Did you ever have a sense memory that was so strong it could illicit a physical response from you just by thinking about it? For instance, when you hear the sound of a lawn mower, or the smell of freshly cut grass, does it suddenly harken you back to your youth when perhaps you were responsible for that family chore? Or does the smell of cinnamon cause your mouth to immediately start salivating? Perhaps a song comes on the radio that takes you back to a favorite time in your life, or a sad memory of someone no longer with us?
Actors are taught to become aware of these types of sensations so they can use them in their creative process. The more an actor can associate with a specific emotional response, the more credible their performance. That’s why some actors can cry at the drop of a hat—they’ve trained themselves to recall a specific memory in their lives that will always help them get that kind of reaction.
I have a very strong sense memory from my days playing a clarinet in band that still gives me the same kind of sensation today as when I originally experienced it. In fact, sometimes the sensation is even stronger than the original incident that inspired it. I’m speaking of the feeling you get if you’ve ever tried to play a clarinet with a dry reed. Not only does the instrument produce a loud high pitched shriek, but you also experience a physical reaction similar to what you might feel when someone drags their nails across a blackboard. Both the sound and the action combined are what set off your physical response. For me, my neck and shoulders scrunch up, and my face stretches out in a very pained expression as if I’d just bitten into a sour lemon. I also get some kind of tingly sensation which ripples down my back, as if my muscles were being individually repulsed by the experience.
(Side note: As I was trying to find the words to describe my physical reaction for you, I actually had to keep recalling the sense memory over and over again like some kind of masochist. And to be honest, right now my back and mouth are physically exhausted from the efforts---that’s how strong my sense memory of this silly little event is. I can physically make myself uncomfortable just by recalling it.)
And though not recommended, this type of skill might be useful if you ever wanted to get out of a social obligation or avoid a specific type of chore. All you have to do is try and recall how it felt to be so physically sick you couldn’t even get out of bed, and you’ll be surprised how your body will react to that kind of committed recollection. The more you concentrate and try to remember, the worse you’re going to feel, giving you an outward physical manifestation of your internal memory. The problem is, sense memory can sometimes be so strong and your abilities so effective, that you actually might start to trick yourself into believing you’re actually sick. In which case, I would counteract those feelings with sense memories of how good you felt once you recovered.
Anyway, I find it interesting that my body can retain a physical response from something that happened to me over thirty years ago, and repeat it verbatim any time I happen to recall the event. But then again, I have friends who will actually start to vomit just by mentioning the word “vomit,” so I guess I’m lucky my sense memory doesn’t include a weak stomach as well.
But that’s just me. Do you have a strong sense memory that gives you a physical reaction any time you think of it?