Today, I would love to share the origin story of my three year curiosity project and the topic of my doctoral work: interoception.
I am privileged to work as an occupational therapy practitioner with children and adolescents who experience sensory processing and integration challenges. Late one summer afternoon, I walked into my mentor’s office for advice…
You see, the little girl I was working with was experiencing significant emotional volatility. I was hoping to understand the source of her struggle. I left with the hypothesis that the child (who was cognitively gifted) was living in a constant state of fight or flight because she was experiencing a discrepancy between her cognitive strength and her sensory processing. She was white knuckling her way through each day by over relying on her cognition.
Up to that point, she had been taught cognitive management (top down) of her emotion. In her case, the cognitive piece was no longer serving her because the root cause of her sensory (bottom up) processing challenges were not being addressed.
In the mind-body interplay, there was an over-emphasis on the mind.
The questions I began to ask included:
*How can emotion be controlled if it cannot be identified?
*How can emotion be identified if it isn’t experienced/felt in the body?
And the main question that led me down this path…
*Where does emotion reside in the sensory system?
Three years and hours of research later, I can confidently say that emotion is rooted in interoception.
Want to read one of the first articles I found on the topic of interoception and emotion?
Click the link below!
Critchley, H.D., & Garfinkel, S.N. (2017). Interoception and emotion. Current Opinion in Psychology, 17, 7–14.