Have trouble knowing when you’re hungry, tired or angry? Countless trips to the kitchen out of boredom? Is your heart racing but you don’t quite know why? Along with our other senses, interoception can give us insight into why our body is feeling the way it is. Our body is speaking to us continuously, we have just forgotten its language!
The sense of body ownership comes from multisensory integration: we can see what we look like and touch our skin, know when we will need a haircut or need a shower. These are all external information.
Interoception deals with internal information, for instance a dry mouth, growling stomach or headaches. These are all clues sent from our organs up to our brain to elicit action. But what if we don’t know how to interpret them?
People with autism, anxiety, depression, trauma, eating and sensory processing disorders have difficulty practising interoception. Our emotions can confuse and frustrate us if we cannot self-soothe. Working with our felt sense can help, and so can mindfulness, but interoception deals with bodily input.
Our first five senses are basic: visual, auditory, smell, taste and tactile. Our vestibular (space awareness) and proprioceptive (muscle and joints) are six and seven. Interoception, our eighth sense, encompasses heart rate, respiration and hunger. It is through our eighth sense that the two prior ones can work normally. Temperature, pain, and the need for air can be regulated. When our eighth sense has been impacted, we might snack more than needed, sleep excessively and even become depressed and develop OCD of our own bodily functions.
Symptoms often get treated in modern medicine, but the initial cause still persists while side effects can develop. Our bodies have become confusing, and our internal map of body awareness has been replaced by technology and medicine. The concept of the subtle body, explored in middle eastern philosophy, works alongside interoception: feelings and a healthy lymbic system work side by side in chakras. That doesn’t mean that our eighth sense is unexplored in Western medicine, there are many more neurology and psychology papers than I could possibly understand.
Here’s a video on interoception training, but don’t be fooled on how easy it looks. Practice is key here! And here’s a video of Deepak Chopra talking about it that I found useful!
Let me know what you think of it!