Transpersonal Coaching & Psychology
Transpersonal coaching is an integrative, balanced and embodied approach that unites psychological and spiritual perspectives. It stems from Transpersonal Psychology - an approach to psychology that was first introduced by psychologists such as Abraham Maslow in the early 1960s. It is known as the 'fourth wave' of psychology and is based on the belief that we are more than an individual body and mind; we are part of a larger, unified field of consciousness.
I work with Highly Sensitive People from a transpersonal perspective. This means I integrate rather than disregard transcendent or spiritual experiences that we can't always make sense of, and I'm especially interested in our journey of psychospiritual transformation. Spirituality is separate from religion or any specific doctrine and is understood universally as an inner experience of connecting to something greater than oneself, such as the sacred and meaningful.
The Traits of Highly Sensitive People
Researchers such as Elaine Aron have long proposed that Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) – the official name for Highly Sensitive People - is an innate trait that impacts around 20% of the population and is also found in over 100 other species, such as dogs, fish and birds (Aron et al, 2012). It is associated with greater sensitivity (or responsivity) to environmental and social stimuli. This includes having more significant brain responses associated with awareness, memory, self-other processing and empathy.
The traits of high sensitivity include depth of processing, overstimulation, emotional responsivity and sensitivity to subtleties. Depth of processing relates to high levels of self-awareness and an enhanced perception of the world such as seeing what is beyond the mind's eye. Research has shown that highly sensitive people are deep thinkers, interested in spiritual ideas, and highly likely to engage in meaningful work (Aron, 1996).
HSP tend to be deeply impacted by the arts, nature and when they form deep connections with others – their brain registers these experiences with greater reward and emotions. There is a sensitivity to subtle changes in their internal environment, such as thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations (Aron, 1996), and their external environment, which means their nervous system can get easily overwhelmed. Research also suggests that HSP have more mirror neurons responsible for empathy, and there is also more activity in the areas of the brain that handle emotions. In other words, they have more diverse and intense emotional experiences, which can have huge benefits but also be overwhelming at times.
HSP is not a Disorder
Being highly sensitive doesn't put you into a distinct or separate category from others, and it is also not a disorder, weakness or flaw. Like many things, it exists on a spectrum, which can range from extreme to moderate levels of sensitivity. Increasingly, the scientific community acknowledges 'neurodiversity' which suggests we are all wired differently. Neurodiversity states that there isn't a 'normal' - we are all unique, and it's essential that we celebrate the struggles and strengths that come with our diversity and individual experiences.
A Soul's Purpose
My work as a transpersonal coach is based on the understanding that we have a soul or a core self that is already whole and complete - we are, in essence, already healed. Sometimes parts of us might get stuck, disowned, or function in unhealthy ways because of our past wounds and experiences, yet we can integrate and bring all parts of us back into wholeness. This ability to integrate and bring ourselves back into wholeness lets us shift limiting beliefs and stories that kept us stuck in unhealthy and destructive ways of being; to move forward with more significant direction, clarity and flow in life.
I believe being highly sensitive is connected to each person’s unique, soul purpose and the traits of sensitivity are valuable gifts that are very much needed in the world today. For many highly sensitive people, their intuitive, empathetic and insightful nature has been present from a young age – with a natural ability to question what is in front of them. Often they are driven by meaning and purpose and a desire to contribute towards an alternative narrative of the world. I believe high sensitivity is correlated to the archetype of the healer, which encompasses the qualities of wisdom, insight, reflection, contemplation and transformation.
My work as a Transpersonal Coach
Highly Sensitive People reach out to me for 1-1 coaching for several reasons. Some are struggling with anxiety, burnout or a loss of meaning and direction in life. Many are having difficulties with their relationships, an ability to set boundaries or communicate authentically with others. Some struggle with self-compassion or an ability to navigate the intensity of their emotional experiences. Many highly sensitive people have experienced spiritual or transcendent experiences that they are trying to make sense of and integrate into their lives.
Potential vs Pathology
I focuss on potential rather than pathology and although times of crisis – such as burnout, anxiety or stress - can be difficult, these experiences hold the potential for us to grow, emerge and encompass greater levels of being. I help people interpret their experiences in meaningful ways and provide a supportive framework that recognises the transformative potential of challenging experiences, instead of treating them as something to be repressed or ignored.
I guide Highly Sensitive People to reframe their sensitive traits, moving away from vulnerability and weakness to perceiving them as strengths and having a purpose. In fact, because those who are highly sensitive are so responsive to the effects of their environment, research proposes that they are more likely to respond to interventions and can not only do well but thrive when placed in nourishing environments – this is known as 'vantage sensitivity' (Pluess & Belsky, 2013).
I also support clients to connect with their intuitive awareness and alternative ways of knowing. This includes trusting the unfolding of our day-to-day experiences, tapping into our creativity and listening to the wisdom of our body as opposed to relying solely on the logical mind or analytical thinking. This involves finding a balance between the masculine and feminine polarities of ourselves - finding acceptance and presence for what we are experiencing whilst also setting goals and working toward greater transformation and wholeness.
Aron, E. N. (1996). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group.
Aron, A., & Aron, E. (2010). Are there positive and negative facets of high sensitivity? Presented at American Psychological Association, San Diego, CA.
Aron, E. N., Aron, A., & Jagiellowicz, J. (2012). Sensory Processing Sensitivity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16(3), 262–282. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868311434213
Pluess, M., & Belsky, J. (2013). Vantage sensitivity: Individual differences in response to positive experiences. Psychological Bulletin, 139(4), 901–916. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030196
About the Author
Jules De Vitto is a transpersonal orientated coach and educator who is experienced at helping Highly Sensitive People overcome anxiety, stress and burnout.
Jules is Highly Sensitive herself and is also passionate about helping Highly Sensitive People to step into their authentic power and allign with their true purpose in life. She lived in Asia for eleven years before moving to London and integrates Eastern practices and modern-day mindfulness into her work.
She has a degree in Psychology, an MA in Education and an MSc in Transpersonal Psychology, Consciousness and Spirituality. She’s a published author through Changemaker Books and John Hunt Publishers and wrote Resilience: Navigating Loss in a Time of Crisis to help people through the Covid-19 Pandemic available here.