How do you feel?
Digby Tantam, Professor of Psychotherapy at the University of Sheffield, England, thinks I might not have to ask if we were in the same room. The smell of you, he suggests, might well tell me the answer.
He describes his theory in his projected book The Interbrain. His reasoning, as far as I understand it, goes something like this.
Because we can work out all sorts of things about each other without them giving us verbal information, we must be able to interpret non-verbal information going on.
Professor Tantam calls the system through which this sort of interpretation works the interbrain.
Professor Tantam's idea is that this system operates in a largely unconscious way, and he refers us to the ancient idea of gut feelings. 'We can know directly about other people's emotions and what they are paying attention to,' Professor Tantam says in an interview in The Telegraph newspaper, and he postulates a direct connection from one brain to another.
A lot of this kind of communication, he suggests, comes down to one person smelling the illness, fear, or intense interest of someone else. His idea is that we broadcast these feelings through an 'inadvertant leak'.
It seems to be true that the area of the brain used in smelling is intensely active, and presumably all that activity is doing something, after all.
Professor Tantam also suggests that the feelings of heightened emotion experienced in a church, at a football match, at a concert, or at a theatre, are due to emanations from everyone else giving rise to a sense of transcendence.
This is all very interesting: but is it true? I'm not sure. I haven't read Professor Tantam's book, which isn't out until next year, but Professor Tantam apparently says this kind of connection doesn't work in autistic people, and that hatred or disgust also disables the interbrain mechanism.
Presumably it's also disabled in accomplished liars and people playing poker.
What I want to know, is, are people with no sense of smell notably less sensitive to others? And, conversely, is it the case that most people understand each other quite well most of the time?
Good heavens, I'd be out of work as a novelist if that were the case, wouldn't I?
Word To Use Today: one beginning inter. This is Latin, and can mean between, among, together, mutually, or reciprocally.