A Coaching Power Tool Created by Gabrielle Karam
(Empowerment Coach, UNITED STATES)
What is love?
According to the Merriman Dictionary, love is defined as, “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (Merriman). Love has been a favored topic of philosophers, poets, writers, and scientists for generations, and many other people and groups have often fought about what the definition means. Most people would agree that love means strong feelings of affection but there is quite a bit of debate about what its precise meaning is. One person’s definition may be very different than another person. A few possible definitions are a willingness to prioritize another’s well-being or happiness above your own. A second definition is feelings of attachment, affection, and need. A third definition is having strong feelings of attraction and respect. A fourth definition is a fleeting emotion of care and affection. Lastly, love can be defined as a choice to commit to helping, respecting, and caring for another, such as in marriage or having a child (Help).
There has been a debate about whether love is a choice, something permanent, fleeting, or whether love is between family members and spouses are programmed or indoctrinated. Love may be different depending on the culture. Each of the debates about love may be accurate in different times and places. For some, love may be a choice and for others, it may feel uncontrollable (Help).
Love and Lust
In the early stages of a relationship, it can sometimes be difficult to know the difference between love and lust. They are both associated with physical attraction and a rush of feeling good chemicals. They both can give an overwhelming desire to be close to another person. Out of these two, only one is long-lasting. The one that is long-lasting is love (Help).
Love is something that grows between two people over time. Love grows by getting to know your partner and experiencing life’s many ups and downs together. Love involves commitment, time, mutual trust, and acceptance (Help).
On the other hand, lust has to do with merely sex-driven feelings that draw people toward one another initially and is based mainly on the urge to procreate. It is characterized by sex hormones and infatuation. Lust can distort our ability to see a person for who they truly are and consequently, it could or could not lead to a long-term partner.
The ideal relationship, some may say, may involve a balanced combination of love and lust. Lusting for someone is important in the beginning phase to cultivate a long-term partnership. (Help).
Perspective on Love
Martha, a 63-year-old woman came to me one day hysterical because she just found out her husband gambled away nearly all of their life savings. She was proud of the money she had saved from her job as a teacher for retirement. Martha has a history of back spasms and was having horrible spasms and throwing up because she was so upset. She felt so much shameful because she trusted her husband with her money. She came to me because she felt I came from a place of love and would know what to do and how to help her get out of this shameful state. I told her “Martha if you have nothing but love, you have everything. The money, in this case, is external, it can be replaced or worked for.” She started crying because she was so happy and felt so much love from me and she even agreed with me. The perspective of resentment and pain were once present in the circumstances but after she talked to me for a couple of hours her energy totally shifted! It was absolutely beautiful! The challenging circumstance definitely transcended with a change of perspective because she went from a place of anger and anxiety to a place of love fairly quickly. I was so glad that I could help her while she was going through such a hard time. Martha changed the way she perceived matter and experienced an improved mood because she took some deep breaths over the phone, I ran her through meditation, and told her a few simple kinds and encouraging words from one friend to another. She also then knew if she needed help financially she could rely on her kids, family, and even friends. Martha shifted from an intense remorseful place to gratitude and love.
Perspective on Shame
According to Lexico powered by Oxford,
shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior (Lexico).
Shame can be a self-conscious emotion. It informs us of a feeling inadequacy, unworthiness, regret, or disconnection. Feeling shame shows that is it clear that our good and positive feelings have been interrupted. Other people or situations can trigger shame within our own being but so can failing at meeting our own standards. Shame can lead us as humans to feel flawed and it motivates us to hide from others and ourselves. It is unfortunate but makes sense why shame avoidance can lead to withdrawal or addictions that try to mask and soothe its impact (Psychology Today, The Roots).
Shame can often be confused with guilt. Guilt is an emotion we may experience as something we have done wrong and wish to make amends. We will likely talk about guilt to others and admit situations that left us feeling guilty but rarely talk about situations that made us feel shameful (Psychology Today, The Roots).
