Highly Sensitive Women embody many qualities inherent to a healthy and thriving human being - and society. Yet at this stage of human evolution, our sensitive reality is still pretty misunderstood and undervalued by the overarching culture we live in. As a result, Highly Sensitive Women often feel exhausted, anxious, like we don’t belong, or something is wrong with us because the society we live in feels so hostile to our natural ways of being. This can lead to a tendency to disassociate from the body, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and also disconnected from our true selves or sense of self-trust. Living in a toxic society can also leave a traumatic imprint on Highly Sensitive Women, who are more vulnerable to the effects of stress and trauma. In this blog post, I will explore how and why somatic approaches to therapy and coaching can be highly effective for Highly Sensitive Women to heal from trauma, regulate our nervous systems, and find the peace and fulfillment we seek in life.
Gifts of Highly Sensitive Women
Let’s review the gifts that Highly Sensitive Women often embody –
heightened intuition and empathy
creativity and imagination
deep connection to nature and the environment
ability to notice subtleties and nuances in social interactions
heightened sensory awareness
appreciation for beauty and aesthetics
strong sense of justice and a desire to help others
ability to create a safe and nurturing space for others
Struggles of Highly Sensitive Women
Some of the ways that Highly Sensitive Women struggle in modern-day living include –
feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated in busy or noisy environments
stuck in an adaptive survival state, such as fight, flight, fawn or freeze on a chronic basis
difficulty setting boundaries and saying no
exhausted and burnt out
tendency to overthink and overanalyze situations
difficulty trusting our decisions and ourselves
tendency to disassociate or disconnect from the body
difficulty regulating our emotions
difficulty navigating interpersonal situations or maintaining healthy relationships
difficulty working in mainstream jobs
Traumatic Effects of Living in a Toxic Society
Dr. Gabor Mate, renowned physician and author, has written extensively about the impact of trauma on the body and mind. According to Mate, living in the toxic society we do can lead to a disconnection from self and a chronic state of stress and survival mode. In his book, "When the Body Says No," Mate argues that stress, emotional trauma, and toxic environments can lead to physical illnesses, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic conditions.
Highly Sensitive Women are more vulnerable to the effects of living in a toxic society because we are more attuned to our environment and the emotions and needs of others, which can lead to overextending ourselves and neglecting our own self-care. We may be more aware of the impact of toxic environments on our bodies and minds, and more likely to internalize the stress and trauma of those around us. Additionally, Highly Sensitive Women may feel more pressure to conform to societal expectations, which can create a sense of disconnection from our sense of autonomous self.
As a result, Highly Sensitive Women may find ourselves in a constant state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn as we struggle to navigate a world that often feels overwhelming and hostile. These survival modes are natural responses to stress and trauma, which can become deeply ingrained patterns of behavior impacting a person’s overall way of living and sense of being. Typically, the most common adaptive survival strategies that Highly Sensitive Women tend to get stuck in are flight, fawn and freeze.
In flight mode, we find ourselves leaving or avoiding stressful situations - or our bodies tell us to leave situations with churning in the stomach, racing in the heart, clenching in the jaw, holding the breath, etc.
In fawn mode, we try to please or appease others in order to avoid conflict and feel safe.
In freeze mode, we feel paralyzed or unable to act. This can feel like procrastination, difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, low motivation to complete tasks, etc.
Tendency to Disassociate or Disconnect from the Body
One way that Highly Sensitive Women cope with feeling overwhelmed is to disassociate or disconnect from our bodies. Disassociation is a coping mechanism that allows us to disconnect from the present moment and avoid overwhelming or traumatic experiences. It can take many forms, such as daydreaming, forgetting to eat, low appetite or overeating, avoidance of exercise or overexercising, difficulty sleeping, overthinking, overplanning, or generally feeling disconnected from the body. While disassociation can be helpful in the short term, it can become a pattern that is difficult to break.
Disassociation can be common for Highly Sensitive Women because we are often more attuned to our environment and emotions. So when we encounter overwhelming situations or spaces, we may instinctively try to disconnect in order to protect ourselves from further stimulation. However, over time, this disconnection can become a habit that leads to a more overarching disconnection from our emotions and sense of self.
Benefits of Somatic Therapy and Coaching
Somatic therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It recognizes that the body stores trauma and that healing can only occur when we address both the physical and emotional aspects of trauma.
Somatic coaching, on the other hand, is a form of coaching that uses the principles of somatic therapy to help clients achieve their goals. It recognizes that the body holds the key to our true selves and that by working with the body, we can unlock our higher potential.
