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Trauma & The Five Senses

Trauma is a hard thing to wrap my head around cause right off the bat, when I hear the word trauma, I think of some huge incident that happened from the past that is triggered by some current event that is monumental or something.

However, the more I walk through life I’ve come to realize that it’s the little things that manifest trauma, and the best way to understand it is to take a look at the five senses.

For example, I can smell waste and immediately get a flashback of what it was like working in Skid Row among chronic homeless individuals which lead me to a deep depression. I am no longer in that state of mind but when I get a whiff of that stench I experience some trauma. When I was in high school my friend and I were in a car accident on the way to volleyball practice. I had to go home and cry cause it was traumatizing however, my friend seemed fine and went to practice. Then about half way through practice, all of a sudden she experienced the smell of the scretching tires from the crash, and had a melt down and had to run home. She basically was in a state of shock, and it was her sense of smell that alerted her that she was traumatized.

When I taste a habenero I am brought back to a time when I literally ruined my tongue on some strong peppers and experience a slight trauma and fear of having to go through that experience again as a result. Or, when I taste coffee ice cream, I think of my mother who loved to eat coffee ice cream for breakfast when I was in kindergarten, and I had severe emotional attachment issues that made it extremely difficult to go to school.

When I hear someone being yelled at, I think of my early twenties when I was in an unhealthy relationship and had a person in my life that would yell at me and I didn’t know how to respond.

When I see a car crash I experience trauma, and immediately have to look away when usually there are Looky Lou’s wandering around waiting to catch a glimpse of the damage. Now, in this case I have no idea why I feel trauma, and wonder what happened in my past to allicit this response.  I guess it’s buried in my subconscious somewhere and so I don’t have a tangible memory to understand the root of it but, it’s there.

If someone touches me and I’m not expecting it, even if it’s just a kind hand on my shoulder, I will often times jump. I’m not sure why I am so jumpy but something causes it.

I know trauma is complicated but, I believe  that the senses can teach you about experiences that you might have been suppressing deep inside; experiences that you might have had that are solidified in your subconscious mind. You might not always know where moments of trauma stems from but, your senses will alert you. Be aware of how your senses unleash traumatic experiences from your past. Like I said, even though you might not always be able to concretely pin point the past experiences that trigger a moment of trauma, your senses work to share those memories imbedded in the mind.

Trauma & The Five Senses

Erica Loberg

Erica Loberg was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She attended Columbia University in New York and graduated with a BA in English. She is a published poet and author of Inside the Insane, Screaming at the Void, What Men Should Know About Women, What Women Should Know About Men, Diamonds From The Rough and Undressed.

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APA Reference
Loberg, E. (2019). Trauma & The Five Senses. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 May 2019
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