Situations real or imagined may trigger shame. One may attack oneself as being inferior in competitive endeavors or believe others will notice one’s flaws. Shame will be felt when we wait to be viewed as lacking or inadequate in our intellect, appearance, or abilities. An example would be, a woman gained weight had a hard time leaving her house she wanted to avoid the shame it triggered her being in public. She harshly devalued herself, and her belief was that other people in public would judge her (Psychology Today, The Roots).
Attacking others often serves to disown what the shameful person feels. In order to escape shame’s self-diminishing effects, expressing dislike toward another person by shaming them re-locates one’s own shame in the other. A man, who expected to be judged as not enough, would manipulate the self-esteem of his partner by belittling her. When she became self-conscious and needed his approval he would then feel more confident as well as be able to blame her for any failure on his part. By doing this it is a self-protecting maneuver among narcissists. Besides, narcissism to the core is just intolerable internalized shame that is denied awareness. (Psychology Today, The Roots).
I feel we have all experienced some sort of shame in our lives whether it is chronic shame or acute. As humans we all face hardships. Often times it is not easy to talk about painful emotions such as shame. Shame can make you want to whither away in your seat. Being a human, this can sometimes make you want to disappear from existence altogether. Being a strong and reliable coach it is important to keep the client accountable for their underlying beliefs about shame and transmute them to a place of love. I believe we all come from a place of love when we are born and somewhere along the way we get taken out of that loving space. It is my job to help clients return to love. For example, if a client states to me they would like to move forward free of feeling shame from a cultural belief they were ingrained into believing and to become more of their true self by what they currently believe versus what they were taught. The goal would be leaving shame behind and loving themselves despite what others think. Although, the humiliation of what others think, especially the client’s family, can see to be very overwhelming. The client can move forward by creating an action plan. The action plan will talk about love and what the client will need to feel this love and leave shame in the past.
Some clients may come across bold and brave which they may be. The client is there to seek the coach out for guidance and the coach is also there to help with whatever shameful thing that they are battling within. Starting with a few questions that probe difficulties:
- What are some ways you can be vulnerable? What would it take to be?
- What is in your way of being vulnerable?
- What would you need to do to ask for help from _____?
- What is the worst that could happen?
When the different ideas of shame are lying in front of the client and the coach, the coach can explore why the client wants to keep them shielded:
- What was a time you asked for _____? How was the experience?
- What is the most terrifying thing that could happen? What ways can you prepare for that?
The clients going from a shameful place to embracing love takes some guidance. Peeling back the layers of vulnerability that goes with the shame can be terrifying and useful at the same time. I believe once the client gets there the client will be smooth sailing from being in a place of shame to being in a loving space. Having the client build up the strength to take steps towards love is like healing a paper cut. It does not happen all at once but will become stronger and heal better the more it is exposed.
- What would you need in order to feel courageous enough to ask for __________?
- What could you do to make it not so overwhelming?
- What if you felt strong enough, what would you do first?
Lastly, for the client to live a long satisfying life of love the client must rejoice in the progress he or she made getting to a state of love. Asking the client to talk about when the client finally turned shame into love will allow the client to remember that place where shame started to fall away and their own peace within began.
- Where do you show love in your life?
- What would your life be if you were constantly feeling shameful and not coming from a place of love? How would your life be different than it is now?
- What places in your life do you feel shameful? What would you like this shame to feel like?
- What can you do to learn from the shame you feel in your life?
- How can you help support your clients to be confident in showing their ways of displaying love?
- What does living from a place of love look like for you?
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Lexico Dictionaries | English. (2019). Shame | Definition of Shame by Lexico. [online] Available at: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/shame [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].
Merriam-webster.com. (2019). Definition of LOVE. [online] Available at:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].
Psychology Today. (2019). The Roots of Shame. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/is-psychology-making-us-sick/201608/the-roots-shame [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].