How do you feel? Literally?
A word on interoception – it’s You talking to, well, you…
A word not commonly used and largely forgotten in a world of smart phones, TVs, computers, driving and deeply focused on the external, interoception is the voice of your body reporting back to your brain everything it needs to know about what’s going on inside you.
While we may not have noticed it’s departure, the loss of awareness of our inner landscape has far reaching consequences as humans struggle more now with illnesses that lay within the interoceptive realm. Fibromyalgia, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, depression, anxiety and acidity regulation problems all have roots within stress management, diet and our ability to hear, interpret and act on the messages being fed back to us from our bodies.
In time where we are primarily driven by our thoughts and feeling are reactions to those thoughts, it feels like we’ve lost touch somewhat with ourselves in the true sense of the word.
Try this for an exercise:
- Ask yourself “how do I feel?” and notice the response.
Almost instantly you get feedback “well, it’s been super busy this morning and I feel stressed” or “I’ve had a morning to myself and I feel relaxed.” None of this is wrong, but it is worth noting that it came directly from your brain. The frontal cortex in fact or the ‘thinky’ mind. The thinky mind judges all your experiences and deems them good, bad or indifferent and also judges and feeds back how it thinks you feel based on recent previous experience.
- Ask yourself “how do I feel?” again. And this time, wait. If you can sit down or lay down while you’re doing this it will help with the response. Wait a bit longer…
After a minute or two you may start to become aware of a different answer, one more related to the internal body rather than the external. For example “I feel heavy on the ground” or “my shoulders move when I breathe”.
You may also notice a change in tone of the messages coming back to you.
In my own experience the thinky mind tends to be a little more shouty (I liken mine to a toddler trying to grab my attention), whereas the voice of the body tends to be a sound more subtle, I need to drop into a little more silence and stillness to hear it clearly.
“Proprioception – communication from the external body fed back to the brain about where you are in space.
Interoception – communication from the internal body fed back to the brain about what’s happening inside you”
The interesting thing between the thinky mind feedback and the voice of your body is that the messages may not be congruent from the two and this has greatest impact when it comes from injury or surgery recovery or from chronic illness or pain.
The thinky mind LOVES a good story and it also LOVES a habit. So if we’ve gotten used to something like, for example “my bad hip”, when someone asks us how we feel today or indeed, even if we ask ourself “how do I feel today” and we fail to pause and listen in for the true account from the body, we may just find the mind’s answerphone recording “oh, my bad hip, it hurts so much” and miss what’s actually happening for us now, today, in this moment. Because our pain and healing states change from moment to moment and an effective tool in working with chronic pain and recovery is to see the habitual patterns for what they are and train ourselves to drop into what’s true.
Have a try over a couple of days and I’d love your feedback in the comments below.