Building a Somatic Vocabulary

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You might be familiar with the “feelings wheel” – a helpful tool in building awareness of emotions that bring more specificity to our experience, especially when trying to communicate it to another person. Identifying our feelings can also help us identify our needs, ways to cope, increase our understanding of self, sense into boundaries, or simply be with our feelings more compassionately. Similarly, awareness of internal physical sensations can be very helpful in deepening our awareness of our experience, building trust in our body, and using the body as a resource. 

Our body is constantly communicating with us, but noticing and naming internal sensation may be difficult for many reasons, and what I tend to hear often is that many people simply don’t have the words. I find this list from The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute to be a helpful tool in beginning to identify internal sensation:

  • achy
  • airy
  • bloated
  • blocked
  • breathless
  • bubbly
  • burning
  • buzzy
  • chills
  • churning
  • clammy
  • clenched
  • congested
  • constricted
  • cool
  • cold
  • damp
  • dense
  • dizzy
  • dull
  • electric
  • empty
  • energized
  • faint
  • flaccid
  • flushed
  • fluid
  • fluttery
  • floaty
  • fuzzy
  • goose-bumps
  • heavy
  • hollow
  • hot
  • itchy
  • jerky
  • jumbly
  • knotted
  • light
  • moist
  • nauseous
  • numb
  • paralyzed
  • pins and needles
  • prickly
  • puffy
  • quaking
  • quivery
  • radiating
  • sharp
  • shivery
  • shuddering
  • sore
  • stiff
  • suffocating
  • sweaty
  • tense
  • thick
  • tight
  • tickley
  • tingly
  • trembling
  • twitchy
  • vibrating
  • warm
  • weak
  • wobbly

I’d invite you to take a moment and tune into your experience now. What are you noticing in your body? Are there other words or phrases that you would add to this list?


Ogden, P., & Fisher, J. (2015). Sensorimotor psychotherapy interventions for trauma and attachment. 

Willcox, G. (1982). The Feeling Wheel: A tool for expanding awareness of emotions and increasing spontaneity and intimacy. Transactional Analysis Journal, 12(4), 274–276.

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Margaret Vocos, LSW

Maggie prioritizes safety, curiosity, and each client’s internal wisdom to support them in their healing. She collaborates with clients to create a non-judgmental space where they can be curious about their… Read More