By Luke Blackwood / Clinical Psychologist
Well that came out of nowhere’, ‘he just went from 0 to 100’. Maybe he did, or maybe he missed the internal cues that he was beginning to escalate. An awareness of our internal states or introception is one of the least known sensory systems in the body. However, research is suggesting that alexithymia or difficulty recognising and describing in the self and others is associated with introception. This has been related to difficulties with emotional regulation in a number of conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Introception involves an awareness of internal bodily functions which may include:
- How we feel emotions
- The need to go to the bathroom
- Butterflies in stomach
This can lead to people with delays in introception, and can also have delays in recognising when they are becoming angry, anxious, naming emotions or missing other bodily cues like hunger, thrust or needing to go to the toilet.
Activities that aim to improve introception focus on increasing body awareness by drawing attention to what is happening inside the body.
You can get creative in everyday life by asking children to check in with their body and role modelling. I have listed three activities below that can be used to improve introception.
1. Be a detective and look for clues in your body during exercise or physical activity.
When the child has done any physical activity that exerts them to the point where they begin to sweat, ask them to notice all the different sensations in their body. Some common sensations include their heart racing, increase in body temperature and the feeling of sweat and deep breathing.
2.Stretch your hand or body and notice the different sensations.
Notice the different sensations as the muscles tighten and lengthen. This can be done by placing your hands on your lap. Lifting the fingers up for 30 seconds and letting them go.
3.Map your feelings.
Simply ask the child to draw a picture of them and identify where they experience each emotion. For example, when the child becomes anxious, they may feel butterflies in their stomach, increased heart rate and tension in the arms and neck. This could then be drawn on the body.