Why receiving is so hard.

Firstly, I’d like to say that this topic is particularly challenging for me to write about.  So please forgive the imperfections in my language, any sentences that don’t quite make sense.  This feels so important for us all to consider, and yet, so hard to articulate.  But in the spirit of wanting to stay true to our collective and be open to the beauty of imperfection, here goes!

Having sat in many sharing circles, lived through quite a few birthdays and ‘gift giving’ situations, coached many people and having been involved in many of my own and others’ relationship difficulties, I have always been curious about my own and others’ ability to receive.


This is a complex and powerful dynamic for all of us.  How to receive from others and from life gracefully; how to give without expectation and how to tolerate what it feels like to say no or make a choice that leaves us seemingly less connected than makes us feel comfortable.

The other day my Mum did something for me which was very generous, and to her, a very ‘normal’ thing to do for her daughter.  And it felt very hard for me.  I noticed in myself how challenging it was to receive what she was giving me; I wanted to negotiate, to push it away, to not allow her to give to me.  I felt awkward, my body ached in the front, I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

I took this as a chance to truly study myself and feel the feelings present in the face of receiving.

What I learned is that our capacity to receive is inherently linked to the experience of neediness. When we are given to, it touches into the ways we need(ed) love – and the meeting of a long-lost need, physically and emotionally hurts us.  The vulnerability of this needing, the young and raw feeling of being out of control and needing deeply is pretty much intolerable to our adult narratives of what it means to be human.

At this point in my life (and may this never-endingly deepen) I am blessed to have a larger context into which my experiences happen.  I am with a current understanding, sensing, feeling and knowing of my truer, deeper identity which is whole and intact.  And with this being true, I am able to feel feelings and allow rather than push down, defend, freeze or avoid.

With this ability to be with rather than bounce off or deny, I could feel what it felt like to be truly needy without acting out, without protecting myself by closing down and defending – without rejecting my Mum and pushing the gift away from me in self-protection.  And it was so illuminating to stay there, experience the rawness, the original feeling of this need. Seeing how this plays out in so many areas of our lives that I’ve seen so many times in myself and others who I work with, spend time with, am in relationship with.

This dynamic of having trouble receiving has many consequences (and there will be way more than this list!):

  • Being very independent (if we meet our own needs, we don’t have to acknowledge that we need anything from anyone else and we don’t have to touch into this raw and young, wounded part of us that doesn’t feel worthy of depending on anyone or receiving).
  • Being an avid giver (if we give to others, always talk about / act in service of them, rather than us, we will not leave enough space for them to give to us and therefore will not have to receive and therefore face this feeling of neediness ever again)
  • Having a strategy of always being capable (if we are capable, people will think we don’t need their help, and then they won’t give it to us, so we don’t have to feel the feelings of receiving and therefore the underlying neediness inside)
  • Feeling stingy and ungenerous (in order not to feel the neediness, we have to feel we’re providing for ourselves, and this brings about a conundrum that if we give to others we won’t be able to provide for ourselves as there will not be enough to go round, so we had better protect what’s here, and not give it away so that we don’t have to face the vulnerability of needing something when it’s ‘all gone’)
  • Maintaining distance with those who we feel needy around (if we stay away from the people we feel needy around – could be emotionally or physically – then we don’t have to be in the presence of our own fear or feeling of the neediness arising)
  • Feeling guilty (each time someone makes a request of us, it’s a chance to give – and if we do not meet that request, and we can’t give in order for the relationship to be maintained, we feel guilty – and underlying this is the dynamic of the act of saying no, or standing up for our true motivations.  Saying no is an act of self-dignity, of receiving ourselves, trusting ourselves- and many times that hurts)
  • Feeling jealous or envious (seeing others having their needs met – especially by those who we want our needs to be met by – is triggering and hurtful, so we become jealous or envious and in many cases feel ashamed of ourselves for being this way – the unhealed need that creates a deep story of lack plays out and clouds our view of everyone involved – I can’t help but feel deep compassion for children whose parents bring another child into the family and what that experience must feel like – and of course it’s one of my experiences too as I have a younger brother)
  • The sacrifice story (the more we give, the more we are defending against our own receiving or neediness being felt and all the while the need is running the show – and this is where the sacrificial feeling comes from, we’re all given out, our needs are not being met and underneath we are crying out for our need to be met so we resent anyone who attempts to ‘get’ anything from us or needs anything from us – we haven’t got it to give – and we feel in deep sacrifice in our lives)

And the list goes on.

