What is “Felt Sense”?
Felt sense is a term to describe the changes that our internal landscape goes through when it comes to our senses, emotions, and energy. Felt sense is a primary part of somatic experiencing because the focus shifts from our external environments to our internal experience. Think of felt sense as the connection between mind and body. Have you ever experienced a gut instinct? This is a very comparable experience (Bell, 2017). You may be asking, what is the neuroscience behind felt sense? There is research that suggests that bodily awareness is first felt and sensed in the right-brain hemisphere as an implicit awareness; the more that it is sensed, it will carry over into the left-brain hemisphere (Morrison, 2018). The left hemisphere is where we express ourselves using symbols and words. Therefore, we can communicate about what we are feeling once our feeling moves into the left hemisphere.
The Basics of Interoception
Another similar concept is interoception. Interoception is a sensory experience that allows us to better understand and feel what is happening inside of our body. The receptors in our organs send information about our body to the brain, and this can help keep our bodily functions regulated. In other words, interoception is what tells us when we are hungry, cold, itchy, or thirsty. (Morin, 2021). Forming interoceptive awareness involves becoming more aware of bodily sensations, feelings, and urges. This type of awareness is vital to mindfulness-based practices and can also be useful in practicing emotion regulation (Price, 2019). Some of the practices that are useful for interoceptive functioning would be calming sensory techniques, body scanning visualizations, communication strategies, and emotion identification (Heffron, 2020).
Tapping into Felt Sense
While in therapy, individuals can learn to increase their awareness of felt sense. Psychotherapists can encourage clients to work on becoming more aware of their bodily functions and trusting their intuition; this process is formally called focusing. The concept of focusing emphasizes that an increase in bodily awareness will lead to felt sense becoming more apparent (Katonah, n.d.). Practitioners may encourage clients to practice focusing on felt sense both during and after sessions. Other techniques that can be used to elicit felt sense would be yoga, mindfulness meditation, journaling, and expressive arts. Tapping into our felt sense can help us make sense of certain emotions and allows us to connect with ourselves more deeply (Sandmaier, n.d.)
“Felt senses can form when we pause.. when we are not feeling overwhelmed or identified with emotional states.. when we let go of familiar words or concepts for a while.. when we sense at the body level of awareness.. when we can stand it that what we feel is vague, unclear, hard to describe, impossible to explain.” (Cornell, 2013, p.44)
1. Bell, A. L. (2017, May 15). Felt Sense: The Vitality and Liveliness of Our Inner World. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/felt-sense-vitality-liveliness-of-our-inner-world-1122165.
3. Morin, A. (2021). Interoception and sensory processing issues: What you need to know. Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/interoception-and-sensory-processing-issues-what-you-need-to-know
5. Katonah, D. G. (n.d.). Felt sense and cognitive function. Focusing.org. Retrieved from http://www.focusing.org/cognitive.html
6. Price, C. (2019). Research on Interoceptive Awareness Training. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-body-awareness/201902/research-interoceptive-awareness-training.
7. Heffron, C. (2020, June 8). What is Interoception? The Inspired Treehouse. https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/what-is-interoception/.
8. Morrison, J. (2018, September 14). FOT Q&A: What is a felt sense? Morrison Therapy. https://morrisontherapy.com/fot-qa-what-is-a-felt-sense/
9. Sandmaier, M. (n.d.). How to Locate Your "Felt Sense". Psychotherapy Networker. https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1267/how-to-locate-your-felt-sense. https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1267/how-to-locate-your-felt-sense
10. Cornell, A.W. (2013). Focusing in clinical practice: The essence of change. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.