In Part I of this series on Spatial Perception and Self-Ownership, we introduced the concept of reference frames and described how those who don’t know where they are in space may struggle with knowing who they are. So if our body is the reference frame for how we see the world and interpret reality, as I posited in Part I, how might altered perceptions change the way we feel and move? On to Part Deux!

Altered Reference Frames

As we discussed in the previous article, there appear to be two primary reference frames thru which we perceive the world: the egocentric (self-based) and allocentric (object-based). While the jury is still out on how exactly these interact in healthy individuals, the literature does seem to show that those who are unable to switch between the two reference frames are gonna have some issues, man – anorexia, narcissism, and developmental delay.

Essentially, the reference frames are locked and there is a loss in the ability to switch between them. A loss of adaptability.

This has really only been studied in primarily psychological issues and neurological injury (that I could find), but if there really is no discontinuity between the psychic and the somatic, then it stands to reason that those who are stuck in a reference frame are unable to perceive the world as it really is. And that affects our ability to know and trust ourselves within our environment and ultimately how we move. 

The self emerges as a phenomenon of the experienced, sensed, and understood

Sensory Integration and Body Image

Below is a preliminary flow chart, of sorts, in an attempt to lay out how an alteration of sensory integration influences how we perceive ourselves. 

​​While altered sensory integration is at the top, this is really a cyclical pattern with no clear beginning or end.
A few thoughts:

  1. How might one acquire a problem with sensory integration? I don’t think we know. My best guess: assuming no neurological disease or developmental insult, it’s likely driven by threat that exceeds one’s tolerance for it. The result of which is a capturing of sensorimotor processing and behaviors that were successful in the short-term to evade the perceived danger. Over time this can become habitual and fundamentally alters processing of sensory information. Typically, this seems to be an over- or under-representation of a particular sensory pathway, i.e., over-reliance on vision and under-reliance on proprioception.
  2. I think insecurity is huge. If one doesn’t implicitly trust their sensory representations and feel, then they are without options and stuck in a reactive existence. I think it really is all about feeling secure within your environment, which stems from reliable perceptual integration. Because an insecure person is one without a resilient self-image of their body and unsure of their literal place in the world.
  3. An altered body image, then, changes the way we reference the world. How I perceive myself is how I perceive the world which, in turn, influences how I perceive myself. For example, physical bodyweight influences how we perceive distances (the heavier you are, the farther away things appear) and sufferers of anorexia perceive their bodies to be larger than they really are. People with chronic back pain perceive their backs inaccurately. Think this might change the way someone moves?
  4. Our position in relation to gravity is used to orient us. It seems to me that if one can’t feel the ground or perceive peripheral vision, for example, they will produce tension and hold themselves in certain postures in an effort to create a reference frame. Almost as if they’re fighting gravity (and that’s a fight you can’t win). If I don’t trust where I am, muscle tone and consistent postures are great ways to increase security. The bummer is that this likely reduces movement variability and changes how I integrate sensory information, feeding into the cycle depicted.

So, in reference to the blocked quote at the top of the article, the way you sense and feel influences your view of your self. And how we move is a product of how we see ourselves within our environment. Feeling is understanding.

​How do we improve this to ultimately move and feel better? That’s Part III!

Key Takeaways

  • An inability to switch between reference frames involving the self and the environment is problematic for healthy perceptions
  • With misrepresentation of sensory input, one doesn’t trust and feel secure with their position in space
  • If one doesn’t feel secure, body image and subsequent postures reflect the insecurity creating a loss of movement variability

– Seth 

P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my webinar with Kate Galliett of Fit For Real Life where we discuss pain, perception, healing, and movement. 

Dig Deeper

Many references are linked above but also check out these two papers I referenced last week:

Also, Feldenkrais wrote of posturing and sensorimotor integration in his text Body & Mature Behavior, which is part of my Recommended Reading List:

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Sign up to receive updates on new articles, when I add new reads on my Essential Book List, and learn about upcoming workshops or seminars!

You have Successfully Subscribed!