Listen to Your Heart and be ‘Interoceptive’

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How many of you have felt an intuition that something doesn’t feel right and in the end it turns out that way. Famously called as Sixth sense it is a new area of scientific study which has uncovered a skill called interoception. It is the ability to monitor your own internal organs. It is dependent on your ability to accurately count your heart beat. Although it is very difficult to really count your heart beat. It is said that those who are highly interoceptive are also highly intuitive & know their “gut feeling” very well. Such people are more emotional overall. ZDNet shared details on their interaction with one researcher on this topic.

So what gives rise to that feeling of knowing? It can be represented in the autonomic nervous system, so your body can have an enhanced arousal response like sweating or pupil dilation. This can happen with regard to true information or previously encountered experiences. It is said that fit young people are found to be more interoceptive than others. Age also is an important factor as interoception gets worse as we get older.

Overall, the phenomenon appears to be linked with the heart beats. Researchers say that if you process words when your heart is beating (meaning exactly when your heart beats), as opposed to the off-beat, you’re less able to remember words that were presented when your heart beats!! If you are interoceptive you are good at detecting your internal bodily signals, and better able to eliminate the interference effect of heart beats on memory. An extra level of consciousness can help in decision making sometimes. That’s when intuition comes in. People who are better able to tap into those autonomic bodily channels are better able to use that as a clue to guide them.

So can we train ourselves and develop this unique skill? There is definitely potential in some people. But because many people are not fully aware of this ability and the way it functions, they don’t know what to focus on. So once people are aware of the fact that they can focus on other parts of the body, they may then be able to identify the signal. But as mentioned earlier, being aware is not the only prerequisite, there are other factors involved that will determine your ability to control.

Another process by which we can tap this potential is through biofeedback. This process was suggested by Dr Yoko Nagai. It is based on the assumption that our body wrongly interprets it state be it relaxed or tensed. This misinterpretation is rectified by the use of an external manifestation which is based on our body’s real state which allows us to identify the exact state of our body at that moment. To explain this kind of phenomenon a caterpillar is displayed on a screen. People can see the caterpillar while their body is wired up to a device that measures their skin conductance. This way their sweat is measured as a signal. When they are  relaxed the caterpillar moves in one direction and when they are not relaxed the caterpillar moves in another direction.  So by emulating the body’s state with the help of external cues we can train people to understand their exact body state. With some further training and research, this will allow us to monitor our internal organs and processes.

Knowingly or unknowingly all these innate human abilities have been passed down with very few of them being used to their full potential. Imagine that every day we are still discovering our abilities and also of the entities surrounding us. Human brain has immense capabilities and yet we are still far from understanding its true prowess. In our search of life, it is so essential to understand our potential that not doing so would mean not living entirely as a human. It will be interesting to observe that whether being interoceptive is also one of the differentiators that sets us apart from other animals and species.

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