How many senses do we have?
Most of us if asked to name the senses will name five. Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.
But with different specialist viewpoints the numbers can go up and up. Cue hot debate.
Do we have 5, 7,8, 9, 22 even 53?
On the DMP course we talk about 8 senses, adding in Proprioception, the Vestibular Sense (or Equilibrioception) and Interoception. Horribly long and complicated words, but these are things you know very well, in your body. They are core body senses that combine with Touch to give us our detailed body awareness - the feeling of me.
But each of these 8 can be further broken down into more detail.
How can 8 become 43? Well it partly depends on how detailed you want to be.
Check out this list. It doesn’t pretend to be a definitive count of our senses - different specialists have different opinions. But, given that so many of them are about how we feel in our body, it is a good prompt to remember just how central and complex our body experience is in all that we do and all that we are.
First there are the big five:
sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami (pleasant savour taste with an elemental quality like seaweed, miso, mushrooms or perhaps Parmesan cheese)
processing sound waves and making sense of them as pitch. volume, direction, familiar, unknown, safe, dangerous
light and colour; and red, blue and green turn up as separate senses sometimes
one sense? some say we have over 2,000 different receptors that bind with the different chemicals to give us information about different aromas.
just one sense, or many? Touch can be divide into 5 different senses: sense of light touch, deep pressure, constant touch, fleeting touch and vibration. We have different receptors for those different experiences. If you want to know more check out the article called Unpacking Touch
But now let’s look at the range of senses working away constantly to give us body awareness of many kinds - ones we take for granted perhaps,
or joint position sense. It gives us the feel our body position, our shape, where are limbs are in relation to each other even if we are in the dark and can’t see our body
the sense of the stretch and speed-of-stretch of our muscles; and when the stretch has gone as far as it can - this helps us not to overstretch and damage ourselves
the sense that tells us about tension in our muscles and how much force to use to manipulate objects
this is the perception of being on or off balance - especially, where our head is in relation to the ground beneath us and the sky above
the sense of the body moving in general, so changes in position, weight and movement
the sense of the body accelerating through space - in both linear and rotational directions
is the sense of heat and cold to the touch
has many aspects - basic calls to action like hunger and thirst
the felt experience of basic emotions: the sensations that underpin emotions: anger, fear, happiness etc
and the sense of overarching emotions, like foreboding, or a sense of agency or gut feelings
is our sense of pain - surface and deep
That’s something like 44 potential streams of sensory information - and 32 of them all about the feeling of our body.
Our human experience is so much about what it is to be a body, and yet our education systems focus so much about our thinking capacity. If we spent even a bit more time developing our capacity to use this sensory information to understand ourselves and the world we live - what a difference that could make to how we live our lives.