So what if our active part in this is to heal the wound of neediness ? Given we’re all dependent on each other and that’s the nature of being human – i.e. we need each other.  How do we navigate this and heal so that these dynamics can soften, and be brought more into our awareness as we learn our lessons ?

So here are a few suggestions for us all:

  • Be gentle with ourselves – these feelings are young and raw. Feelings only want to be felt, we can go through them, be with them and they will transform if we trust. Give yourself the hugest break and hugest compassion in facing this and ask for help.
  • Write an ongoing list of all the ways we feel any of the above manifestations of this dynamic, and add to it as we go.
  • Notice that under any reaction there is something else going on than what we think – and take some time to reflect, to look beneath the surface and see what feelings are there when we’re angry, hurt or feeling left out, unmet.
  • Commit to a practice of making requests clearly about what we want or need from our partners, family members, children, friends which directly meet our needs – and see what it’s like to let them truly provide for us. Recognising what it feels like to receive can open up so much awareness of this dynamic for our study and holding.
  • Begin to write a list of self-appreciations – all the ways you appreciate who you are, what you do, how you bring things and yourself to the world and all your relationships / spaces / communities / family etc.
  • Share this with a friend, ask for help from someone you trust in talking this through, examining this through speech and putting language to your own story around this.
  • Allow the awareness and feeling of true connection – that exists beyond time and physicality – to seep into our daily lives, and drink from this source, be filled with this and allow this ever flowing generosity of life to permeate small acts each day.

PS. The picture attached to this article is of me when I was little.  Looking at it and feeling into the little girl in me, all her needs and dependency feels connecting and acknowledging.



I am me because of who you are, I am me because of who you are to each other and I am me because of who I am to you.

I have a friend who says that hanging out with me and my husband gives her the feeling that ‘everything’s going to be alright’.  I’m sure not because it’s all perfect (we fight like mad people lots), or that we’re particularly positive people (I’ve become pretty straight forward over the years and so has my husband!) – but maybe because we actually gain strength and well being from the field that’s created between others.  Another way we walk one another home, right here in front of us…….

As children we lived in the field of our parents’ relationship (as adults we still do), we got invited into the field of their love when we were conceived, we were hurt when they shouted at each other (we still are).  There’s lot to say for what effect others’ relationships with one another have on us as people.  I know when I’m in the room and others are fighting, the conflict doesn’t only affect them – it affects me too.

In the press at the moment, the relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama gives the world hope.  Who they are to each other affects us, it’s interesting to us, has us feel like the world is not over when it feels like hard things are happening, which to some of us feel like the end of the world.

I can feel as we lead our year long programs and as I spend time with others; when I’m with my sister, my Mum, my husband, that it has a deep impact on the folks sharing space with us.  When there’s a deeply intimate relationship in the field – and others feel held by the relationship itself, rather than the individual humans, beautiful things can unfold.

This is part of my exploration into the field of relationship. Relationship being what’s made because you and I are here.  What if that field is erupting with intelligence, with life, with answers to deep questions about what it is to be human ? And what if we let the field speak ?

In addition to this, when things are hard in life, the people around us, how they love us, and see us matters – we live inside the connections we have with one another.  And this is not about liking people, or people liking us – there’s literally a unique and unifying field that exists between each and every one of us which has us know ourselves, our true nature – I am me because of who you are, I am me because of who you are to each other and I am me because of who I am to you.  


The strengthening and remembering of this field is what I feel my life is for. In coaching, this is what’s made possible.  In marriage, this is what’s made possible.  In sisterhood this is what’s made possible.  In friendship, this is what’s made possible.  In partnership this is what’s made possible.  In parenting, this is what’s made possible.  In Auntydom, this is what’s made possible.

The blessing of suffering.

What if we could see our suffering as an opening into a new world? 
As those who want to accompany others through ‘good times and bad’ maybe it would be helpful for us to truly welcome the difficulties in life rather than commiserate or express sorry / pity?

What if our friends were met with an open and present attention when they bring their world to us? How might it be for us to be met with acceptance and curiosity rather than with shying away or judging? 

You see, it’s very possible that where there is suffering, where we are stuck, where we don’t know what to do now….because we’ve tried everything – there is light waiting patiently to come into our lives. 

