Look at this picture.
What feelings are you experiencing inside your body here and now?
How do you know you’re experiencing internal feelings?
Where are you experiencing the sensations in your body?
The following article is from a webinar section I delivered titled “The Intersection Between Agile Coaching And Psychotherapy” on December 16, 2020, for140 members of The Expert Agile Club, a global Agile community.
What is a somatic body response? Let’s look at the above example and consider physical and emotional changes in our bodies when we encounter an angry dog. Next, we will draw parallels to how we approach and respond to our somatic experience in coaching.
My dog Astor, a German Jagd Terrier, is a rescue who, by all accounts, previously lived in an abusive household. She can be volatile, even with me. In the past, I pet her and felt fear course through my body, like a wave running up and down my core. My heartbeat quickened, sweat glands perspired, and cortisol pumped through my veins in response to the fight or flight situation.
Despite trying to hide my emotion, Astor picked up on my fear and lashed out her teeth to bite, much like the picture above. Today when I feel uncertain around Astor, I withhold, reorient, and wait until the wave passes before engaging with my dog. Astor senses my calmness, and we can play and be together in harmony.
Psychology Today defines:
Somatic Experiencing (SE), as a holistic approach to establishing this natural flow between mind and body.
How does Somatic Response Relate to Coaching?
Before engaging with the client, team, or organizational system, a coach needs to establish a heightened sense of self-awareness between their mind and body experience. Humans are not merely heads possessing intellect and rational thought separated from the body. With the two integrated, the whole is greater than its parts. When we tap into a holistic approach to our human experience, we better understand our present psychological and physical needs.
Bringing our entire selves to our clients will create the container to ‘do the work’ with others. And it is only possible to know ourselves against the backdrop of our relationship with others. Notice how the focus is based on the principle of “here and now,” when we engage in the present moment and connect the mind-body experience, we are aware of the significant sensations within the body and environment.
We are better equipped to respond with intention rather than reaction. The result? If your client possesses emotional intelligence, much like our dog example, they, too, will be aware of your internal state of being. How we show up to our clients enters ‘into the field’ or container for all to experience whether we like it or not.
A Personal Example
When I consulted at the Royal Bank of Canada, I worked alongside a challenging, emotionally unavailable German man. Unlike anything I had encountered before, I wasn’t sure how to support my colleague in our challenging development environment. Like the example of the dog, I felt anxious around this man. Because I wasn’t paying attention to my bodily physical reaction, I wasn’t listening to my whole self, nor him.
As a result, I limited speaking with him, and when we did converse, the exchange was awkward— for him and me! The frustration was in “the field” of our team’s container, and others in the group also felt our mutual friction. Once I began to acknowledge my avoidance and anxiousness, I began to sit longer in the discomfort and allowed it to “be,” even vocally mentioned my nervousness with him and desire to move past the uneasiness.
In speaking my truth, I felt greater freedom with my colleague, and from that day forward, the discomfort gradually became less figural until we found a commonplace together.
Regardless if you’re in the coaching field or not (there are essential truths in this post relating to everyone), the best way we can self regulate is to understand and accept our own physical and emotional response in the here and now. In this experience, we remain authentic to ourselves and with others. And consider — when we’re aware of our present feelings, we make better, more informed choices. Can you imagine if I blindly continued to ignore my internal anxiousness with my RBC colleague? I guarantee the friction would have escalated. When we connect the mind and body, we are no longer intellectualizing our emotions; instead, we embody them.
Full Webinar below
The Intersection Between Agile Coaching & Psychotherapy.