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Somatic Intelligence: The rising intelligence beyond emotional intelligence

The whole field of emotional intelligence is needed to bring attention to the highly IQ thinkers that there are other forces at play beyond what is going on in our heads. Since emotions were and still is a touchy-feely subject, Michael Beldoch is a genius to have coined the term emotional intelligence to make it appeal to us who pride ourselves to be intelligent rather than emotional.



Somatic Intelligence: The rising intelligence beyond emotional intelligence by Hatem Alabki
Somatic Intelligence: The rising intelligence beyond emotional intelligence by Hatem Alabki

With the broad adoption of emotional intelligence, it has become common knowledge that what is influencing our behavior is beyond what is going in our head. Between the stimulus and our response, we need a pause of awareness to exercise our conscious choice. The question here is what to be aware of in this pause? We started with being aware of one's thoughts, then emotional intelligence added the layer of being aware of our emotions. What I will share with you now is an element that has more influence on us beyond both emotions and thoughts.


The whole field of emotional intelligence is needed to bring attention to the highly IQ thinkers that there are other forces at play beyond what is going on in our heads. Since emotions were and still is a touchy-feely subject, Michael Beldoch is a genius to have coined the term emotional intelligence to make it appeal to us who pride ourselves to be intelligent rather than emotional.


With the broad adoption of emotional intelligence, it has become common knowledge that what is influencing our behavior is beyond what is going in our head. Between the stimulus and our response, we need a pause of awareness to exercise our conscious choice. The question here is what to be aware of in this pause? We started with being aware of one's thoughts, then emotional intelligence added the layer of being aware of our emotions. What I will share with you now is an element that has more influence on us beyond both emotions and thoughts.


Sitting in my first coach training course, I was bewildered by what a coaching experience looked like. What intrigued me most was the questions and the movement that coachee and coach have done throughout the coaching session. Questions like where in your body do you feel this? How would you move ? Give me a metaphor for what is going on with you at the moment? How heavy do you feel the weight on your shoulder?


All those questions were to tap into the most influential part of who we are when we are reactive, which is "drum rolls" the body. Working with the intelligence of the body is called Somatic Intelligence.



How Somatic Intelligence work


Your great grandfather might have died a long time back, but his nose might be just sitting between your eyes[1]. The body is a powerful memory machine. Not only does it keep a record of the genetic data of people who were there before us but also all the autopilot reflexes you need to hold up a fork, get up the stairs, and type on a keyboard. Beyond your physical needs, the body keeps the memory of how to satisfy your emotional needs. Those needs are Safety, belonging, and self-worth, which is relative to the foundational needs of Maslow's hierarchy of needs[2].

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Diagram:



In some cases, the bio-behavioral response is easy to notice. Like for example, when you meet a person you love, sensation move to your chest, your arms would reach over for a hug. With an approach of a person you have a conflict, a rush goes to your gut and you take a couple of steps back. Another example is the pain & heaviness that is felt in the shoulders when it comes to taking so much responsibility.


In other cases, bio-behavioral conditioning is much more subtle. It could be the leader that avoids delegating what so ever fearing that his direct reports might make a mistake that does not meet his perfectionist tendencies acquired to prevent the sensation of the humiliation of failing. It could be the one playing the role of peacekeeper in the team trying to make everybody get along and as a result, compromising or disregarding their own needs to avoid the pain of broken relationships. Or the workaholic that works extra hours, which might fear the agony of feeling worthless if they are not busy.



Whether being a perfectionist, pleaser, or the workaholic, all these are reactive behavioral patterns that have been developed over time act as a safety mechanism to avoid the painful bodily sensation one finds hard to be with.

What ends up eventually happening that this reactive behavior that may have served in the past comes at a cost as one moves forward in their career. With the leader who has no time to focus on the future of the business cause he can't delegate, much of his time could be spared if he could trust other people more and allow them to learn from their mistakes. For the pleaser who tries to please everybody but ends up pleasing nobody, meeting their own needs could have been done by having direct and courageous conversations. For the workaholic, instead of working hard, they could have worked smart. What needs to be done is easy, yet having the courage to take the risk of experiencing those difficult sensations again is what is difficult.

