Sarah is a deeply religious Christian who feels strongly connected to God. This deeply felt connection has saved her from a life of depression and suicidal attempts as it keeps her connected to a higher power that she believes looks over her.
Could sensory issues relate to the tendency to give oneself over to a higher source? I believe there might be a connection and specifically with people I call “languids.”
Languids are hypo-responsive to sensory stimulation, as they don’t process enough stimuli and consequently easily tune out the world. At the same time, they suffer low muscle tone and are lethargic and prone to depression.
Sarah is an example. Clumsy, she falls easily, doesn’t know right from left and is unable to cross the midline. She had great difficulty learning how to tie her shoes or cut a straight line, and never learned to dance, ride a bike, swim or do any sports at all. She did learn how to drive out of necessity but feels fearful behind the wheel as she constantly bumps into curbs and other cars, and she gets lost in a flash.
She has low muscle tone and finds it hard to get her body moving. Fleshy, she is an over-eater and finds it hard to maintain her weight.
Possessing low energy, she is lethargic and has suffered depression her whole life and has attempted suicide more than once.
Poor Body Awareness
Hyposensitivity, lethargy, low muscle tone and proneness to depression are all signs of poor body awareness, the inability to be aware of and in touch with one’s body.
Body awareness gives us our place in space so we can feel our edges and know where our body ends and the world begins. This allows us to move in the world and be part of it, yet to have boundaries so we don’t lose self – to feel connected to the earth and to have roots, but also to have wings and be able to take flight.
Feeling this control of your body in space makes you feel a solid, strong presence on this planet that we inhabit and translates into emotional security and confidence. This physical sense of self lays the foundation for psychological self-awareness.
Body Awareness and God
When you don’t feel connected to the earth, you tend to feel lost, floundering, anxious, and depressed. You turn inward to your imagination for solace and feel connected to the cosmos, whether through belief in God or a higher force.
In Sarah’s case, she turned to the “Lord” for solace and guidance and believed that everything that happens in her life was guided by “him.” When she gets depressed and suicidal, she prays and that helps jolt her out of her dark state.
Could an association exist between being a languid and a desire to be off in the cosmos? It’s possible. If you are uncoordinated and clumsy and always found it difficult to do the things most do automatically, like tying your shoe, riding a bike, dancing, writing out a story or cutting out a picture, it’s not much fun to be inside your body. What better place to be than in the cosmos where your body disappears? In deep meditation or in deep prayer people may not even be aware of breathing.
Science and God
Science backs up a relationship between poor body awareness from hypo-responsiveness and low muscle tone, and belief in God.
The OAA or orientation association area of the brain orients you in physical space by drawing a sharp distinction between you and everything else. Orientation in space and time happens in the posterior superior parietal lobe, an area just behind the top of the head and is where our brain sorts “me” from the vast “not me” of the infinite universe. Basically it is your conscious sense of self and is dependent on receiving sensory input.
If you are hypo-responsive, easily turning off sensation and feeling ungrounded to the earth, like Sarah, you begin to lose self and feel a part of the larger cosmos or universe – in other words, the religious or spiritual experience.
And in fact science has found that inactivity in this area may play a part in depression, eating disorders and body dysmorphia, and depersonalization, while damage to this area by trauma or stroke results in difficulty maneuvering in physical space.
Little wonder that numerous studies have found exercise to be more effective than antidepressants in controlling runaway depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and with longer lasting effects.
Sharon Heller, PhD, is a psychologist and consultant in sensory processing disorder. She’s the author of Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, TooTight, What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world and Uptight & Off Center, How sensoryprocessing disorder throws adults off balance & how to create stability. Her website is www.sharonheller.net and email firstname.lastname@example.org.