G’day APJ family. Really great to have you here!
I have been to a few perfume meet-ups now and I have been able to hear other like minded folk talk about perfumery and scent. It has been brilliant to learn how you all feel about, discuss and approach perfume. But what has become very obvious to me is how differently I process, not just my emotions regarding scent, but the pleasure, and pain, I get from smelling things.
The Pain of Pleasure and Perfume
In a way, I am incredibly fortunate that my senses are so far removed from what is typical, as understood by the medical field. I feel pain, but only when it gets to extreme, life threatening lengths, and then I tend to zone out from it; disassociate, if you will. So, my pain tolerance is extensive and wide reaching. I smell things and I find soooo many more things almost neutral-pleasant than most people. I have a tiny hate list and a tiny love list of smells, but I have a huge tolerance for a wide variety of things.
What this means is that my perfume collection is as big as it is because I find 96% of scents quite ok. I like an ecclectic variety of scents, even sweet ones now. The problem comes with the other 4% of perfumes. For me, pleasure is painful. I find eye-rolling-swooning-fan-me-down pleasure (for the majority of people) downright horrid. It elicits the EXACT same biological, psychological, physiological responses to what is commonly understood to be pain.
It has taken me 45 years to understand this, you know?! I have never had the words to express why I have always shied away from pleasurable experiences and things, but now I know. I feel too intensely and it causes intense pain. Instead of me having the linear progression of pain here and pleasure over there on the line, mine tends to be a circle, whereby most of the circle is habitable, but that small section where the pain and pleasure of your line have met up to form a circle, I CANNOT cope with that part of myself. I do anything to avoid extreme pain and intense pleasure. I am more comfortable existing in a flat line sort of world. Boring as anything for those around me, but oh so safe for me.
As I sit and listen and watch at these meet-ups, I learn that people have stronger likes, dislikes and loves than I do. Scents they love tend to get inhaled with ferocious reverence, and scents they hate get recoiled from. I have a few loved scents that make me speechless, but that causes me to feel so strongly my body and mind cannot cope. It becomes overwhelming and I have to go inward in response. People mistake my reaction and I then have to leave my inner safety and try to find the words to clarify what is happening to me. Sometimes, I cannot.
Smelling a really pleasant mainstream perfume that I really like is often enough for me. I need to plan when I can smell my treasured scents that send me spiralling to that upper limit of pleasure. I don’t want to be around people, for fear of being mistaken or judged for my responses.
I find rainbows, padi fields, windy days, tropical storms, flowering gum nuts and many other things so excruciatingly beautiful. If I am driving and see a rainbow, I have to put my visor down to block it out of view. If I am at work and a dry wind hits, I have to stop and let myself enjoy it for 30 seconds. Any more and I will become mentally ‘lost’. These things cause me to to try to escape the intense pleasure they bring. It is so much it hurts.
I admit to hardly wearing my true love scents. A small sniff from the bottle is all the closeness to my soul as I can handle. I have mentioned before my pica issues and I become afraid of what too much pleasure can cause me to do.
Upon seeing the Andy Warhol exhibition in Melbourne two years ago, I hyperventilated and became dizzy and nauseous through the unbridled joy of seeing some of his works. I had to take constant breaks to calm down enough to breathe! I was scared about having to take the train home. I felt the pleasure would swallow me up and I’d cease to exist.
I am trying to learn how to gently push my boundaries, for I know I am missing out on a lot of life through keeping pleasure and pain at arm’s length.
Please share with me, and each other, how you react to your soul singing perfume. Let me know what you do when your senses are pained, and what causes you to feel so intensely.
Til next time,