In the old children’s tale, The Princess and the Pea, a prince determines whether a young woman is actually a princess by placing a pea underneath several mattresses and featherbeds. When the young woman is unable to sleep because something hard is in the bed, the prince knows he has found his partner- only a princess would be sensitive enough to feel the pea.
I found myself thinking about the princess and the pea yesterday while I walked, barefoot, across the rocks along the ocean’s edge. I didn’t feel any discomfort, and my feet shifted over the ridges to disperse the pressure from the rocks across the soles.
I regularly have new clients roll their feet out on the bottom of a very small ball. I don’t do this to break up fascial adhesions, or to roll out trigger points, but to have them feel their feet. The sensitivity the first time is often uncomfortable; with repeated exposure, the sensitivity lessens.
If you aren’t used to feeling a specific area, the first time pressure is applied to that place, it’s like information overload to the nervous system. The brain senses the change in pressure in this unusual place and sends lots of information in the way of sensation back to the area. You are left feeling like you want to pull your foot away from the ball, or for the princess, her back away from the mattress.
However, with repeated exposure, the sensation lessens. Eventually, sensation of the uneven ground against your feet is no longer deemed a foreign threat by your nervous system. The benefit of this is when you can feel more of yourself, you begin to use the area during everyday movement. It’s like your brain is filling in the lines of a picture, showing which parts of yourself are available for activity.
So maybe the goal is to not be like the princess in the children’s tale. Expose yourself once in a while to different surfaces and fine tune your sense of self.