Chapter 1- What is Interoception?
Growing up, I was always told that we have 5 senses- taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing. When I began learning about Autism through our POPARD courses as a young teacher (well I was in my mid-late 20s), I learned about the vestibular and proprioceptive systems that are known as the “hidden senses”. Here I sit in my late 30s and I am being introduced to yet another sense- our interoception system, which allows us to feel our internal states and the condition of our bodies. Based onwhat I have learned so far, our interoception system is so very important! It allows us to feel everything from being cold, to hunger, to pain and pleasure right down to the need to use the facilities. In short- the interoception system helps keep us alive and functioning!
Probably my favourite part of this chapter is how they introduce “The Sensory Gang”. This reminds me of the “Little Miss… and Little Mr.” books- do you remember those? Anyways, this little section would be a great way to introduce students to all of these senses in a way that makes sense.
Another important piece of information I have learned in this very long chapter is that there is a special area in the brain that is responsible for interoception- the insular cortex (insula). It is responsible for changing the messages our bodies are giving into understandable feelings, both body states, such as hunger and emotional states, such as happiness. When your insular cortex is working properly, you are more aware of your states of being, you are in tune with yourself. If not, well, I guess we will find out further on in the book!
Self-regulation and interoception are very closely tied together. Since self-regulation is “our ability to control the way we feel and act” (pg. 13), and the interoception system gives our bodies messages about how we feel, they both seem to work hand-in-hand. It seems that if we have a good working insular cortex and are in tune with how our body is feeling, we should be able to better control these feelings and emotions.
Having a strong sense of interoceptive awareness allows for one to be better able to regulate the body in all areas. It allows one to regulate their emotions, recognize a problem and work through it and make important decisions whenever needed. A strong interoceptive system also allows one to navigate through the social norms. Perspective taking and empathy are also supported by the interoceptive system. Finally, interoception allows us to be more self-aware. It allows us to know who we are and how we feel in any given moment.
- What really stands out for you in this chapter?
- Where do you feel you stand in the area of your own personal interoceptive awareness?