Quick thought experiment:
What if you woke up one morning and you’d lost your sense of touch? You couldn’t experience the silky fur on your dog’s back. Or the feeling of clean sheets. Or a hug from your significant other.
What would you miss most? How would you adjust?
Life ending? Probably not. You’d go on with your life. You’d compensate. But deep down you’d know you were missing something.
You are missing something. But it’s not lost forever.
We live in our heads. We live in a culture that values head over heart. And in the process of worshipping our thinking brain, we’ve unknowingly surrendered channels of perception that you and I have, but almost never use.
We are multichannel beings but we’re stuck on one channel. And we are so much poorer for it.
Somatic coaches and neuroscientists speak of at least five channels of perception, and increasingly six. They are:
Cognition. Oh yeah we all know that one. The thinking brain. Super important, but tends to drown out the rest of the symphony.
Emotion. Looked down upon by society, and yet without it we could never make a decision about anything (look it up).
Exteroception. That’s the five senses we learn about in kindergarten: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.
Interoception. That’s your innards talking to you. And your innards have a lot to say, though you probably ignore them most of the time. Ever have a ‘gut sense’ of something? There you go.
Proprioception. That’s your sense of your body’s position in space. It’s what a major league pitcher uses to throw curve ball without thinking (cognition) about how to do it. It’s what you use to sit down in a chair without knocking the chair over.
And the new kid on the block? Neuroception, your body’s sense of threat or safety. Newsflash: the amygdala only tells a small part of the story.
You and I are endowed with a symphony of information, always at our fingertips, always talking to us, and too rarely heeded.
Learning to use all of your channels is how we experience, and recover from, grief. It’s the brilliant idea that comes to you in the shower or just before you fall asleep, when your thinking brain is no longer hogging your bandwidth. It’s the cure (probably) for impostor syndrome. It’s the seat of empathy.
Why does all this matter?
Just look around you.