Experience,  My EJC Responses

The 12 Senses

I’d love to be able to describe myself as a highly sensual person, but to be honest, until just a few days ago, I felt it would be seriously dishonest. It’s not because I can’t use or feel my senses deeply, but rather because I’m too busy, too distracted, too hurried, and too stuck in my own head at pretty much all times to slow down and care. And by the time I do, I’m too tired.

But recently, I came across a website that described The Twelve Senses.

The website introduces the 12 Senses thus:

It was Rudolf Steiner who first proposed that there are twelve senses. His theory on senses was later expanded by various authors, including Appli, Kranich, Schoorel and Soesman.

It is important to develop and use as many of your senses as possible because each sense reveals another aspect of the sensory reality. Sensory perception also forms the basis of your relationship with yourself, your surroundings, and the people around you. If you want to learn to observe well, you must use your senses comprehensively and frequently. With practice, you will find yourself observing more and more, as the different senses complement each other.

This is a goal for me, and I’m an just now coming to understand that I’m sort of living numbly by not making the deepening of my own sensuality and understanding of sensory reality/perception a key part of my personal development. To live deeply and fully, to take from my experiences the maximum amount of joy and intensity, I must tune in to these senses.

There is a relationship between sensory perception, and health and vitality. Your vitality increases if you observe intensively and perceptively. At the same time, the healthier and more vital you are, the more intensive and perceptive your observations.

Steiner’s twelve senses can be grouped into three categories. He distinguished senses which relate to the perception of:

  • your body: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, of balance
  • the external world: smell, taste, sight, temperature
  • the immaterial, spiritual world: hearing, speech, thought, ego

Will, feeling, thought

  • The first four senses, the lowest, are called physical senses, or senses of the will because they are used to perceive one’s own body.
  • The middle four senses are the senses of feeling. Observations made with these senses arouse feelings. These senses are also reflected in our language: a tastefully furnished house, a sourpuss, hard to swallow, heart-warming, cold thought.
  • The last four senses, the highest, focus particularly on the other. These are the spiritual or knowledge senses, and they are used in the observation of other people.

I decided to do a little digging into how I rely on and use each sense from this stand-point rather than the traditional five.

your body: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, of balance

Touch: I’m addicted to touch. I love it when people I trust massage me, tickle me lightly, play with my hair or face or skin. I’m also very sensitive, so it doesn’t take make so sometimes send me over the edge. Because of that, nipple play and too much attention on my clitoris or a particularly ticklish part of my body (lower back, insides of my thigh, right below my ear…) can set me to squealing. I have a low tolerance for pain, but rough touch and sex can be a complete turn on, and swats and spanks in moderation are welcome.

Life: This one is a little difficult for me to understand, but I get the impression that it is simply having an awareness of one’s internal physical self and an sense of empathy for the physical self-hood of others. I’m pretty in tune with my own body and its needs – aches, pains, hunger, etc. And I am fairly well-attuned to the pains and physical needs of other people (though I could use a bit of work getting past my own ego on occasion to actually care of the pains and physical needs of others. I also get the idea that this may encompass the concept of well-being, too. In most cases, I’m aware of my own state of wellness (mental, physical, emotional), but I often struggle to uncover the causes or triggers.

I pick up pretty easily the mental, physical, and emotional states of others, as well, noticing when others are in distress or states of happiness or desire. For example, I can feel a person’s want for me like energy traveling through the air. (It helps to have the person’s body language and eye contact, but I do feel I can also sense the vibrations between us.) In fact, I’d say I have developed this sense pretty well, and that it is a key factor in my own ability to be turned on.

Movement & Balance: These senses are tied to our awareness and control of our bodies in physical space. I, personally, see myself as a fairly clumsy individual. I’m not a great dancer (though good enough), I don’t have great coordination, I trip and lose my balance easily, get motion sickness & vertigo… Because of this, I would not say that these are not senses that I have a whole much control over. I can easily become lost in physical space, especially without the use of sight. The inability to keep a horizon sends my stomach to doing somersaults. So, though I enjoy being deprived of my ability to see during a sexual encounter, that would only be the case when I have a clear sense of where my body is in physical space. If I were to suspended in the air in any way, or if I didn’t have gravity to help me determine which way was up or down, I think I’d have to cry “uncle.” The whole idea just fills me with dread and discomfort. 

the external world: smell, taste, sight, temperature

Smell: I’ve often heard that smell is the sense most tied to memory. And while I wouldn’t say that smell is my strongest sense, I definitely rely on it more than most of the others. Many foods, flowers/trees/grass/bodies of water, certain lotions/perfumes/colognes, etc. all draw me in and give me a sense comfort and connection the world around me. Likewise, negative smells can really affect me, as well. In the erotic sense, a person’s chemistry can be the end or beginning. If a person’s natural chemical smell is off for me, it’s a strong turn off. And if that smell is on, well…the door is open. The smell of a lover can be both a deep comfort and an erotic charge, depending on the circumstances. Simply breathing in the scent of my husband’s pillow or burying my face in his neck can lower my heart rate immediately. But, the smell of him when I’m turned on or when he’s wearing my favorite cologne can cause it to rise exponentially.

