When it came to creating my own Facebook page and now Instagram account I decided to name it ‘Living Sensitively’. Why, you might ask? And how is that relevant to therapy or coaching (or therapeutic coaching)?
‘Living Sensitively’ encapsulates many things. But mainly it encourages a particular attitude. I have come across various definitions for the adverb ‘sensitively’. My favourite one, which feels most fitting here is living ‘in a way that shows awareness and understanding of other people’s feelings and needs’. This is something to aspire to – a way of living in which we are considerate of the emotions and needs of others. But importantly, I would go further and include one’s own emotions and needs. We must live with an awareness and understanding of our own emotions and needs as much as those of the people around us. By holding a personal intention to do so, and with the help of therapy, we are able to foster this. We can’t be truly attentive to the needs of others if we haven’t to some extent attended to our own. That is why when flying in an aeroplane parents are instructed to put their “own oxygen mask on first” before helping a child with theirs. Also, acknowledging the truth of our own feelings allows us to have more empathy for others.
Sensitivity isn’t always seen in a positive light. Often, as children we are encouraged to ‘toughen up’ and to ‘stop being so sensitive’. Over time we can develop beliefs about what is acceptable when it comes to expressing emotions or even allowing ourselves to feel them. We can unconsciously start to suppress our emotions (to numb out in various ways). We can lose touch with how we really feel and what we really need and want. Equally we may feel overwhelmed by our emotions and experiences and may tell ourselves they are unacceptable but be powerless to change them. Therefore, we can feel unresourceful and ill-equipped to deal with life’s challenges (big or small).
‘Living sensitively’ is, for me, about gaining awareness of what is. Through recognising and understanding our inner experience (our ways of thinking, our beliefs, our feelings, our sensations) we can identify how it affects our behaviour and relationships with others. We can cultivate compassion for ourselves as well as for others and find solutions, so that we can make changes and undergo powerful transformation.
Living sensitively encourages you if you like, to be your own barometer and take a reading of your internal weather patterns. By gauging how you feel, it gives you clues as to what you might need – full rain gear to weather a storm or just shorts and a t’shirt as the outlook is bright and sunny.
About 15-20 percent of the population are what has been termed “highly sensitive”, according to Dr. Dr. Elaine Aron, author of the book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’. I would include myself in this group. It took me a while to accept and respect my sensitivity. I had to learn some hard lessons about what could happen if I didn’t. These learnings have been invaluable though and have radically changed my life. Fortunately, sensitivity is a positive asset when it comes to therapy and coaching – the ability to be sensitive to and have an understanding and awareness for the feelings and experiences of others.
Wherever you fall on the sensitivity scale, it can benefit your life to have the space to explore your inner experience. It’s about finding balance, in order to live a full and satisfying life. It helps if we gain an understanding of what it going on for us and find new ways to support ourselves. The therapeutic coaching model I use integrates NLP, EFT, hypnotherapy, life coaching and mindfulness. These can all help in finding this balance. See here for more information about this approach.