Friday, October 03, 2008

Sense Memory

"Sense memory" is used to refer to the recall of physical sensations surrounding emotional events (instead of the emotions themselves).

Method actors, such as Marlon Brando have become famous for using this tool (sometimes referred to as emotional memory) to trigger believable responses to scripted events.

The German born American actress, and legendary acting teacher, Uta Hagen once wrote:

"Our feelings and emotions are the result of an accumulation of life experiences. We soon begin to make associations that link our feelings in the present to similar ones in the past. We will find no new emotions although we will continue to encounter new events under new circumstances and will cope with them in the main by trying to understand our emotional responses to them."

Essentially, we associate sights, sounds and smells with important events in our life. Many years later, those sounds or smells can actually trigger a powerful reoccurrence of those feelings.

You might remember a song that was playing on the radio when you first laid eyes on a true love. Twenty years later, you could hear that song ... close your eyes ... and transport yourself back to that time and place.

You can actually recall the feeling in the air ... what they were wearing ... what you were feeling inside. It can be a very powerful tool.

Last week I traveled to the Gulf coast of South Florida for a small film job that I was producing.

As the job was wrapping up, I found myself with some free time to explore the expansive beach and the warm water of the Gulf.

The air was completely filled with sea birds.

Seagulls swarmed the sky like small fighter planes. Interspersed among them them were larger pelicans who dropped from the sky like feathered spears into the green sea in search of fish.

The sound of the waves and the smell of the salty air reminded me of Brighton, England and the time I spent there as a child. As I sat on this Floridian beach, I closed my eyes and tried to remember all the good memories.

My Grandparents had a very large apartment in Brighton that overlooked the English Channel and the famous nude beach.

Although I certainly appreciated the benefits of that view as a young boy, it was the draw of the entertainment pier that always caught my attention.

Leading up to my visit, my granddad, Pop-Pop, would save up all his 10 pence pieces in his desk drawer. By the time I arrived, he had amassed an enormous sack of coins.

Almost every day, after tea time, we would venture down to the pier together to play the games of chance. I always looked forward to spending time with him. I could not have asked for a more wonderful grandfather.

When I was in my first year of college, I received a phone call and was told that Pop-Pop had died from ALS.

I have missed him terribly ever since that day.

However, I love that fact that when I am by the ocean I can close my eyes and think of him. I remember his smile and his kind heart. I remember how much he loved the ocean and the seagulls that lived there.

When I stop and take the time to think of them, all of those memories and feelings come rushing back to me.

Sadly, I have learned that the people you love the most in your life will not always be there. For one reason or another, you will eventually lose them. Although this is a sad fact of life, it is important to cherish the time you have with them while they are here.

Value every single minute and catalog them in your mind.

If you are very lucky, when they are gone, you can close your eyes and be with them again.

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