Even when one becomes aware of those behavioral patterns and the emotions that arise with them, they are difficult to change because the pattern is being stimulated from the memory stored in our body. So to deal with them, we need to go to the source and leverage somatic intelligence.



How to work with our somatic intelligence to transform:


If you have a behavioral pattern that's been stuck for some time that you want to change, below is a consolidation of the numerous human transformation programs that I have been on that worked with somatic intelligence. Note that change in behavior can happen in one of the steps before going to the ones beyond, and in other biobehavioral patterns which might have a stronger hold one could need to take all the steps. In any case, being patient and compassionate on yourself is key here:

Step 1: Awareness, awareness, awareness

  • The first thing is to catch yourself when you are being triggered. Usually, it is the incident that starts the chain reaction of you being stressed.

  • Start being aware of your autopilot responses, which have become a behavioral pattern. Do you cave in from communicating with others and start trying to plan for a solution all by yourself? Do you go on blaming others when it comes to conflict and starts having side conversations to assert your point of view? Do you hold from sharing your voice on critical matters?

  • What are your unfiltered thoughts? What I mean by unfiltered thoughts are the voices that are speaking in your head when the trigger happens. Voices could say, Why this always happen to me? Why they always do that? Why I end up working with incapable people?

  • What are you feeling when you get the trigger?

  • Most importantly, above all, what goes on in your body. Does the sensation arise in your gut, heart, feet, shoulder ...etc.? Try to describe for yourself and give it a shape.


Step 2: Go back in history.

What conditions in the past that have shaped this bio-behavioral pattern. Where you brought up by a generation that survived a war where you have picked up the need to be ready for that dreadful day by saving all your money. Where you brought up by a parent, who is emotionally constipated, so you ended up fearing expressing yourself. Are you part of a culture that derives their sense of self-worth by their work title.


Step 3: It's not about you, it's not about them, it's about it.


The next time you feel the furious rush of anger towards your boss or go on in the pattern of self-blame, remember that the circumstances and other people are not holding the trigger. The trigger is happening within yourself. Outside events might be acting as a stimulus, but the bio-behavioral response that is happening within is what is influencing you to behave the way you are behaving. So knowing it's not about you or that team member that gets on your nerve that is creating this commotion and that it's more your body that is reacting makes you more at peace with what is going on and that it is normal.


Step 4: Stay with the sensations

Our usual responses to those sensations manifest in addiction. Addictions like smoking, drinking, shopping therapy, Netflix binging, social media scrolling, constant food snacking. All are ways to avoid those sensations we are finding it hard to be with.

Instead, If the anger of the gut is rising be curious about what it is like to experience this fully. If the ache in your chest is becoming unbearable, be with it in its totality. If your teeth are wanting to clinch, stay with the feeling there. Staying with the sensation by itself could be enough to create the transformation, which allows a new way of being with the situation. This is why mindfulness is so powerful.


Step 5: Express it


If a sensation is arising, then ultimately, it wants to be expressed. we could be avoiding the sensation by our protective behaviors of being autocratic or overly critical or on the hand coping with it through addictions neglecting its full expression. The next level of working with it is overtly expressing it. If you play an instrument or practice art, it will come of great use here. Allow yourself to channel it through artistic expression. If you write poetry for fun, articulate it in a poem. If you play the violin, let the sensation influence your melody. If you are angry, rent a smash room at https://www.thesmashroom.ae and break a TV. Allow the sensation to be channeled fully.


Level 6: Forgive & Reconcile

Once you have gone through all the above steps, it's time to let go, forgive and reconcile with the person or circumstance that led to this. With all the different human growth and transformation systems out there forgiveness of the person or being in acceptance of the situation that has led to our reactive behaviors is an imperative element to lasting change. This could look like writing a letter, not necessarily sending it, where you express how the circumstance made you feel, express understanding for the other and forgiving them.


Step 7: Seek the support of professionals

With somatic intelligence, it would be highly supportive to go through the growth journey with a certified coach. Some of the institutes that you can reach out to are Strozzi institute or Coaches rising who could recommend a somatic coach in your area, or you can go through one of their programs.

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Similar to learning about the world outside of us, the more we learn about the world inside of us, new uncharted horizons keep showing up even for change-makers who have been working for decades on human development. Science still has more to unpack for us when it comes to the influence of somatic intelligence and the wisdom of our bodies.




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