self understanding

Connecting With Your Authentic Self: The Power of Interoception

Hi everyone. Kelly Mahler, occupational therapist, and I wanted to take some time to talk about self-understanding. Why do I want to talk about self-understanding? Because it is so important, and there’s not enough emphasis on helping each person to explore who they uniquely are, to help them to write a positive story about themselves, develop positive self-identity, understand what they like, what they don’t like, and what they need to thrive.

In this world, we put a lot of emphasis on, and have so many programs and strategies regarding, thinking about other people, perspective-taking, manners, kindness and empathy. And I believe in kindness, empathy, manners, and all those things. But I believe even more in the power of self-understanding and helping each person to discover themselves. And interoception is a key piece in self-understanding. So, I wanted to give you three ways interoception helps our self-understanding.

#1: Interoception Enhances our Own Personal Emotional Self-Awareness

Interoception enhances our own personal emotional self-awareness, meaning that interoception work helps us to become more connected to our bodies, to notice our body signals, to understand the messages that those body signals are giving us, and really help us to connect with the things that our body needs for health and safety and regulation. Interoception work can be pivotal in helping each person discover their inner world.

#2: Interoception Work is Highly Validating

Interoception work, when used the right way, is highly validating. We know from interoception science that there is no single footprint of an emotion, that we all have different inner worlds, and there’s no such thing as a wrong interoception experience. So, what interoception work is all about is helping each person to:

  • Explore their body signals
  • Find patterns in those body signals
  • Use those patterns as clues to what’s going on in their body, what emotion they might be experiencing, or what they might need at that moment.
  • Connect with the unique set of feel-good activities or strategies¬†

When we stop trying to figure out the right way to feel and really shift to a place of discovering the way we each uniquely feel, that is a huge empowering paradigm shift for many people. We need to say this over and over again: your interoceptive experience is correct and valid. There’s no such thing as a wrong interoception experience.

#3: Interoception Activities Can Help us to Begin to (Re)Trust Our Bodies

Interoception activities, many times, can really help us begin to (re)trust our bodies. Many people have their interoceptive experiences sabotaged or derailed by lived experiences. Whether it’s trauma, or compliance approaches or maybe your inner experience is misunderstood or mislabeled by other people, these experience can create inner confusion. Or maybe your experience has been invalidated or gaslighted, and people say things to you like:

  • “Oh, it can’t possibly be that loud in here.”
  • “There’s no possible way you’re hungry, you just ate.”
  • “Stop overreacting. It’s not that big of deal.”
  • “Stop whining. You’re fine.”

In these moments our body is telling us one thing and others are invalidating our experience. Their responses can make us doubt our bodies.

And really what interoception work is showing us is that it helps people to connect, or reconnect, to their bodies and begin to trust their bodies a little bit more. All of this at a pace that feels safe to their body and is a match for their learning style. 

It could take time, but interoception work is all about slowly noticing bodily sensations and really starting to understand what those bodily sensations mean for you. It really can help to not only develop self-understanding, but also self-trust, self-compassion, and self-regulation.

Until next time.