The lost art of sensing the self

It is not a big surprise that we lose touch with ourselves. The fact that you are reading this article makes it more then likely that you are part of the complex social work environment of appointments, responsibilities and concerns we live in. Everyday life makes our attention get caught up in thought, judgment, expectations, decision making and other stressors. It leaves us no time to attend to ourselves.

So let me ask you this question. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When did you consciously feel your feet on the floor? Your breath moving in and out? The tightness in your shoulders and neck? How often do you ask yourself what would be the word that best described how you are feeling at that moment?

The lost attention of ourselves has consequences.

During our working day there often is little to no room to regularly do this check in. Or help others to do the same. We attend to figures, goals, deadlines and results. And run from one meeting to the other. But what may come as a shock is that this loss of attention to our self has it consequences. We risk emotional equanimity, physical health and our sense of well-being.

And research attest to that: 36% of drop-out at work is caused by stress, 14% of the employees are struggling with burnout symptoms en 80% of the employees are not actively engaged. We are so caught up in our heads that we lost the ability to be aware of what is going on in a big part that is also us, our body. Most of the information that is available to us every second of the day, and helps us to survive, is being ignored. And the results are beginning to show – in personal well-being (in general and in the workspace), business results and within the social and environmental problems we are facing.

Unable to take good care of ourselves

Losing the art of sensing our own bodies makes us unable to take good care of ourselves. If you can’t sense your body starting to tense up, you are not able to relax it when necessary. If you can’t sense that you feel angry you will, on the long run, have problems in your social interactions and develop physical problems. From a young age on we learn to suppress the ability to feel ourselves. We learn to sit still and be afraid of being vulnerable, making mistakes and not being good enough.

This fear feeds the need to defend ourselves: we start to deny (his denigrating remark is not hurting me), intellectualize (they are really counting on me so I can’t mess up) or self sooth ourselves (eating, smoking or working to much) too numb our feelings. Higher value is placed on being rational than emotional. We have learned to focus on thinking and doing, on products and ideas. Rather then on feeling, being, and being with.

Build embodied self-awareness

To be able to keep emotional equanimity, physical health and our sense of well-being we have to tap into other knowledge within us that, after practice, is freely available to us. To make the work place healthier, for both the economy and the individual, we have to stop over value our cognitive intelligence and commit to bringing awareness to and understand the value of the information our body has to offer – we have to build embodied self-awareness. Which is, as Alan Fogel defines it, the ability to pay attention to ourselves, to feel our sensations, emotions and movement in the present moment without the mediating influence of judgmental thoughts.

Embodied self-awareness we is composed of:

  1. Sensations: like warm, cold, tingly, soft, tight, expansion, contraction
  2. Emotions: happy, sad, threatened, angry, jealous
  3. Movement: coordination between body parts, our sense of shape and size and our location relative to objects and others.

I feel therefor I am

Becoming more aware of this essential information will increase effective and efficient interaction with our complex environment and enables us to take better care of ourselves. The effects will be multiple. People will feel happier and healthier by reconnecting to this lost part within them. If people are allowed to pay attention to themselves and feel alive at work absenteeism will drop, engagement will increase and as a result business will flourish.

Let’s create a healthier life, a healthier workplace and a healtier society by refrasing Descartes and state: I feel therefor I am.

Karin Karis zet mensen duurzaam in beweging. Zij is auteur, leiderschapstrainer en -coach. Haar insteek: van je hoofd naar je lijf!

Karin is expert op het gebied van embodied leadership. Leren waarbij je lijf de essentie is. Zij gelooft dat leiderschap ontstaat door bewust en actief richting te geven en verantwoordelijkheid te nemen voor de keuzes die jij in je leven maakt.

Door onze houding en manier van bewegen te veranderen, veranderen we de omgang met onszelf en de mensen om ons heen.