“We evolve through different shapes of living and, therefore, different perspectives, throughout a lifetime… (changing) requires new ways of organizing how we feel, act, sense and perceive.” Richard Strozzi-Heckler “The Art of Somatic Coaching”
I have been curious lately about how somatic awareness contributes to our development, the sustaining of the change we want and our ability to be “our biggest self”. In helping others expand mindsets and navigate their growth edges, we often work with new ways of seeing and interpreting hidden commitments and assumptions that keep dearly desired commitments out of reach. We work to get to know the relevant story, structure and belief system so that the edges can be redefined and reauthored and new possibilities and ways of being can emerge. There are a number of contributors in the fields of somatics, interpersonal neurobiology, energetics and spirituality (and more recently epigenetics) that suggest, in addition to holding “patterns of being” in our mindsets, we also encode them in our muscles, nerves, movements, shape and how we extend into and participate in the space around us.
I have begun to listen for the “shapes” of my clients as they talk about their commitments, their behaviors, emotions, anxieties and assumptions that keep them out of a world where they yearn to go. As we work through exercises designed to give insights on “old self”/”new self”; “old mindset”/”new mindset”, I have found that adding the exploration of “old shape”/”new shape” opens a new set of possibilities and sometimes can be that perspective shift that loosens the fusing with a big assumption. “Shape” can include postures, gestures, movements and the holding of tension (our armoring). It can also include how we take up, offer and extend into the space around us impacting interrelationships and action (energetic centering, patterns of facing, extending, entering and blending (Strozzi-Heckler, Siegel)).
For example, a client might have a goal to be a more decisive leader. She may find that she has competing commitments that include always wanting to be liked and to be seen by others as always being a “team player”. Underneath these commitments may be a big assumption that if she is seen as not a team player, she may be left, abandoned and cast away by those she cares about especially if she makes a wrong call. Somatic questions that could open perspectives may include:
• What might her “shape of living” look like when she is “had” by her big assumption? When she is “not had”?
• How does she imagine the “shape” of a team player versus a decisive leader? How open or constrained is this shape?
• How does she experience her center when she makes and communicates decisions?
• Can she feel if she is open… soft… rigid… resilient?
• How does she “extend” her listening?
• How might she shape herself to sense the energetics and the care in the team?
It might be, that after she takes time to observe herself somatically (which for many may include a very new set of distinctions), she finds that she has little sense of a “center”; or she holds a tentative posture; or a constricted muscle tension with shallow breath. Practicing observing how she shows up, how her biology reacts and how she physically participates in the world could reveal somatic competing commitments. Getting to know and shift somatic habits can open new perspectives and possibilities for shifting mindsets.
So what about this “evolution of different shapes of living”? Are different shapes available to us at different stages of development? It makes sense that our capacity to see and feel ourselves somatically would expand as our capacity to hold nuance and complexity expands. It may be helpful, then, to be curious about how somatic presence, moves and distinctions might add to the journey toward a bigger self.
As you work with shifting client mindsets (or your own), what is your experience with embodying the journey? How do you recognize an embodied commitment? An embodied competing commitment? An embodied mindshift? How do you see this deepening our coaching practice?