Sensation to React

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Sensory Defensiveness results in behaviors that create barriers to lifestyle performance. Occupational therapists are trained to reduce its ugly effects. At a Sensory Defensiveness certification we used role-playing to gain compassion to this behavior. We were challenged to lead one of our peers around the conference grounds for a total of ten minutes. The peer had to keep their eyes closed while the leader had free reign to command them to reach, stoop, step…any action to challenge a sensory experience into feeling lost or without defense.

Humans have the ability to sense then behave through actions for safe, healthy cope techniques with all feelings. What we choose to put into our space may have a direct effect to being open or defensive (Cox, Burns, Savage 2004). It varies with each person. The diversity is from each person’s unique, early-age sensory experiences. We all shift into a flight or flight mode when in a ‘new’ experience. The initial response pioneers a response path to each individual sensation.

The woman I led now laughs about my command to reach into a thorny bush – a friendship beginning at the hand of suffering. A natural tension is created with suffering. Both a physical consequence (like skin pierced by a thorn) or a mental consequence (like feeling lost) will cause a sensation to react. The impact is based on behaviors that follow. It’s the action that follows behavior that directly effects relationships.

Your brain is like a file cabinet. Let’s call it Brain Files. For instance, Pierced Skin may be filed under Scream. Scream may be filed under Pain. Pain under Trust. Get the picture? It’s all in the same file cabinet. The body’s initial reaction is in the Sensation Folder which directs which Behavior Folder to go to next. The objects you touch, see, hear, smell are its beginning. For optimal health or restoring health in your Brain Files consider supporting body, mind, soul work with health-driven environments, activities, people.

GIG Design | Occupational Lifestyle


DESIGN^touch | Materials give tactile experiences that may oppose or support the context of personal beliefs and customs.


DESIGN^body position | Movement may support performance in a variety of occupations such as work, education, or self-care roles.


DESIGN^under-responder | An office space is a built-in environment that effects senses that lead to performance behaviors.
H Cox, I Burns, S Savage, Multisensory environments for leisure: promoting well-being in nursing home residents with dementia, J Gerontol Nurs. 2004 Feb;30(2):37-45.