Having worked in the healing & coaching field for years, I would like to share with you some counterintuitive ideas that I find true, and that many of my colleagues resonate with:
- The very issue that brought you to the therapist/ coach, is usually not the real issue that needs to be addressed.
Be it burnout, addiction, chronic illness, anxiety, depression, whatever is bothering you is only a messenger. In the language of IFS (Internal Family System), the part that's seeking therapy/ coaching is a "manager", who wants to manage or get rid of the pain. If the therapist/ coach goes with the manager, wanting to help the manager to fulfill their goal, then the therapist/ coach would already lose her centeredness.
That's also why healing and transformation take time. We need to first show compassion to the manager, have them collaborate with us, and then slowly go to the hidden but more crucial territory.
- Before you get fundamentally better, it may look like you're going backward for a while.
Healing shakes things up. The carefully preserved status quo no longer serves you, and now with a therapist/ coach, you can't deny it further. That is good news in the long run, but for a short period of time, your system may experience an internal alarm: "Watch out! We're in danger!"
And then the old sweet habits will kick back in to help you keep the old identity of yours. That's why you may "relapse" into drinking, smoking, eating junk food, and binging on porn... Actually, in my practice, I don't use the word relapse at all, as if healing is linear, or if something repeats then it's a failure.
- When therapy/ coaching works, it's not because of the methods or insights, but mainly because of the attention, the presence, and the relationship.
We are social animals; we need lots of cuddles, laughter, eye contact, and companionship. Most people who seek healing did not have enough of these when they were young or do not get them from family or friends.
A therapy/ coaching container, however, would provide undivided attention, open curiosity, and compassionate words, and even touches. These alone are already transformative. What's even more powerful is if the therapeutic/ coaching relationship is authentic, vulnerable, calling out bullshit, welcoming conflicts, and assuming the best intention mutually. Then the client is directly experiencing what it's like to be in a healthy, mature relationship.
- If there's no tension at all between the therapist/ coach and the client, then you might be in "fake healing" for a while.
One of the common patterns of both therapist/ coach and client is to be a "nice person". When you think about it, that's what drove them to where they are now in the first place. Being nice can show up in a healing session as well. The therapist/ coach can be extra empathic, and the client can be super cooperative, taking every word seriously, and never missing any homework.
When this happens for a few times, both may pause and check: Wait, are we actually playing within a certain pattern? Are we performing progress? That's a good show, but for whose benefit?
- If the process feels stuck, chances are at least one party had withheld something from the other. When that got spit out, oftentimes a breakthrough is around the corner.
Sometimes when I sensed something is off in a session, I would ask the client: Is there anything unsaid? Any withhold? Are any jackals (judgments) towards me? If you don't censor yourself at all, what do you want to say?
That's my favorite part of my job, to be honest - the low pressure in the air, the elephant in the room, the stillness before the storm, the rainbow, and the fresh air after the shower. I love to experience the full spectrum of relationship dynamics with my clients and do my best to hold space for their "negative" comments, which are always gold.
And as a coach, I don't pretend that I don't have any judgments. With time I notice that, actually, a non-judgmental neutral attitude, which looks like a very spacious healing place, is less alive and less powerful than some unfiltered, raw, human, first reaction.
That's how I slowly developed my coaching style: spicy, penetrative, and disco-like. People get warm, cold, electric, tingling, teary, and smiley in one session. And mutual honest sharing definitely plays a big part.
Curious about how that feels?
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For more information about my coaching, check here.