Somatic IQ: The Connection With Yourself

Much of your suffering, stress, and anxiety are stored in your body. Somatic intelligence is the competence that allows us to connect and understand everything that happens in our body and, consequently, in our mind.
Somatic IQ: The Connection With Yourself

Last update: 14 July, 2022

Somatic IQ is a mental wellness competency that we should all develop. It’s related to interoception, the ability to make contact with the information that our bodies send us about what’s happening inside them. It also involves the art of knowing how to live in the envelope that contains us, that we often neglect so much.

For example, our emotions are manifested through a physiological connection. What we feel appears much earlier in our stomachs, muscles, skin, and hearts than in our minds themselves, in the form of thoughts. These reactions are powerful and revealing, but in this fast-paced world full of external stimuli, we hardly have any time to listen to somatic messages.

However, doing so and connecting with our own bodies, allows us to develop real awareness. It favors the necessary union between our bodies and minds. This develops somatic intelligence that contributes so much to our well-being. Because knowing what happens in our bodies means understanding what our emotions want to tell us.

“Your body is a temple of nature and of the divine spirit. Keep it healthy; respect it; study it; give him his rights.”

-Henri-Frédéric Amiel-

Teenage girl looking in the mirror thinking about developing her somatic IQ
Anxiety, stress, and trauma generate interoceptive signals in our bodies that we don’t always know how to understand.

The somatic IQ: the truth is in your body

Somatic intelligence or somatic IQ isn’t a new concept but it’s gaining more relevance today. It’s integrated within the perspectives that seek to promote a deeper understanding of the self. It puts forward the belief that the body, mind, and emotions make up an inseparable and revealing entity.

Western culture focuses excessively on everything related to the intellect. We take it for granted that, as humans, our best competence is intelligence. It’s what makes the difference, it’s what allows us to go far in life, and solve almost any type of problem.

That said, as we well know, emotional competence is also relevant and configures another powerful marker of intelligence. Now, there’s a third variable, the one referring to interoception, to the intimate connection with everything that happens in the organism.

Although we’re always focused on what happens in our heads, in reality, we live in bodies that, often, we don’t take care of as they deserve.

The rise of somatic therapies

Somatic approaches have gained weight in recent years. For example, somatic experience therapy was developed by Dr. Peter Levine. It’s aimed at treating psychological trauma. The objective is to place the focus of attention on those bodily sensations linked to painful events and feelings from the past that the person must recognize and address.

Research conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the International Institute for Trauma Healing supports the usefulness of this strategy. Its goal is in promoting the idea that somatic IQ is capable of fostering body awareness and emotional self-regulation mechanisms.

We should also highlight the therapeutic method created by the philosopher and psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin. He was a disciple of Carl Rogers. Its purpose was to promote bodily wisdom, in order to integrate emotion and reason in a deep dialogue. It’s based on the principle that, only when we favor a self-knowledge about what happens to us physically and emotionally, do we manage to figure out what we need.

Only when we manage to connect with our body, do we understand what our emotions are telling us. That’s the starting point of all healing and a bridge to personal growth.

Get out of your head to get into your body

Jon Kabat Zinn, the professor of medicine who popularized meditation practices in Western science claimed that we must get out of our heads to connect to our bodies through breathing. This, he insisted, will allow us to feel more present and also focused on our needs.

To develop a true somatic IQ, we must do the same thing: ‘get out’ of our minds more often. Indeed, establishing a certain distance from mental noise, worries, and negativities would make it easier for us to escape from the psyche and enter our physical bodies that have so much to explain to us.

Couple doing mindfulness
Scanning your body, knowing what sensations grip it, is a way of developing somatic intelligence.

How to develop your somatic IQ

Chances are that every time you have a headache or muscle pain, you take a pain reliever and try to get some rest. Nothing more. You don’t always stop for a moment to ask yourself what your body wants to tell you. In fact, it’s yelling at you, but you don’t listen. You don’t hear it telling you that, often, behind your minor aches and pains lies stress, sadness, worry, and anguish.

Therefore, it’s time to make changes and develop your somatic IQ a little more. Here are some simple keys to help you:

  • Become aware of where tension builds up in each part of your body. There are days when your parasympathetic system is more reactive and you notice greater discomfort in your stomach, your muscles, and your breathing. Try to find out what’s causing these sensations. There may well be an emotional connection behind them.
  • Your mind is often like a swinging monkey. Try to put an end to its incessant movement and ask it to stop. Then, focus on each physical sensation you perceive, in your head, neck, chest, abdomen, legs… in your breathing… This will allow you to relax.
  • ‘Scan’ your body every time you’re about to make a decision. Try to relax. Only then, will you achieve a state of calm that’s ideal for drawing up better ideas and action strategies.

Last but not least, go for a walk every day. Use that time to meditate, to ensure that mind and body are in harmony, connected, and moving. Life looks much clearer when you feel connected to every area of your being: your intellect, emotions, and body.

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  • Craig, A. D. (2003). Interoception: The sense of the physiological condition of the body. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0959-4388(03)00090-4
  •  Risa F. Kaparo (2009) Awakening Somatic Intelligence: The Art and Practice of Embodied Mindfulness. North Atlantic Books