In this opening we might be able to see or feel another way forward, onward, inward. In this opening, when we can see the futility of using the same techniques to get through something – and we might we try something fresh. A new way of living could be born. 

The suffering is blessed because it lets us in to one another’s lives. And in this communing, this sharing, this togetherness it’s possible to find another way. 

Forgiveness – as simple and as challenging as preferring relationship, connection, love – over anything else.

I have been listening to the astounding gentleness of Richard Rohr in the mornings and I’m so touched by his invitation to how we might consider what forgiveness is. 

Tied into this theme is a beautiful and quenching definition of God as community, connection, imperfection and relationship. 

And so to forgive is to prefer relationship, togetherness. And when we make a deep intention for relationship to win above all else, we can glimpse and practice forgiveness. 

When I forgive, I’m saying I prefer relationship with you rather than being right. When I forgive I’m saying I see the truth in you as I see it in me. When I forgive I come home to myself and allow you to do the same. 

It’s saying that this time, I will let you off for the mistake you made. And I’m going to do it again and again. And live like that. And see what it does for my life as well as yours. 

This isn’t being walked all over. It takes strength to forgive and to dwell in and continually return to our hearts. Our hearts where true compassion lies. And where connection and relationship are born from. 

Because we forgive someone doesn’t mean we need to live with them. Because we forgive ourselves doesn’t mean we have to keep doing the thing that undermines our life. On the contrary. Forgiveness frees us up to make choices with a clear heart and mind, knowing we are filled with the truth of one another. 

So today I declare. I prefer relationship with you, with myself – rather than being right about anything I think of you or me. And I make that choice. 

Another take on the question: “What is Integral Coaching ?”

A warm welcome to you. We’re really happy you’re here. Our love is working with people, being with people in a way where they discover their goodness. An underpinning foundation of our work is that everyone is good. Everyone has goodness in their hearts and good intentions. 

Mostly we wonder around in a state of deficiency, lack, maybe thinking somewhere other than here would be better, more fulfilling, more satisfying. Maybe we look at others and think they’ve got a better deal than us. Maybe we are worried that if anyone could see inside, they certainly would not love me and appreciate me.  

In our work, we’re looking to question our identity, to work with all three centres – the head, heart and body to enquire into the mystery of what it is to be a human being.  

Our world has become one where we try to figure things out a lot, we use our minds to try and overcome the obstacles in our lives. And very often, our other centres of intelligence would be an intelligent way of addressing our issues. If you have children, you’ll know how often you’ve tried to figure out what’s going on with your child by asking questions, trying to figure out what’s wrong, and then in an instant you tune in to something different, you observe their body for a minute, sense their energy and remember when they last ate and drank and realise they just need a snack – that there is no issue with the toy or person they’re playing with – they’re simply hungry. 

Our work is a bit like this. It’s like tuning into another frequency, accessing a different part of ourselves that is less available in our habitual patterns. But this part of ourself has a different kind of intelligence, and a means of being with others that is helpful rather than perpetuating the difficulty they’re already in. 

Working in this way means being able to tolerate a continual and evolving enquiry into what it means to be a human being, what freedom truly is. And to allow these living questions like “who am I ?” and “what is my life for ?” to continue to be asked with no expectation of an obvious, satisfying or contained response. But to learn to listen for the whispers that are the answer to our questions, that may not be heard in the way we hear normally.  

As humans in our culture and in our time, we’re continually trying to reduce things down so we can feel in control, and what I’m talking about here is allowing the complexity to be here, seeing that human beings are unfathomable, as is life. And living into that, being undone and opened up by life rather than trying to shut it down to feel like we’ve got it all under control. 

We spend our time admiring those people who ‘have it all together’ and who turn up at work or the school gates looking totally put together and as if everything is fine. And in this work you get to see that mostly everyone is suffering. Even the perfectly fit, toned, successful, wealthy person – they’re suffering just like us. And life becomes about looking beneath appearances, to the heart of people and situations – and finding a way to work compassionately and wisely with the undertow of our lives, rather than dealing in the linear of the surface of what appears to the world as our self image. 

Presence in the midst of pain.

Sometimes when others speak into our blind spot (or you could say we are ‘triggered’ by something someone says or does), it hurts. 

A small comment, a big accusation, the way someone says something that’s not attuned to the way you’re feeling, how someone behaves on public transport that you disagree with. 

It will happen to all of us for all of our lives. These events can be a reason to complain (maybe we connect with others through our complaints too – so the drama serves us well?), reasons to keep our stories going. Or they can shine the light on where our healing lies. 

