When I first started out in psychotherapy and coaching, I desperately wanted to create a definitive, pre-defined approach to my work with clients.
I saw other coaches outlining the specific conent and stages of their coaching packages, and I thought maybe I should be doing the same. I doubted myself, and got carried away with my worried thoughts, rather than trusting what I already knew to be true, deep down.
A part of me was longing to describe the process in an set way, and outline the perfect ‘formula’ that would get my clients from A to B. To decide a particular focus for each session in a six-session package, for example, that would take a person seamlessly through their evolution and transformation and offer a predefined result by the final session.
To latch on to some certainty, in this unnkown terrain…
However, I soon discovered that this was not only futile, it was wrong.
To insist that a client follow certain stages, or focus on particular activities or aspects of themselves, on demand, is very disrespectful to the uniqueness of us all. It does not honour our ever-changing nature, our personal seasons and cycles, or the wisdom within each person. Worse still, it can actually prevent something a person is ready to express or come into contact with, and block the organic unfolding of their process.
To impose a rigid, pre-defined framework on someone’s healing and evolution, also undermines our inherent creativity – both mine as coach or therapist, and the client’s own creative capacity.
Having said that, it was extremely annoying and inconvenient to me and my ego, when I discovered that my attempts to make things go a certain way actually flopped or fell short. It was a blow to the part of me that’s hungry for certainty, that loves frameworks, that seeks this mythical ‘definitive formula’ or pathway that can be applied for our healing and evolution.
And it also tapped into my insecurities about not being a good enough coach.
But the work became so much richer and deeper, as I surrendered to the unknown creative potential of each moment, live, in session with clients, that I soon got over myself.
All this is not to say I don’t have great clarity and experience of what can help or hinder the coaching process, or what it takes for a person to heal and grow.
There are some very useful tools and concepts that can very much help the work, as I mention in the video, such as working with the inner critic or inner child aspects of ourselves. I also understand the kind of holding and attunement it takes, to support someone to create new neural pathways, and experience new dimensions of themselves.
And I certainly have clear boundaries and agreements in place around the coaching process, as well as exploring clients’ intentions for themselves. Having such a solid container for the work is actually very important.
Allowing room for magic…
However, once the work begins, I must let go of any preconceptions, and remain open to the goal posts changing. I allow room for surpises, and most of all, I create space to be guided by my client’s inner experience as it is unfolding, moment by moment, within a session.
And that is why we both listen, sense, feel into what is going on within our bodies, our emotions, all the subtle sensory information that points the way. And these clues lead us to the deeper truth, bringing people home to their wholeness. To who they really are, and what needs to be said or done in their lives.
Much of this also comes down to trusting the unique combination of the two people in this deep dynamic – the match of coach and client, person to person.
It really is an art form, a unique dance, each time. I see this work as part science, part art, and part magic. The unknowable, unquantifiable alchemy that occurs when a person unpeels their old layers, and uncovers something new and creative, without yet knowing what that will be.
It’s so beautiful to hold space for a person as they open up to finding out more about themselves, and discovering what’s really inside, what they really feel, know, need, desire, experience… uncovering who they really are and what their true potential is.
This stance is known as ‘Creative Indifference’, in Gestalt therapy, because there is so much fertile potential, in being able to stay present with the discomfort of not-knowing.
This takes huge courage!
And to impose a set pathway would undermine that. It would get in the way of the person feeling into their own strength, growing new skills, trusting their own wisdom more, if I swan in with an imposed idea of what I think ‘should’ happen next. It’s so much richer to offer people this experience of openness, allowing whatever happens in a session the space to be just as it is. There is no right way, and nothing that comes up is ‘wrong’ – it’s all perfect and exactly what needs to happen.
When I say that I trust people’s inner wisdom, that’s not just a coach’s catchphrase or a cliche – I have found it to be consistently true that people know what’s right for them, and what to do next, once they are supported to connect to the information inside them.
And any time I think I know exactly what’s going on, or what should happen next, it usually tells me I’ve lost contact with myself, or with the client, and am barking up the wrong tree. Or it can actually block the organic inner knowing that is wanting to surface…
Surrender, trust, let go, and surrender some more…
So this is the art form and the challenge for coaches and therapists doing this kind of work.
TO LET GO. To really surrender and trust, in ourselves, and in those we work with. To stay open and curious about what is unfolding live in each moment, while also being grounded and connected to our own bodies, listening to all the signals coming from within.
And that is why I love this work. Because it challenges me and nourishes me, and because it’s so important. We all need more spaces where we are witnessed and attuned to, while developing deeper connections with our inner selves.
To retrieve the wounded parts, that got buried in our unconscious, yet show up in our bodies and painful behaviours. To get to know, love and trust our true selves deeply, and embody this unique expression of ourselves in the world.