Here are some reasons why somatic therapy and coaching are especially effective for highly Sensitive Women:
Somatic therapy and coaching focus on the body, which is important for Highly Sensitive Women who may be more attuned to physical sensations and emotional responses. These modalities help us become more aware of our body's responses, and how we can use physical sensations as a compass for understanding our experiences in the world. Because Highly Sensitive Women may be more disconnected or dissociated from our bodies, the body focus of somatic therapy and coaching provides a supportive and nurturing space for us to reconnect with our bodies, to feel more grounded and present in our physical experiences, and to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness.
Highly Sensitive Women often have a heightened need for safety and comfort. Somatic therapy and coaching emphasize a non-judgmental and compassionate approach to healing. Highly Sensitive Women may be more likely to internalize criticism or blame, and somatic approaches offer a safe and supportive space for exploring and processing difficult emotions without shame or self-criticism. This creates a space where we can learn to trust ourselves and our own inner wisdom.
Highly Sensitive Women may struggle to express their emotions through language and may benefit from non-verbal approaches. Somatic therapy and coaching use non-verbal techniques, such as visualization, movement, breathwork and touch, to help us explore our emotions, regulate the nervous system, and connect with our inner wisdom.
Centered on the Nervous System
Somatic therapy and coaching prioritize working with the nervous system. Trauma, stress and living in a toxic culture can result in the body becoming stuck in a state of "fight, flight, freeze, or fawn" response, which Highly Sensitive Women are more susceptible to experiencing. This can lead to chronic tension, pain, and other physical and emotional symptoms. Somatic approaches provide tools and practices to support the regulation of the nervous system, unhooking from survival modes, coming back into a more balanced and regulated state, and allowing for greater emotional resilience.
Somatic therapy and coaching offer a holistic approach to healing that takes into account the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. This approach can be particularly effective for Highly Sensitive Women, who often experience the world on a deep emotional and intuitive level, and value or long for connection with the essential or truest aspect of who we are.
Addresses Trauma at the Source
Highly Sensitive Women are more susceptible to experiencing trauma, whether from childhood experiences or ongoing societal stressors. Somatic therapy and coaching offer a safe and supportive space for exploring and healing from these traumas. These modalities allow us to resolve trauma on a physiological level, which can be more effective than solely working through emotional or cognitive approaches. In this way, somatic approaches focus on resolving the root cause of emotional and physical pain rather than just addressing symptoms. By working with a skilled therapist or coach, Highly Sensitive Women can learn to trust our own inner healing process and regain a sense of control over our lives.
Self-Awareness, Self-Trust and Self-Care
Somatic therapy and coaching can help Highly Sensitive Women to develop a greater awareness of - and attunement to - our own physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through this process of self-discovery, we can learn to trust our own instincts and intuition, and make decisions that are more aligned with our own values and needs. Additionally, Highly Sensitive Women are often caretakers and may struggle with prioritizing our own needs and self-care. Somatic therapy and coaching provide practices and tools to support us in cultivating resilience, setting boundaries, and prioritizing our own self-care.
Self-Acceptance and Fulfillment
Somatic therapy and coaching can help Highly Sensitive Women to develop a more compassionate and accepting attitude towards themselves. This includes recognizing and honoring our unique strengths and weaknesses, and learning to trust our own inner voice. Through reconnecting with the intelligence of the body, we can tap into our unique gifts and purpose in a more expansive way. This helps us to have greater access to our inner wisdom, to clarify our values and goals, and to cultivate a life that is more aligned with our truest Self.
In summary, both somatic therapy and somatic coaching can be particularly effective for Highly Sensitive Women who struggle feeling connected with our bodies and sense of self. It supports us to regulate the autonomic nervous system, shift out of survival modes of living, and reconnect with who we really are at the core. By connecting with our bodies, we can better access our intuition, emotions, and sense of self. We can learn to trust ourselves and our instincts, and to live from a place of greater authenticity and wholeness. Somatic therapy and coaching can also help Highly Sensitive Women to address the traumatic effects of living in our toxic society. By working with a trained therapist or coach, we can learn to recognize the ways in which our environment has impacted us and develop tools to navigate this environment in a healthier way. We can learn to set boundaries, practice self-care, and create a life that feels more peaceful and fulfilling. We can learn to embrace our sensitivity as a gift, rather than a burden, and use it to create positive change in the world.
In this way, a somatic approach to healing and transformation can be highly effective for Highly Sensitive Women because its focus is on reconnecting the individual to the intelligence of the body and the true self - the two aspects of self that Highly Sensitive Women often struggle to feel connected with, leading to dysregulation of the nervous system, unhealed trauma, feelings of imbalance, and loss of trust and purpose.
BIG love today,