Friday, May 8, 2009

Using Coaching to Manage Emotional Trauma

There are many ways coaching fits into a life. The least obvious is to help someone move forward through an intense emotional crisis. Firstly let me state that coaching is not therapy and that there are definitely instances where therapy is what is required. The difference between the two is that therapy focuses on the historical events, understanding them, talking about them. Coaching has a different context. It is about now and what you can do to shift where you are at, both exceptionally hard when you are stuck in a place of pain. Sometimes coaching is not the answer... but sometimes it is!

It was a coaching call that reminded me of all this. Listening to my friend on the phone I could feel her despair and agony and I was taken back to my own ‘bad’ days when waking up was more than I could handle. There were days when it felt like I was abandoned on a barren piece of rock in the middle of a stormy ocean. The wind and waves raged all around me, trying to sweep me off my feet. I was stubborn. I would not give up and let the world win. I had friends who were subtly there, holding onto me on those days when I could not hold onto myself. My friend had a coach! Me! I was secretly hoping I was good enough!

I sat there and made a space in which she could be exactly where she was. I let her be with that pain and despair, because I knew it so well and I knew it needed space to exist before it would let go. I stood for her greatness and would not give up even though she was on the verge of doing so!

As I listened to her story and despair, it was as if I was in two places at once…both here, holding onto her and in my story, my past! I was watching as the doctors tried to resuscitate my dad … again. The memory of his lifeless, clammy, pale skin, still vivid. He had never woken up. I had never had a chance to say goodbye or I love you or it is ok. I remember watching in the window as his body jerk violently behind the partially drawn curtains as they used the defib again and again until finally a worne doctor came and asked for permission to stop. There was nothing they could do!

I was at my Gran’s bedside watching her in a morphine sleep as she took her last breath, the entire family waiting and holding my Grandfather up. Her struggle with cancer had been lost.

And I was there one cold, winter morning when my mother, my pillar, my rock... died. I was holding her hand, watching the ventilator that was keeping her breathing (and that thanks to a nurse had also been the cause of massive brain damage that had left her brain dead). I watched the monitor as her heart rate slowed. faltered… picked up, faltered and finally just stopped! The only sound left the uncanny movement of the ventilator… no longer required but still doing its job.

As I listened on the phone I knew her pain even though our circumstances were so different. I knew her loss, her solitude and despair. I also knew there was a way out and it was my job to help her find it! I knew then that being good enough was not what it was all about, it was about being there, holding on and believing in her. And step by step…she started to move onto solid ground! Step by step she let go, started to take back her power, started to breath. It is what it is! There is no fighting it! There is just the knowing that you can cause massive changes in your life because you can change the context of your days. You can act independently of your thoughts and your feelings.

I put the phone down and just sat for a while… memories swirling. Coaching sessions are never just about the coachee. I always take something really powerful away with me. I have had my own breakdowns in coaching and experienced the power of a coach from her side but today was the first day I got to experience it as a coach. I had just witnessed the power of coaching and I was in awe. Until that moment I had never really got the power of creating silent space for your client to just be or the power of trusting in her greatness and ability to find her own answers. I knew that coaching could shift pain, now I knew that I could do that as a coach.

Today my bitter and painful past helped release the pain in someone else and I found a new title, pain wizard. My friend and I are both pain wizards, just in different places on our journeys. What is a pain wizard (asides from something I just made up ?) Someone who chose to be borne so that they could really understand pain and suffering for one reason and one reason only, so that they could live a life that showed others how to release theirs. I am still in awe… of coaching, my client and my life!

To quote my favourite author Richard Bach - there is a future out there that could not possibly exist without us having lived today.

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