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The Power of Being Present with Emotional Experiences

  • POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019

Sometimes the simplest acts can have the most profound impact. At a recent CTI coach training, one of our leaders urged the group to resist offering a tissue to someone who was crying. She explained that, even though this gesture comes from a place of compassion within us, there is a hidden message in it that says, “use a tissue to clean this mess up.”

She further explained that touching a person at this time, hugging them, or taking care of them in any way, actually takes the person out of the emotion and interrupts their ability to process their experience fully. The willingness to “be there” with someone requires us to be with what is messy, without cleaning or fixing it in any way.

As the weekend training progressed I was lucky enough to receive coaching. Through this process I dared to explore things that I had been choosing to brush under the rug for several months. In this safe space of a co-active community, I was free to “be with” the fear of having my life be insignificant. Tears streamed down my face while I was fully experiencing this raw and palpable emotion.

Feeling my throat close, my arms go numb, and my body crumble into despair were agonizingly painful physical responses. Having a coach hold this space for me to “be in it” fully was the greatest gift that I could have received. In these moments, when I looked into my coaches’ eyes, I saw that they saw my light, even when I was going to my darkest place within.

This was quite a different experience from feeling like they wanted to take care of me or save me from this experience. It gave me permission to stay with it while knowing that I wasn’t going to completely fall apart. I felt that they held me with respect and tenderness, and that they trusted that I could handle being in this place because I was naturally creative, resourceful and whole. They sat with me and witnessed me – period.

After a time, I began to feel a shift within me, and began to feel space open up in my chest, in my lungs, and definitely in my throat. As I started to express this opening of space, I could feel their longing for me to be all that I could possibly be, even though I didn’t know if I had the capacity to stand up on my own two feet in that moment.

As I write this I am experiencing great emotion again, but “it” is a different emotion now. The shift within me that began by simply being with my darkest emotion has continued to evolve. Now, my throat is not closed, although I feel a lot of energy there. This time my arms are tingling, and my body still. The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars” is now my companion.

I know that it is in this place of being with my own sense of crumbling despair that I have found where my leadership is needed most. This is now a place of resonance and purpose for me. The circumstances have not changed greatly, but the fear that I was associating with it has turned to resolve, commitment, dedication, and servant leadership. I would never have been able to get to this place without first going to my fear and being with it tenderly and fully.

My message to you in this transformational space: Dare to “go there” yourself – to that place deep within that you run from. It is actually in going there and being there that you are able to shift its energy and allow new versions to emerge.

Be witness to one another. Allow those around you to be fully human, without needing to clean anything up or fix things for them. Your loved ones do not need you to take away, or save them from, their pain. They need you to have the courage to simply be with them in it, so that they can find their own stars in the process of walking in their inner dark place.

Be courageously present and witness the brilliance of human potential to move through emotions and flow into new realities simply because of having the space to be with what they need most to process without being rescued.

Enjoy the process. The more you open yourself up to being with the full range of emotional experience, the more you will realize how rich and full life is because of this sacred experience.

Written By

Regina Hellinger

Regina Hellinger is a co-active junky. She is the Southeast Regional Leader for CTI and Director of Volare Youth Leadership, a nonprofit organization she co-founded with fellow leadership graduates to bring the power of co-activity and Dimensional Leadership to our next generation of leaders. Regina is also a co-active coach who specializes in supporting new coaches in career transition and leadership. Regina is a CPCC, PCC, and Co-active Leadership graduate and can be reached at and on Twitter @Regina Hellinger

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