As an energy healer who holds space for others, I never use essential oils, diffusers, room sprays, candles or incense in my therapy room. For healing treatments and for our own self-care rituals we should seek to create a gentle space for thoughts to process in their own way and at their own pace. A beautiful ambiance can be created just by the energy put into our space. If a scent is introduced or imposed it might be suggestive or even triggering. Scent induces memory recall and it might be these very memories which are at the root of trauma.
The scent really is so subjective. As children, we learn to associate certain smells with people, places or events. Whenever I smell blackcurrant jam I’m instantly taken back to my grandmother’s pantry. Moped fumes, to the backstreets of Napoli where I spent many a stifling summer. Geraniums, to my childhood home where my mum grew masses of them in terracotta pots.
But not all scents have such positive associations.
For example, although lavender is a wonderfully therapeutic plant and invokes feelings of peace for most of us, for some it might bring forward memories of a childhood home in which they felt uneasy or fearful, an association which may be held on a subconscious level. You can see how dousing a room in lavender would hinder the healing process.
The scent may even induce nausea or dissuade us from taking beautiful deep life-giving breaths. For those sensitive to smell it can bring on feelings irritation and violation, or at best, distraction. The same can be said for any sensory stimulation ~ music, touch and taste all hold memories. Any sort of sensory input needs permission first, even scent.
Complementary or psychological therapies can include reprocessing repressed memories and every so often someone may claim to have sensed a certain smell during their treatment, the nature of which is usually comforting. It can be a turning point in their healing journey.
During healing sessions, I sometimes sense smells that have a particular association with the person I’m treating. ‘Smellucinations’ played a subtle part in my own healing journey too with spontaneous wafts of basil, olive oil and sweet warm dried grass reminding me of my roots. They were small yet important reminders of ‘home’ I so very much needed when I was going through a difficult period of time.
There is indeed a place for scent in healing.
When I guide others on therapeutic walks in the urban wilds, sometimes their faces light up as subtle herbaceous wafts of yarrow and elder are carried on the wind or the smell of the wet earth rises after the rain. It always seems like one of the most welcome and rewarding sensory experiences of all.
We all have our own preferences, our unique life paths and we all heal differently; just as medicine should be administered on an individual basis, let’s choose our scents mindfully too. Instead of going on what feelings certain aromas ‘should’ induce, let’s remember to call upon our own intuitive wisdom and ask ourselves, what is it we need today? Is it the citrusy aroma of lemon balm, the medicinal magic of eucalyptus or a sensory holiday with no scent at all.
So here’s to the safe space which is ours to fill, to blasts of fresh air and to the comforting smells embedded deep in our subconscious that may one day emerge when we least expect.
Alex de Angelis is a holistic practitioner and wellness witch based in London offering Reiki, EFT tapping, sound therapy, divination and guided therapeutic walks in the urban wilds. Energy healing, mindful living and the principles of shadow integration are at the heart of her work as she answers a collective calling for wholeness and reconnection. She holds space for individuals and groups, sharing tools of empowerment, self-healing, self-integration and spiritual development. Follow her on Instagram and her website.