A Coaching Power Tool Created by Juliana Kushner
(Holistic Health Coach, KOREA (Republic of South Korea)
Definition of Terms
Coherence: The individual, intrinsic logic driving someone’s beliefs and behaviors, generated by core areas of meaning, feeling, and emotional learning.
Counteractive: Attempting to push a solution that is at odds with the underlying coherent root of the behavior we are trying to change.
Pathologizing: The act of labeling someone’s behavior as inherently wrong or abnormal; failing to recognize the individual logic behind the presenting behavior.
The Power Tool
To be freed of our attachments/blockages and become able to move forward and make progress on any given topic in life it is necessary for us to feel seen, understood, and accepted. This applies to our relationship with ourselves, those in our personal lives, as well as in a coach-client relationship.
How often do we label someone else’s behavior (or even our own!) as “crazy” or “just looking for attention,” and dismiss them without truly trying to understand what it is that makes it necessary for the person to exhibit this specific behavior? Other times we ask, “why can’t you just do x, y, or z?” as if it should be easy and the person is purposefully making our lives difficult. These are all examples of failing to recognize the coherence in the actor’s behavior, and bears the result that the actor feels criticized, unseen, and misunderstood. The actor gets the message that we care more about the effect their behavior has on us than truly understanding them.
Respecting someone’s coherence takes much more effort than pathologizing. Pathologizing is the easy way out, which consists of simply making up our explanation for a confusing behavior—respecting someone’s coherence requires adopting a stance of not-knowing while applying a genuine interest in the inner workings of the person with whom we are dealing.
If we want to make true, lasting changes in our lives we must acknowledge the coherence of our current state before we try to change it. As a former monk, Jay Shetty fittingly said, “if you want to move three steps forward, you have to go three steps deep.” Failure to do so and trying to push forward with change results in being counteractive. We fail to have clarity of what is blocking our path (=we have not found our coherent reasons for being exactly where we are now), yet we try to change something. This triggers a conflict of interest within the actor and results in installing progress, self-sabotaging behavior, and procrastination.
Frida comes to coaching because she has been promoted at work but is having difficulty assuming the new role that involves managing people under her and delegating tasks. She explains, she just seems to be a follower type (=she is pathologizing her behavior) instead of a leader. She has already tried various methods for keeping herself accountable for checking up on her subordinates, but no matter how hard Frida tries, it seems she just can’t get it done right. It must just be a deficiency in her inborn character, she tells herself.
The coach adopts a stance of not-knowing with Frida and guides her to explore her associations with people in positions of leadership. Throughout their sessions, Frida divulges that her older sister has always been bossy, which has drawn unfavorable reactions from family members and other acquaintances. Frida has subconsciously internalized that speaking out in a leadership position means being perceived by others as bossy just like her sister, and she would rather die than have that happen.
Through these coaching sessions, Frida can uncover the coherent reason behind her unwillingness to assume this position of leadership she has been handed. One might say, it has been necessary for Frida to fail at her leadership position to avoid even larger suffering—that of being perceived like her sister—which would be even worse.
By becoming aware of this coherent underlying belief, Frida can step away from pathologizing it or trying to be counteractive. She realizes that she did have perfectly good reasons for being as she is and does not need to consider herself defective in any way. Bringing this coherent background into awareness allows Frida to reason it out, and she ends up reframing her underlying belief, acknowledging that there are plenty of people exhibiting good leadership, who are not perceived as bossy so she is not in danger of ending up being disliked like her sister.
Integrating Frida’s coherent subconscious reasons for her resistance to assuming leadership has allowed her to find her style of leadership that she feels comfortable with. She no longer feels a resistance to checking in with her staff.
Discovering the Coherence behind It All
Some questions to look out for are…
- What benefit does the unwanted behavior bring?
- What is being avoided by applying the current coping strategy?
- What do you risk by giving up this coping strategy?
The Coherence paradigm can and should be applied to interactions with all people, whether in a coaching setting, privately, or when trying to understand oneself. It allows the observer/coach to be free of judgment by taking an anthropologist’s approach to understanding the minds and behaviors of others, and the actor to feel seen and understood. This results in the freedom to transform underlying beliefs for transformative change to take place.