How Tuning In Can Change Our Lives

I have been continually presented of late with the intermingled concepts of authentic and intuitive knowing. Most of us raised in western culture have been indoctrinated into a way of being that rewards abstract thinking and an orientation towards pure logic. We are trained to listen and process cognitively, in very limited ways, the experiences and events in our lives. We are taught that allowing emotion to be part of our decision-making is detrimental. Emotional and instinctual bodily feelings get repressed, being seen as inappropriate, unprofessional, unfitting a gender role, etc. We ignore what is very natural and intuitive, pushing any attentiveness to this part of ourselves into the static noise of actions and events that comprise daily life.

Despite this training, though, we’ve all had experiences where we did something that we intuitively knew we should, but justified why we shouldn’t because it “logically” wasn’t the right or smart thing. Then, when our gut is proven right, we reprimand ourselves for not paying heed to this inner knowing.

Another phrase that describes what I’m referring to is the felt sense. One way to describe the felt sense is that it’s the intuitive capacity of a person. We can learn to recognize and listen to those parts of our self. (Focusing, developed by the psychologist Eugene Gendlin, is one way to approach this.)

Andrej was a client of mine who worked as a sales executive for two decades. He’d been struggling with finding balance in his life: his work consumed him literally seven days a week. He’d been suffering from anxiety as he pushed to meet continually growing quotas and sales targets. Earlier in his life he’d struggled financially, but as he progressed in his career the financial issue went away. Yet, in recent years he couldn’t understand why he was so unhappy–though he did recognize his anxiety and inability to manage his time effectively.

He was at the point where he was ready to flee the situation, leaving the company and taking a similar job elsewhere as he’d done several times previously. During the course of our coaching sessions, I invited Andrej to explore what was happening inside him and to look at the conditions and sensations surrounding the anxiety he was experiencing. Initially this was difficult, but over a few months he began to pay more attention to his body sensations and the feelings tied to them, and the realization quickly emerged that he’d been denying attention to other parts of life and himself (family, body, mind). Ultimately he came to the awareness that he’d rationalized these important parts of himself into a locked closet so he could stay focused on achieving his sales targets and remain successful. He also saw that his job no longer served him, and eventually decided to move into a non-sales role within his firm.

Much of his anxiety has been alleviated, and Andrej feels he’s finally in a position that allows him to grow in other ways personally and professionally: something that had eluded him for many years. He sees that he’d been ignoring these felt senses even though his body had been trying to get his attention for many years. It wasn’t until he turned his attention to the feelings and sensations (the anxiety and familiar desire to flee) that he saw there was something else demanding his focus and conscious awareness.

A personal or business decision should not have to exclude some parts of our human experience and be driven solely by the cognitive. It should include what does and doesn’t feel right— these feelings are a key part of our authentic human experience.

Greg graduated from the PCC in 2015. He is the founder of Talam Leadership.

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