In integral coaching we find a way of talking about how we are part of how things keep turning out the way they do – for example where we feel in sacrifice, we attract those who want to fight with us, we hold up systems that allow us to be trodden down. And all of the other deeper stories of our suffering that feel so out of our control. 

But it turns out we can act, we can shift, we can look at our patterns and practice differently to bring about a different world. 

And one of the things that brings awareness when these triggers happen (so we can begin the journey of acting differently to make a different world for ourselves) in our families, on the bus, at work, in the street – is our presence with Self. As I’m angered, as I’m poked, as I’m in a repeat pattern, there’s also a way to be present to what’s happening on the inside. Taking the focus off the situation and placing my gentle attention on me. 

We can ask: What does this feel like, what’s this really about for me, what’s underneath, how is there suffering in this situation? 

Sometimes it might be useful to draw a line in us, on one side we are rageful, frustrated, resentful, annoyed. And on the other side what can we feel, see, sense about what’s happening with us. What attention can we bring to our deeper nature, our deeper feelings; and be with this rather than be purely and only the reaction we are in that moment? 

It turns out that it takes practice to do this. To, again and again, bring gentle presence and attending to our pain. 

And that’s how things shift. Because in the opening, there’s more space for choice and intelligent action available. More forgiveness on offer and more breath available to allow us to suffer while holding ourselves, and not adding our own layer of aggression to our already suffering bodies and hearts. 

Here’s to holding the space for each other when we are feeling pain and wounds, and here’s to practicing this for ourselves in those moments where it’s just us with ourselves too. 

What is Integral Development Coaching ?

img_2989At the heart of this work is the understanding that we are whole beings.  There’s nothing missing essentially.  We may lack skill, we may lack competence in certain areas of our lives (e.g. relational, emotional, in the body etc) but skills can be learned and we can shift our way of being in the world as we learn and grow – it takes practice and self awareness – and with these two elements included much can happen.

Each of us has blind spots – and many times we’re blind to our brilliance as well as the ways we keep patterns going in our lives.

Have you ever noticed that others find it much easier to see the good and the wonder in you than you do ? That’s because we’re blind to our own brilliance, we’re not great at being self appreciating.  And we miss how wonderful we are as we practice beating ourselves up, finding problems with our lives, issues with others etc.

Have you ever noticed that when people say things to you that you do not like to hear (e.g. when my husband says I haven’t loaded the dishwasher in the most efficient way), you get defensive and collapse, fight or flee ? That’s because when those close to us touch into our blind spots and we’re not aware of them it really hurts. It hurts precisely because they’re in the dark, they’re in the spot that’s blind to us.

Most often we’re practicing sealing the cycle – we become really good at criticising, finding problems and we forget that our being, our ‘Lizzieness’ or our ‘Tomness’ or our ‘Jackness’ [insert your name if you’d like!!] is right here all the time, shining forth into the world – those around us can see it, but it’s harder for us to see ourselves.

We’re also sealing the cycle with our defensiveness – we hit back, we distort, we deny all as a means of protecting ourselves from something that’s mostly not here. Our partners are not out to get us when they forget to clear up.  Our children are not out to ruin our lives when they empty the drawers onto the floor.  But we’re defending as if they are.  As if our life depends on it.

This kind of growth relationship (the coaching relationship) is where we get to walk each other home.  Our ‘seeing’ of each other, our encountering each other’s goodness is the basis on which our work is built.  As we are seen, it becomes easier to encounter our blind spots – we feel our wholeness more, become less defended and more open to what the world (people) is saying to us.  And from there our relationships can grow, the possibility in our lives widens and our bodies are freed from the sole activity of self-protection.

We get to understand, sense and feel that the world is a safe place and our relationships are there to show us our healing (however badly wrapped the gifts look) rather than have us defend, collapse and complain.

In our coaching, a unique field of relatedness gets attended to, cultivated and invested in – and it paves the way for our blind spots to be addressed.  The safety of the coaching container provides the fertile ground for shifting our behaviours and our practices. It means we can find a way to cognitively understand any mistakes in perception we’re making about life, people, the world, our work, our families and relationship. And then crucially – we get to act in a way that aligns with our new understanding of what the world is. And patterns disintegrate, our path is made differently, the world feels different, our horizon moves.  And the world is born anew – again and again as we continue on the path that’s forged by entering into this work.