For no light matter is at stake; the question concerns the very manner in which human lfe is to be lived.
“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”
Somatic Mapping and Interoception
Co-creating meaning since 2001
I love you without knowing how, or
when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
All the principal failings of human interaction - whether in small scale relationships, societies, civilizations or histories - are due to the delusion, epidemic since mankind created towns with 'divisions of labour and responsibility' - that 'I' am an entity 'in here' and 'you' are a separate and discrete entity 'out there'.
Such a separation is artificial and entirely of our own making.
"We need to project ourselves into the things around us. My self is not confined to my body. It extends into all the things I have made and all the things around me. Without these things I would not be myself; I would not be a human being."
C G Jung
- Our senses constantly provide information about our environment
- This allows us to create a mental picture, construct or representation of that environment
- These representations we can describe as ‘maps’
- The maps allow us to understand our spatial position in our environment, along with the principal features of the environment, especially threats and opportunities
- The understanding of the maps allows us to make predictions and act upon them in order to maintain our safety and well being
Interoception - maps of self, or somatic maps
- Our senses also constantly provide information about our internal environment – the state of our body, its functions and processes. This is interoception.
- This allows us to create a mental picture, construct or representation of our body
- These representations we can describe as ‘somatic maps’
- The maps help us perceive, understand and respond to changes in our internal environment
- Perceptions of these changes become manifest and enter awareness as feelings and emotions – feelings about temperature, nutrients, water balance, fatigue etc., and emotions about threats, opportunities and well-being
- The understanding of the maps allows us to make predictions and act upon them in order to maintain homeostasis, comfort, safety and well being
Somatic maps of others
- Our senses also constantly provide information about others in our social and emotional environment
- This allows us to form internal representations of those others
- These representations can also be described as ‘somatic maps’
- Much of this information is acquired and processed through our mirror neurons
- These somatic maps of others also become manifest and understood as feelings – feelings about the state of others
- Such observations allow us to ‘feel’ what others are feeling and emotionally empathize with them
- The understanding of these somatic maps of others allows us to make predictions and act upon them in order to maintain the homeostasis, comfort, safety and well being of others and our group
- Because the maps allow us to understand the actions, behaviours and intentions of others – they allow us to empathize and create an interlinked social and emotional community
Merging or blurring of somatic maps
- Our mirror neurons respond whether we are experiencing an act or we are observing somebody else experiencing it
- This effects a merging of somatic maps of self and the other
- Consequently in a social and emotionally linked group there is ‘blurring’ or merging of maps, senses, feelings, emotions, experience, actions, intentions, understanding and identity
- The closer the social, emotional and physical contact between individuals, the more effective the merging of identities becomes
- This allows us to live with, through and within others
- It also means that the concept ‘individual’ is an anomaly, a potential only, something incomplete and unfulfilled
In addition to the principal emotions - such as fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise and happiness - Antonio Damasio described how we experience "other types of emotion, sometimes low grade, sometimes quite intense, and we do sense the general physical tone of our being." He has called these 'background feelings' and says they "help define our mental state and colour our lives".
Sometimes we are aware of them and sometimes we are not, but either way, says Damasio they "are observable to others in myriad ways: body postures, the speed and design of our movements, and even the tone of our voices and the prosody in our speech as we communicate".
Damasio includes among background feelings: fatigue; energy; excitement; wellness; sickness; tension; relaxation; surging; dragging; stability; instability; balance; imbalance; harmony; discord. Such feelings are intimately related to mood, drives, motivations and core consciousness, and he says "It is probably correct to say that background feelings are a faithful index of momentary parameters of inner organism state."
You may not be interested in neuroscience, but neuroscience is interested in you