The Sensitivity Cycle: How to Get Yourself Unstuck

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a five-part series examining the Sensitivity Cycle, and how to use the cycle to overcome resistance and the dreaded feeling of being stuck. Click here to read Part 2, click here to read Part 3, click here to read Part 4, and click here to read Part 5.

The Sensitivity Cycle should be required learning for any human trying to understand themselves, and the world around them, more fully.

Developed by Ron Kurtz, the Sensitivity Cycle is an aspect of the Hakomi Method that explores how a person’s experiences are perceived, processed and carried out. Each of us processes our surroundings and understandings by moving through our own personal cycle. When the cycle is fully functional, meaning that a person is processing his or her experiences in a healthy way, he or she has four elements that are in harmony.

The Sensitivity Cycle is a four-part process:

  • Insight — the ability to learn from an experience and develop clarity about what comes next

  • Action — using the insight to take action and create change

  • Nourishment — the measurement of the effectiveness of the action and the ability to take in satisfaction, or recognize depletion

  • Rest + Reflection — the ability to process and integrate experiences by holding time and space for yourself while also letting go of the action

When all four of these are working well in a person’s life, there’s a sense of flow that comes from this healthy cycle of processing. However, most people are more skillful at certain areas, while other areas are places we tend to miss, making us less able to process the cycle, and potentially getting us “stuck” in unhealthy patterns or situations.

Working in San Francisco during the dot-com era, I found myself in that “stuck” place. I was working endless hours, and was burning out. I was passed over for a big promotion I was expecting that made me rethink what I really wanted in life.

Discovering the Sensitivity Cycle later, I was immediately intrigued and looked back to this phase of my life. As I studied the cycle and how my system liked to work within it, it became clear to me that I often, then and now, struggle with Rest + Reflection. Without this important step, I risk being out of harmony mentally, physically, and emotionally. Without it, it’s impossible to take the opportunity to relax, step away from my work, and unplug.

What’s interesting is that without Rest + Relaxation, the other parts of the cycle didn’t work as well either. I was literally too busy to have a strong sense of Insight, which is born from the Rest + Relaxation phase. I couldn’t clearly see that what I was doing was wildly depleting, and I wasn’t able to make clear decisions when it was time to take Action. Not being able to act effectively, things just didn’t feel satisfying; experiencing Nourishment from my actions was barely possible.

If you know you have a place (or two) within the Sensitivity Cycle that tends to get missed, don’t beat yourself up. Our culture, the way we are raised, and the strategies we develop to succeed can all (often unintentionally) get in the way. With knowledge of each area, however, along with a little awareness of your own learning edges, you can begin to up-level your own cycle and launch yourself into a better state of flow.

Perhaps being stuck for you is the feeling of being physically sluggish, or an emotional block. Maybe you even feel completely burned out. The upside is that being stuck gives you the opportunity to build this awareness; to understand and free yourself from the places you habitually lock into or miss. And then, armed with this information, to move forward into a place of more freedom and flow.

I commonly see this manifest in a client’s career – when someone says they’re stuck, the possibility of a career transition usually comes up. Sometimes this is the solution, like it was for me, and sometimes a more-simple pivot provides the needed freedom and ease. I always look to the Sensitivity Cycle during coaching to guide us to the answer.

In this series, we’ll be looking at each of the four areas in depth, what it looks like when it’s out of harmony and what it looks like when it’s flowing. As I walk you through this series, I invite you to share your insights into your own Sensitivity Cycle.

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