‘The findings presented here demonstrate that the subjective experience of pain can only be understood in a larger framework of body representations and peripersonal space.’
See previous blog: https://painisreallystrange.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/altered-perceived-body-image-is-associated-with-chronic-pain/
Orienting to your body
An extremely useful skill is to learn to perceive the whole of your body. This is not a given. Close your eyes right now – how big or small do your feet feel? Are you sure they feel really clear and present?
Keep practicing your subjective experience of simple things such as the size, shape and weight. It may take a while until these qualities becomes easily available. Try to work through the Weight-Outline-Skin-Inside ‘WOSI’ sequence below.
Can you really inhabit the whole of your body space? The boundary of the skin helps differentiate who we are. Our skin is a transition place between me and not me. We can engage with the skin as an outpost of the nervous system. It is a very powerful to come into relationship with your skin and take up occupancy in the whole space of your body.
Frequently there will be bits missing in our awareness: ‘My feel feel really small and far away’, ‘One leg is heavier and bigger’, ‘My abdomen feels absent and empty’, ‘I am floating’, ‘I think it feels ok’.
The last one is always a challenge. You think you have a body? You are the expert on what it feels like to be you. Try to make definitive statements, generally simple descriptive words work best. What is the difference between knowing you have a body and thinking?
Commit to what you perceive, let yourself use metaphors (‘fluffy white rabbits’ was one memorable description) and swap the verb from thinking to feeling. Feeling is such a wonderful word in that it speaks of sensation but also emotional tone. Let both be present in your awareness. What is your response to feeling the nuances of your body? It can be intense, so go slowly, but do keep trying.
If your map of your body is inaccurate it will be very hard for your brain to control your body. This is the root of many pain conditions.
How is your brain mapping out your body? WOSI
Below are some sample questions that can help you draw out your sense of your body. Initially it can be useful to go through them as a sequence when lying down and using the mnemonic WOSI; Weight, Outline, Skin, Inside. With more experience you can be much more flexible. Often the simple question ‘how does x compare to y’ can open up a realisation of an incomplete mapping of the body.
‘How does the weight of your body feel?’
‘Do your shoulder blades, hips, knees and ankles feel even?’
‘Can you feel the outline of your body, the silhouette it makes?’
‘Does the outline feel the same from the inside with your eyes closed as it would if you were looking at your body or touching it?’
‘How close or far away are your hands and feet. Check they are not too big too small or too close or too far away?’
‘Can you feel your skin as a clear boundary between the inside and the outside?’
‘Does your skin feel sharply defined and easy to contact or is it a bit blurry or amorphous?’
‘How does the inside of your body feel?’
‘Does the inside of your body feel full, flowing, alive or are there bits that feel empty, fixed, numb or hard to contact?’