The function of the nerve chassis is give us our ability to be present in the world— a way of saying how vividly can I pay attention, with my entire being, to my existence, to yours, and to the world. How can I have the effect I want, for myself, others and the world I live in? This constantly informs the body and brain of the presence, and function, of the other.
So many things can affect the strength and proper function of this connection! If anxiety, being overwhelmed, trauma (physical or emotional, acute or chronic) or AD/HD is present in our system, it’s that much harder for US to be present in the world. In addition to basic body knowledge, two important senses (other than the 5 you learned about in elementary school, as well as our sense of balance, aka vestibular) are formed: interoception and proprioception.
Interoception involves knowing you’re hungry or full, that you stubbed your toe, you need to breathe or use the restroom and so much more.
Proprioception involves knowing where you are in space: is your foot on the ground? Is your knee bent? Not having this can be subtly but definitely distressing.
FUNCTION AND DYSFUNCTION
Symptoms of less-than ideal linkage between body and brain include:
• daydreaming, inattentive ADHD
• High pain tolerance
• Hard time distinguishing hunger from feeling full
• Don’t regulate their own temperature well — always hot/cold
• Feeling as though you’re watching yourself live your life, or wish you could somehow wake up
• spacing off appointments, car keys, etc—
• blowing off someone’s conversation
• needing lots of caffeine or sugar just to stay awake and pay attention
• Hard to memorize
• missing body language signals
• (especially in children) compulsively touches things, puts things in mouth
• clumsy/feeling awkward with sports, dancing etc.
Because in essence we’re not getting enough information to the cerebral cortex, the conscious layer of the brain, I maintain that getting an accurate IQ test is quite questionable. You’ll be able to get a minimum IQ score but the potential for higher — perhaps much higher, is strong.
The disadvantages to most of this are pretty obvious, but let me write more about the biggest, and least obvious — the pictured one on top, with the hands cradling “One of the greatest gifts we can give is rapt attention to one another’s existence.”
This ability is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs –
– scroll down to “THE PAYOFF COMES WHEN WE CONSIDER ALL THREE TOGETHER AND LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.”
Our most meaningful moments as human beings happen during these times, in totally-present conversations and interactions. And, it’s just not able to happen unless this most basic level of nervous system formation is completed (one of the very bottom-most parts of the pyramid). Few people can do this totally, but to the extent we can manage this, we strive for it.
HOW IT FORMED, and HOW WE STRENGTHEN IT
This is the first step in the development of the nervous system, the “owning of the body” and takes place very early in pregnancy. Embryo and fetus get lots of sensory input from mom, and the more, the better. The more varied, also the better. Think of 200 years ago, when we had fewer problems. Mom’s life was VERY physically active: she might have walked miles for water, washed and scrubbed clothes on a washboard, chopped, dug in the dirt, etc.
While there were still lots of questionable chemicals around, there were fewer of them. While there were fewer electrical fields, there were also fewer car rides to an obstetrician or pediatrician, or antibiotics or analgesics. It’s a trade-off.
But the key is, Mom moved a LOT, and rhythmically. That gave Baby a lot of positions and sounds to experience. And once born, there was a lot more texture, sound, temperature changes, etc in their lives. Lots less electricity. Being moved gives the brain information about the body without also having to take into consideration what it’s doing to get it. By this, I mean: consider trying to tickle yourself, or give yourself a luxurious shampoo like at the hair stylist’s. Doesn’t work, does it? There’s an intrinsically different process going on than when it’s done to you, and so it is a bit trickier to teach the body to (re)create these very essential connections.
In short: if you have someone you think might fit this description, do your best to MOVE their body FOR them (with their permission, of course). If it’s you — get someone to move YOU. If you can introduce rhythm into it, so much the better.
Other than that, here are things that can be helpful. The more of these that a person likes, the more likely that you’re right, this IS what they need, and you will see improvement.
• Do a Mirror Dance: Two people (comparable height desired) face each other, take turns being leader and follower. Leader lifts a foot, looks to the side, slowly bends their knees, whatever — fun moves. Slow enough that the other mirrors him/her.
• Tree Climbing
• Pogo stick
• Trampoline Jumping
• Wheelbarrow (both roles)
• See how many different textures he can rub with a crayon. His siblings can guess; he can guess theirs.
• Concentration-like games (where was that card? Match them up)
• Look at a familiar setting (kitchen table, set for dinner) – what is missing? (Salt and pepper? Did somebody not get a fork?) Also, have him look at it, take something away, see if he can guess it.
• Ditto with a more complicated setting – pantry. What’s out of its usual place, if things have usual places. Take something easy to notice out; can he notice it? Other places – coat closet? Living room – is something re-arranged?
• Button, button, who’s got the button? Put a button in a room, see how long it takes him to find it. He can race his siblings. Start out easy, make it a bit harder (not so hard as to lose interest).
• Different smells. Spices, fruits, oils, veggies, chocolate, popcorn, even root beer vs 7 up, tea, coffee, newspaper, grass or leaves, household cleaners, etc.
• Name your favorite foods at the dinner table.
• Lifting/carrying heavy things is great.
• I spy – something “green” – how many green things can we see? Also, here’s Waldo.
• Mimicry. Pair up two of you, can one mimic the other? Facial expressions or entire body. Change around.
• Dribbling basketball. Did you ever play four-square? Learn to bounce the ball, twirl your leg over it, bounce again? That sort of thing?
• The great outdoors. Call his attention to the breeze, temperature, etc….can he estimate speed, degrees of temperature? How good can he get at it?
• IS there somewhere where he can swing/merry-go-round?
• Running. Can he run all the way to the end of the block? And back? How fast? Lots of in-his-face time with that, encouraging and celebrating.
• What is it? A big collection of things – screws, hooks, a hammer, a cup, a bottle cap, cans (what might be in this can?), batteries, cords……lots of little things and stuff he hasn’t seen in awhile with an odd shape. Gather lots of caps, for instance, and see if he can tell that this one is to the toothpaste, that one to the shampoo.
• Estimate weights and distances. How much does this weigh? That? Investigate. What’s heavier, a pencil or a pen? How big is this room? How far do you think it is to school?
• How does Skippy vs Jif vs Generic peanut butter taste different from one another? A tad inconvenient/expensive, but great for paying attention to our sense of taste. Also do-able with homemade vs store brand vs name brand mac and cheese, Cheerios, whatever. You only need to get ONE of each different thing – and then see what he’d like to try different brands of. Which apple varieties taste different? Tap vs bottled water?
• Pushups, also with pet or baby on back? Against a wall? Is it possible/wise? Situps? Pullups?
• What is next to the church? What color house? What is next to the produce department at the grocery store? What is on the corner of ___ and ______? Which way is east now? South? What’s on the southeast corner of ___ and ___?
• Draw on his back; see if he can identify numbers or letters. Have him do so to others; it helps to complete that cycle.
• Crab-walking (like bear-walking — hands and feet — only starting on your back, do it while looking at ceiling.
• Pen-clicking — in a halo-type circle around his head (on the vertical plane), click a pen while his eyes are closed. Can he point his eyeballs to the pen’s location, then open them.
These are fun ways you can encourage these connections. I’m not permitted to share online the (faster, I believe) therapeutic ways one can do it — just in therapy. But these will make quite a difference.