Am I not already in my body? Well okay yes, you are, but stick with me for a minute. Take a second and notice your jaw muscles, notice your shoulders, how does your stomach feel right now? and wait… has your jaw already re-clenched? This awareness of our internal bodily sensations is called Interoception and researchers are finding it plays a pretty important role in our day to day lives.
The process of Interoception lets us know when we’re hungry, full, fatigued or buzzing with energy. Most know the experience of feeling ‘butterflies’ fluttering around your stomach. The meanings we assign to these feelings, control the impact they have on our thoughts and behaviors. Layers and layers of cognitive connections have been built throughout our lives which (often without our awareness) mean that when I feel A it means B and so I do C.
The level of attention we give our body also has impacts. On the one hand, we may become super aware of every sensation and send our mind into overdrive searching for the catastrophic reason we feel this way. On the other, we can become disconnected from ourselves and environment, and feel numb and confused. When the mind and body interact in these extremes it makes life difficult. This happens for absolutely everybody sometimes, but when this way of perceiving ourselves is the norm, it’s exhausting! We may need to do something to shift our perception patterns, and this is where it can be helpful to ‘Get Into Your Body’. Let’s go back to the source, take off the cognitive layers and see if we can gently enhance our capacity for balanced, accurate interoception.
Dance Movement Therapy is focused on this mind-body connection. Movement brings awareness to the body and provides opportunities to explore and immediately attend to its needs. When we purposefully move, on our own or in a group, in familiar or brand-new ways, in silence or to music, we illicit internal sensations. We then have the opportunity to learn more about our cognitive associations and experiment with expanding or shifting these. Through this experimentation we can learn about ourselves and what we need. Within a Creative Arts Therapy setting you are supported through this process in a creative, non-judgmental, low stakes environment in which you can move at the pace you want to.
So! The researchers are saying listen to your body, and negotiate. The butterflies in your stomach are letting you know your nervous system is getting ready to go, and maybe that’s right where you want to be! Or maybe it’s time to do some regulating, calming, so those butterflies know they don’t need to turn into wasps.
Blog post written by Molly Flanagan-Sjoberg, currently undertaking Master of Creative Arts Therapy – Dance Movement Therapy at The University of Melbourne.