Monday, June 16, 2008

When Memory Manifestation Leads to Physical Ramifications

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?


RoxiticusDH said...

School's almost out for summer, so I won't give you a hard time about your homework assignment this time...if you'll vote for me as Hottest Mommy Blogger (click the badge in my sidebar), I won't even have to put on my naughty teacher outfit, come over to your blog and spank you...maybe I'll just send Matt by as the Stern Professor instead.

Debbie said...

Memories that create a physical response? My goodness, after a child burns his hands, that is instantly a memory that triggers the do not touch response.

I utilize these memories in my practice often.

The ones that I enjoy are the memories that make me start laughing for no apparent reason to the rest of the world. That usually gets me in trouble as I may start to giggle and then laugh uncontrollably at exactly the wrong moment.

Daisy said...

I do not know if a sense memory from a cat counts or not. Whenever I pose for photos, I get several delicious treats. Now, when I see the camera come out, I jump right up onto my modeling table and many times I start drooling. I know delicious treats will be coming soon!

Matthew S. Urdan said...

I think Roxy should come over and spank me....

Actually, Henson, I love sour lemons. I can eat them without any issues whatsoever...

After having watching Gilligan's Island growing up, there was an episode where they were suffering from Vitamin C deficincies and were worried about scurvy. Since then, my brothers and I ate oranges, lemons, limes like crazy. We dared each other to eat lemon slices. Over time, we came to love sour foods.

Those candies out there that proclaim to be sour...warheads or something like them? Sugar cubes. That's all they are. Not one bit of sour to them.

Mmmmmmmmm give me a lemon, or a lime to suck on and I'm happy.


Henson Ray said...

Debbie, I forgot that other professions besides actors use this kind of recall all the time. Makes sense.
Daisy, your opinion always counts, regardless of how many feet you have.
And as for Roxy and Matt, all I can say is "GET A ROOM!"

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Here that Roxy?

RoxiticusDH said...

Excuse me, sir...I thought this was the Take Liberty Inn, and I believe you've already charged me an hourly rate, just gettin' my money's worth!


Waterrose said...

OH geeze...did you have to bring back that memory? It is like fingernails on a chalkboard. If you didn't keep that reed in your mouth long enough to make it you were in trouble! Thankfully I only played for 8 months...went racing on my bike in the alley with friends, hit a huge rock, over the handle bars, broke a front tooth and the clarinet became even less of a