|Jan Brueghel (I) - The Sense of Smell - WGA3581 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Thanksgiving and the holiday seasons are times that we associate with many odors and aromas. The smells of savory meals, tantalizing goodies, and Christmas trees will be bombarding our senses and bringing back old memories. There's something particularly evocative about many smells and the holiday seasons are rich in these prompts to the subconscious.
This seems like an appropriate time for a topic that came to me after a recent dream that I had. An aspect of this dream made me wonder about the connection between the sense of smell and the dreaming experience. Do smells affect our dreams or does the dream cause our minds to conjure an illusion of smell within that dream? Or could it be a case of either one of these things occurring depending on the circumstance and the dream?
As is the case with other types of external stimulation, smell must undoubtedly influence what we are dreaming. If food aromas are present we are likely to dream about food and start feeling pangs of hunger. If we were to smell smoke we might dream about fire and in some cases be awakened to actual fire--the dream could act as a warning to wake up. The external stimuli could be cooking smells, perfumes or scented candles and the like, or even bodily emissions from ourselves or our sleeping partners.
Studies have shown that aromatherapy can have an influence on better sleep and more pleasant dreams. Likewise, sleepers exposed to unpleasant odors will often report unpleasant dreams. Various oils are on the market to produce more restful sleep with more vivid dreams.
My Dream Case Study
In a recent dream I am going through many strange places with my "children" (or they may be grandchildren or not even really children that I know at all). Some of these places are very dark and spooky. I enter into certain places that have a musty putrid smell that I relate to evil-- the smell is accompanied by a warmth. These are cavernous places with deep canyon-like recessions that disappear into darkness. I am afraid I or my "children" will fall into one of the "canyons" --they appear to be dark, jagged, and dangerous, but I sense that they could be soft like blankets.
My former boss is there at one point. I am giving him some paperwork from my office, including sheets that appear to be some sort of inventory report related to a very large order of mostly older or discontinued items for an Asian customer.
My dream thoughts keep returning to the smell I sensed in the dark cavernous places. I continue to think about the nature and the origin of this odor after I wake up.
Where Did the Smell Come From?
I am not aware of any odor within the bedroom that would relate to what I sensed in the dream. There is a possibility that the "smell" is merely a illusion based on certain expectations of the dream place. My mind has probably manufactured the smell which in reality did not exist. Still I am puzzled since the smell was so distinct and real that I wonder if the had really come from somewhere in the room or had entered the room from outside.
Have you experienced smells in dreams? If so what was the experience and to what would you relate the source? Are you able to imagine smells so vividly that your olfactory senses are actually stimulated?