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Finger hovering hesitantly over the send button

“My finger was hovering over the key, my heart was racing, my stomach tightening into a small tight knot, my toes curling, my eyes looking away from the screen. What was going on?” Struggling to send an email, Doug is confronted by some old demons. He reflects on how supervision and coaching has helped him cope in these kinds of situations.

Doug Montgomery
21st April 2021

Have you ever found yourself with your finger hovering over the send button, stomach tightening into a knot, anxiety taking over you? Let me share my recent experience of this discomfort.

One of my current projects is to attract more supervision work into my portfolio. I’m partnering with Liz Nottingham, a fellow Coaching Supervision Academy trained supervisor and former HR leader, to offer supervision to professionals who work primarily through relationships with others. We’re putting this idea into the world through blogs, articles, and online workshops. When the posts and blogs we were writing did not seem to be getting the traction we had hoped for, we decided to approach individuals in our network directly.

If you are a marketing guru reading this, you are probably now screaming: “Oh come on, of course you need to take a direct approach—everyone knows that!” All I can say is please forgive us our naivety, thank you.

We decided to send LinkedIn messages to 10 contacts each. I composed my message, searched through my contacts on LinkedIn, and selected the first 10 leaders I found. The message was all set to go to the first recipient… and I found myself unable to press the send button.

A hand hovers over a keyboard
Finger hovering over the send button. (Thanks to Sergey Zolkin and Unsplash for this image.)

My finger was hovering over the key, my heart was racing, my stomach tightening into a small tight knot, my toes curling, my eyes looking away from the screen. My finger was disobeying my brain and following my body’s lead. What was going on?

Well, an old familiar feeling was back. Even after all the self-work in coaching, supervision and therapy I’d undergone over the last few years, my old self-preservation mechanisms were alive and well.

My heart was racing, my stomach tightening into a small tight knot, my toes curling, my eyes looking away from the screen.

However, thanks to all of this coaching, supervision, and other self-work, I was able to pause and take a breath. With this breath, I was able to step outside of myself and observe what was happening.

Those familiar feelings of not being worthy, of not wanting to be rejected, and all the shame and pain that comes from them, had reappeared.

Taking a couple of deep breaths, in for two counts and out for four counts, I was able to allow my adult ego stateto come to the fore and let my adapted child state1  step into the background as I asked myself: “What does this email represent to my adapted child?”

What it represented to that part of me was an opportunity to be rejected and diminished and dismissed as not valuable. Okay.  I then asked myself: “How else could I frame sending this message?”

The answer was that I have something potentially useful to offer its recipient. It may or may not be what they need or want right now. And currently they don’t know about it or that it’s available. I do know that that it is important to Liz and I, and that we want to share it with others so that they can make up their own minds about what they do with the offer. They can say yes please; they can see no thank you; they may decide it’s not for them but see the value in it and pass it on to others they know who may be interested; or they can ignore it; or they can tell me not to bother them again. All are legitimate options, and all are out of my control. It’s their choice to make.

More importantly, whatever reply or lack of reply I receive, sending this message is about sharing this offer and the idea behind itIt’s not about ME!

I then asked myself: “How else could I frame sending this message?”

This alternative version of what could happen allowed my heart to slow down, my toes to uncurl, my breathing to return to normal, and my stomach knot to relax. My finger was able to come down on the send key, and off the message went. The next 9 messages were sent without the emotional hit of the first, and, because of my alternative interpretation, I ended up altering the text slightly for each of them.

Putting things into perspective. (Thanks to Elijah Hiett and Unsplash for this photo.)

These triggered feelings never fully go away. However, with support from for example coaching and supervision, we can become better prepared to recognise what is happening to us. We can develop strategies to manage ourselves and see the triggered state for what it is.

And, readers, there is a happy ending to this: Thanks to the emails we sent out, we were able to start our first Super-Vision group.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

When have you felt that old familiar feeling in your body preventing you from stepping into something?   How did you deal with it?  Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in coaching or Super-Vision, contact Doug at Doug@Science-meets-Creativity.co.uk or via the website Science-meets-Creativity.co.uk

“Transactional Analysis” describes the Adult, Child and Parental ego states.

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