Massage & Bodywork

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2021

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technique | THE SOMATIC EDGE Three Questions About Interoception By Til Luchau Interoception, or inner body sensation, is the result of signals and predictive processes that converge in the brain's insular cortex, or insula. This region of the brain is also thought to be involved in mediating fear and anxiety, compassion and empathy, motor control, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience. 1 Think about it: How many of your clients come to you because they want their bodies to feel better? The answer is almost certainly all of them. And which of their five senses would they use to perceive this "feeling better"? Our clients seek out massage and manual therapy because they want a change they can perceive using their body sense. And yet as practitioners, it's common for us to think about our work in terms of things other than our clients' basic body sense: We think about anatomy and pathology, mechanisms and methods, energy, ethics, entrepreneurship, etc. But from another point of view, the ultimate test of our effectiveness rests on our ability to help shift our clients' body sense for the better. Simply put, the main question related to our skill as practitioners is, "Can we help our clients feel better?" Everything else is a means to that end. Since it's a feeling we want to shift, what if we thought more about working with "feeling" itself? How can we get even better at that? INTEROCEPTION The body sense (conventionally but inexactly known as the sense of touch) has several overlapping aspects, including proprioception (position and movement), tactile exteroception (the sense of touch proper), and interoception, which in its contemporary usage is the term for the perception of sensations from inside the body. 1 Interoception is the key domain in which our body feels either good or bad. The first step is often to help our clients simply get in touch with their own interoceptive body sense. On one hand, this is no small thing. Despite being the first sense to develop in utero, the body sense—in spite of its potential richness and variety—is often said to be the most ignored, overwhelmed, or cut off of our five senses. On the other hand, helping our clients refine and reconnect with their bodies is not as hard or complex as it might seem. Asking simple questions is often enough. 88 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k n ove m b e r/d e ce m b e r 2 0 2 1 ASKING QUESTIONS Questions can be powerful therapeutic interventions in and of themselves. The best questions invite the client to reflect, look within, and learn something new in the process of answering them. Here are three everyday questions you probably already ask, but when you think of them as ways to switch on the "feel better" aspect of our clients' interoception, they become important therapeutic tools in their own right. Are You Comfortable? This seemingly routine question can be a powerful interoception jump-starter. Interoception is the result of signals and predictive processes that converge in the brain's insular cortex, or insula (Image 1). 2 This region of the brain links sensory experience with its emotional or affective valence, which is the pleasantness or unpleasantness assigned to a particular sensation. 3

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