by Nancy Casey
You can think of the senses of taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight as the Familiar Five.
Many people have had experiences involving a “sixth sense” where some kind of knowledge comes to them without use of the Familiar Five.
We also have a sense called proprioception, which is a person’s sense of where their body is in space and how it got there.
Without proprioception, you couldn’t bring a fork to your mouth while you are looking out the window. The sense of proprioception helps prevent a person from tripping on things or clipping a shoulder walking through a doorway. Proprioception is indispensable for kicking or blocking a soccer ball.
Researchers have also identified a sense they call interoception, and that is what you will be writing about today.
Interoception is your sense of what is going on inside of your body. It’s a little bit like the sense of touch, but not exactly, because touch information comes through your skin. Touch is about the outside. Interoception is about the inside.
Perhaps you have experienced a tickling feeling when your stomach rumbles. That’s interoception. What other sensory messages do you get from your digestive system? Think about how your body tells you that you need to eat or that you have eaten too much? What sensory information comes in when you swallow something that is too big? Interoception is the sense that tells you to make a trip to the bathroom.
Interoception brings us all kinds of messages about physical pain. Think of headaches and belly aches, sore muscles and creaky joints.
Sometimes interoception tells us how we respond inside to events outside of ourselves. It’s hard not to notice the uncomfortable sensations that come with fear or anxiety. Can you also notice the more pleasant sensations? What does your body feel like inside when you get good news? What do your insides feel like when you laugh or sit companionably with a friend?
Today in your writing, try to engage with your sense of interoception and write about what you notice. Not everybody finds this easy. You might have to take some time to do some noticing first. You can record your thoughts by freewriting, making an alphabetical list, or drawing an outline of your body and labeling it.
We have lots of words that describe the information we receive from the Familiar Five senses–bright, sharp, loud, bitter, smooth, hot… Are words like these useful in describing what interoception tells you? If not, make up some new words.
However you decide to write about the information you get from your insides, be sure to give your work a title when the page is finished. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, too. Add decoration and color to the page as needed. Here is an example of what a person could write.
Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it. You don’t have to give your name.
Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. If you are in recovery, Nancy offers help with any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories, novels, journaling—whatever you are working on, big or small. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.