Taste: I’m not one of those people who can taste a wine or culinary dish and rattle off all of its ingredients. But, I do think I have a fairly well-developed sense of taste. I also know that taste in relation to a person’s hormones and body chemistry can affect me pretty deeply, too. Though I can’t really “taste” my husband’s testosterone, I know that it affects me when he kisses me for a prolonged amount of time. And, if he hasn’t showered in a day or two, I can also say that the saltiness or sourness of his skin can be a turn-off. This is also probably connected to smell. I like my lovers freshly showered, or at least showered that day. I know some are fans of natural scent and body-odors, but that has never been the case for me. A little of a person’s natural aroma and taste goes a long way for me.

Temperature: Here’s what the article has to say about this —

Temperature affects your mood more strongly than other senses. This is partly because the sense covers your whole body, and for another part because warmth or cold can make your whole body feel comfortable or uncomfortable. The cold chills you, and severe cold can numb or even paralyze you. Warmth can make you feel enthusiastic, but too much heat can cause apathy. Only moderate temperatures do not affect your mood.

I wonder how true this is. I know I have a tendency to feel invigorated in cool weather and in the spring. But heat really puts a damper on my energy and motivation. I don’t like to be too hot or too cold…but given my druthers, I’d rather run toward cool. My natural body temperature is usually pretty high, but my feet tend to get cold easily. In sexual situation, I don’t like to be cold, and I don’t like cold objects against my skin or inside of me. The sensation of warmth is much more arousing…but I wouldn’t want anything to be too hot to my touch. I do like hot baths and hot tubs, though. So there’s that.


the immaterial, spiritual world: hearing, speech, thought, ego

Hearing: I have a pretty good sense of hearing. Erotically speaking, I do very much respond to the words a person uses and the sounds they make. I love to be told I’m a “good girl,” and I like to be told what to do or to have Mr. D talk dirty to me. Even though it sometimes makes me uncomfortable (because I wonder why I like to be subjugated or put-down), I like it, while fucking, when he calls me a slut or a whore and says dirty things to me – pointing out my proclivities for sucking cock or anal sex. I also like it when he whispers in my ear (though this is also partially the sense of touch…because, when I’m turned on, the vibrations travel straight to my nipples and my clitoris).

Speech: I’d say I’m fairly gifted in this arena, as words are my life-force, and being perceptive of what people say, why, and how is at the center of what I do for a living. In an erotic sense, though, I’m somewhat lost when it comes to speech. Often, I am, as noted above, turned on by Mr. D saying demeaning things to me during sex. It seems counter-intuitive, and though I know a lot of people like it, I’m not sure WHY I like it. Something to explore, for sure, as another prompt.

Thought: When it comes to connecting to and dissecting my own thoughts, I do a decent job (after all, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure myself out through journaling, yoga, and this blog). But I have to admit, I’m not a great listener, which means I’m not as good at connecting to and dissecting the thoughts of others. I either get wrapped up in my own understanding (or confusion) and then stop listening as I process. I’m better if I can read what another thinks, but then, I miss out on the body language, tones, patterns, rhythms, etc. that give away far more information than just the words do alone. This is problematic in relationships, especially my marriage. The weakness I exhibit with this sense is likely one of the most conspicuously relevant (aside from Ego…discussed next) in the problems that Mr. D and I have had over the years. It is, I would say, arguably, the most important part of communication…and the part that I fail at repeatedly.

Ego: This is likely my weakest and most problematic sense. If, as it is described on the website, it is the allowance of another’s being into one’s own, I can admit that I struggle with this one the most. I instinctively put up walls to protect myself and avoid letting others in. I don’t like to make eye contact with others for long, and I can be made uncomfortable by prolonged gazes. Interestingly, however, during sex, when Mr. D demands eye contact, it turns my insides to jelly and can elicit a quick climax, especially when I am already on the verge. His unwavering and intense stare bends me in half and demands my complete bodily attention. He’s the only person I’ve ever allowed to do this. 

For clarification, I have italicized anything that is a revelation or “aha” for me in this post. Since journaling is, at its heart, a way to make sense of things, learn, and grow, finding these “aha’s” will be central to my EJC posts this year. The whole point is to figure out what inspires the erotic within me, why, and how to better harness it to fully inhabit my sexuality. It is also to figure out what turns me off and why, to discover whether these turn offs are born of fear, disgust, embarrassment, insecurity, or are simply a matter of taste.

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  • E.L. Byrne

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the article about the 12 senses. I can see how using all 12 of these can bring out a different fullness than simply focusing on 5. Also I enjoyed the journaling approach.

    Have to admit- even though the challenge is called “Journal” I didn’t understand the purpose/thought. I like it though, and will use it more “properly” next time! <3


    • Brigit Delaney

      There is not a right or wrong way to approach this. You go right on with your bad self and take the prompt any way you darn well feel like it, sister!

  • Floss

    This is really interesting and reading about your thoughts surrounding the 12 sense is fascinating as well as wondering how the 12 senses would apply to myself as well. What a fab start to the challenge 🙂 I’m so happy you started this and invited us all to join in x

  • Brigit Delaney

    I recently read something by Nietzsche that may apply: “If you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” When we sense something fully, it also senses us. This is why eye contact can be uncomfortable for some people.

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