recall smells with a 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months.”(Sense of

“Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions…Very often we cannot put a name to these odors yet they have a strong emotive association even if they cannot be specifically identified.” (

The Smell

It is actually not the antiseptic smell that bothers me (I am a nurse after all…), but rather my sense of a combination that is a bizarre mix of: “bubblegum-ish” flavor in the air from the nitrous, as well as certain unidentifiable dental aromas. Ok, so hard to define. It has improved though…at least now the waiting area doesn’t make me nauseous.

I have an excellent dentist that is very caring and sympathetic to my phobia as well as my extremely sensitive teeth. Nonetheless, once I sit in that chair, my heart pounds, my palms get cold and sweaty and I dread the sound of the drill.

The Fear

My phobia has an origin – well, several in fact. Combine a multitude of uncaring military dentists, with one in particular, who slapped me because I wouldn’t sit still for the second shot to my gums. Yes it was many moons ago and yes my dad almost got kicked out of the Air Force for that one! Nobody hits his little girl. So, here I am at age 37 and yet that smell gets me every time! It has improved, but I was in the chair just 2 days ago for 2 crowns and I was shaking like a leaf!

What smells trigger a fear for you? And if you are wondering why I picked smells that evoke fear, rather than warm fuzzies…well, because : 1) I want you to have to think and the good stuff is always easier to come up with and 2) I really am curious. So please share – maybe we can help each other work through some of them!


  1. Mine would have to be a combination of men's colognes---Drakkar Noir, Aspen for Men, anything like that. I was kind of wild in college, but it didn't start out that way. This could be a blog post all on its own, but there's no way I'd put it out there now. Let's just say I prefer old 50s classics to that crap that came out in the 80s and 90s, and frat boys are buttheads. It took me years to be comfortable standing in lines, whether at a bank, a grocery store, or an event. If there were more than three men behind me, I'd move to another line whenever possible, or shoo people ahead of me until I would have a woman behind and ahead. Time-consuming, but totally worth it.

    When I hear a dentist's drill, I immediately think of sandpaper, because that's what I smell when I get cavities done. Can totally relate to your fear, Steph. Thanksf or this one! I've already wrangled some of the above demon, but certainly don't mind helping others wrangle theirs!


  2. Unrelated 2 this post but alot is actually a lot. 2 words!