Certified Aroma Freedom Technique Practitioner and Instructor
Yes, in my present life I am an oil loving (Young Living Essential Oils), moderately-crunchy, Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) practitioner and instructor, with a nonprofit foundation executive background and philanthropic heart. But before this life, did you know I was a biology major and a lover of psychology and sociology? Yup…deep down, I am a nerd, albeit an oily one!
Every now and then that nerd gets stirred up with some juicy research. Recently a 2012 article from the online magazine Neuropsychotherapist was brought to my attention. In it the authors explain the physical changes happening within the brain during the process of memory reconsolidation. This is exciting because this process seems to explain how this wonderful and amazingly effective technique, AFT, works at a synaptic level. Naturally I flew my nerd flag high and dove right in!
“This is exciting because this process seems to explain how AFT works.”
Aroma Freedom Technique
Time and time again I have witnessed (and experienced for myself) the profound shift in thinking and feeling that is brought about using the Aroma Freedom Technique. The sense of freedom you feel at the end of a clearing/session is so amazing, I almost didn’t care how it happened. I was just glad that it worked.
The Aroma Freedom Technique is a 12-step process that can help you identify and move past the limiting beliefs or memories stopping you from achieving your best life. A typical session can last between 15-60 minutes where Young Living essential oils are introduced at key times to facilitate change. Whether you’re struggling to hit a personal or professional goal, or dealing with nerves and a general feeling of negativity, AFT can help you move forward in dramatic fashion.
Now, I have this article citing significant studies explaining that memories and emotions get locked up inside and how using “memory reconsolidation” can allow us to remove those negative emotions that hold us back. Because in the end, it really is just the story we let live inside of us that keeps us from getting what we want in life.
So, if you stick with me a bit, I’m going to share a few of my favorite pieces of what I learned.
1) The authors note that “any learning that occurs in the presence of strong emotion…becomes locked into subcortical implicit memory circuits by special synapses” (p. 83). This means that when you have something happen to you that was strongly emotionally charged (e.g. parent always said you were worthless, or you missed your line in the school play), that memory and associated feeling physically gets locked into your brain. Moreover, the emotional charge makes it remarkably durable over time.
…that memory and associated feeling physically gets locked into your brain.
2) By 1989, after 60 years of research, neuroscientists concluded that problematic emotional learning (negative emotional memories) were permanent and could not be dissolved or erased (p. 83). While there are methods to counteract and reduce the feelings associated with those memories, you were forever stuck with them.
3) …the late 1990s-early 2000, when several studies showed that those “locked” permanent synapses do have a key to them and can be unlocked (p. 84)! This is where it starts getting good! The “unlocking and relocking” (sometimes with changes to the memory/emotional synapse) is called memory reconsolidation.
4) When a memory is unlocked, there is a window (approx. five hours) where you can actually change the emotional response associated with that memory. Importantly, this occurs WITHOUT actually altering the memory itself! So when that memory comes back up in the future, you won’t have the same negative emotional response. You can move forward!!
5) There are three key aspects of memory reconsolidation: (a) re-evoking the emotional memory, (b) creating an experience that is significantly different from that memory’s usual expected response, and (c) creating a new emotional experience that contradicts or supplements the unlocked memory (p. 89).
6) Finally, “no single school of psychotherapy ‘owns’ the process that induces memory reconsolidation because it is a universal process, inherent in the brain” (p. 85). Other techniques that are believed to carry out and trigger this process include: Coherence Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), Hakomi, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR), and more.
The physiological science of memory reconsolidation is an exciting one, and it may explain why AFT is such a powerful tool at helping you break past old, limiting beliefs. Benjamin Perkus, Ph.D. developed the Aroma Freedom Technique by drawing upon his clinical experience where he utilized EMDR, EFT, and other modalities with patients. Through the 12-step process of AFT, imagery and essential oils are utilized in a fashion mirroring the three critical aspects of memory reconsolidation.
While the Aroma Freedom Technique is not alone as a tool at helping individuals move forward, no other technique listed directly activates the sense of smell in the process of creating new and positive experiences. It is through the use of essential oils that makes AFT unique and so incredibly impactful.
You can learn more about the Aroma Freedom Technique on my website.
There’s so much more intriguing science that I did not mention – if you have the time, I highly recommend you read it for yourself in its entirety. You can find it at The Neuropsychotherapist.