Research Paper By Gabriela Sanz
(Leadership Coach, FRANCE)
Very early in our journey at ICA, we learn that therapy is not coaching (ref.1a). As coaches, we should work in the present and towards the future, we are not supposed to work in the past and we should work with totally “functional normal” clients, meaning clients with no other important psychological issues that we are not qualified to work with and must refer them to a specialist (Psychologist/ Therapy).
But it’s inevitable to think that the past surely has an impact on our present and our future. And if we can look at it with serenity and comfort, this will probably culminate in better living. If we are in a good place, at ease with our life so far, we will be more confident to set goals and achieve them and will have a more positive feeling towards the future.
In the coaching practice, we might encounter clients with undigested past events, past traumas that are limiting their lives and we must know how to position ourselves and help them overcome that, partnering with them in coaching journey so they can move forward.
As Ai Weiwei said,
If a nation cannot face its past, it has no future.
I love the fact that our profession works primarily focusing on the present and towards the future. That we focus on moving forward. The process of coaching as defined by ICA“It’s a solution-focused practice, with the goal being to support the client to create their ideal life. A coach’s job is to move a client from where they are now to where they want to be and to do that in a way that allows the client to take the reins and direct the process. The client sets the intention for the session, identifies any goals, and brings forward any blockages or challenges. They do this within a structure and a process provided by the coach. “(ref 1b)
Our role as coaches is primarily to meet the client where he is, partner with him, understand him, fully be there for him, be compassionate and can bring the client to the place in time where he can have a real impact and make a significant change in his life. The past, what had happened cannot be mutated, but the way he feels about it, how this is impacting his life can and this is what makes coaching so powerful.
Dealing with trauma in coaching is tricky, but it can potentially free the client from constant rethinking and with that, from feeling perpetual psychological suffering coming from a past event. The coaching process can bring to light the vicious cycle of constant bad memories rethinking and by identifying it comes the opportunity to change it.
The significance (ref.2)that the client attached to the situation can become a burden, bring him down and be an obstacle to the achievement of his dreams and even stop him from having a feeling of fulfillment in life. The awareness and clarity gained through the process of coaching can bring light to the situation.
Considering that we meet the client where he is, the client needs to be ready to start the coaching journey, meaning that he must be committed to working in the present and be at ease to make decisions aiming for the future. If the client still has a lot to say about the past, if there is still a lot of pain and sorrow attached to what happened, a lot of doubts and questioning, a very negative feeling, therapy might be more adequate at first to explore the subject more deeply, and then be ready to move forward. In this case, we need to refer them to a psychologist.
But if the client is ready to work on the present and the future and willing to overcome the situation and move forward, coaching can be a fantastic way to do it.
So, what are we supposed to do as coaches when we face this kind of situation?
First, we listen, we have empathy, and then we bring the situation to the present, in the most positive perspective possible.
There is nota unique recipe and most of all, not a predetermined list of questions that must be applied, this is the experience I had, and it worked for me. Some of these questions might bring light, create new meanings, and help find new learnings and strengths from self-awareness.
What are the positive learnings you had from this situation or could you have from it? How is this memory impacting your life today?
It’s important to try to move the perspective by looking for more positive aspects like how this made the client stronger, wiser, more prepared, how he transformed. Every situation brings learning and personal development, and perhaps, even more, the difficult ones. We are all a combination of what we have learned through the past years.
How is this thought serving you in these present days? What are you taking from these memories? How should this memory be to help you achieve your goal?
The awareness brought by these questions might be game-changing. The idea of how something is or is not serving you gives you the clarity and the awareness to possibly make a shift. With this awareness, you can’t go back to where you were, it’s like a wakeup call. If something is not serving you, you now know it, you might think of losing it somehow, just letting it go, or reframe it. This is an important step for the healing process. It brings consciousness (Ref.3) to what you have, what you want and don’t want, and what you need.
My next step is the invitation to visualize an ideal future, to try to explore new feelings and reasons for this lighter life:
How would you like it to impact your life today and in the future? What would be your perfect scenario on this? How do you see yourself in this?
And then start creating a new path:
What could help you achieve that? What do you think you need to address to achieve that? What could you do?
Just by exploring and bringing awareness to it with a different perspective, with a more conscious mindset on what we want for the future can unfold a brighter side of life. We all have the power to focus, learn, choose, and change, bringing consequently an important sense of leadership, courage, energy, and potential lightness to the situation.
Understanding that this is not serving them can make them shift to this thinking of how they want to live their lives, how they want this memory to impact or not their living and make them start working to change it. The thought of this possibility of new life will create in the brain a new goal, the bad memory is not needed anymore, not as it is for sure, itis unwanted, and this can be the construction of a new beginning.
The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you. Tony Robbins
Sometimes even the idea of talking about the situation itself might block the flow, but here, with a different focus, focusing on the present, not on the situation itself but focusing on the possible learning from it and heading to the future – this can actually can make the client feel safer. He is not in the past anymore, he is building his future and this can open a new perspective and allow him to start moving forward.
As coaches, with the techniques we learn, the coaching process, we can help by creating space, by allowing exploration, by challenging new brain connections and by starting new signification.
There is an interesting quote I found during my research for this paper that says:
Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility when we choose to take risks, and finally when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.― Edith Eger, The Choice: Embrace the Possible
This quote is very deep, very sharp, and accurate: if there is the will of moving forward, the strengths to change, the courage to take decisions, and be the leader of all of it, the power is remarkable.
The memory of this past event, of this trauma, will probably come back eventually, it is still part of this client’s life, but there will be new possibilities and connections made in the brain that could help the client go through it without so much suffering. It’s like preparing the brain to receive the unwanted memories, there will be less negative vibration, it is bringing a new possible horizon, is being more aware and ready to deal with the feeling. It’s exercising the mind to new positive connections, aiming all energy to achieve a different more positive result.
As Einstein said:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
As coaches, we partner and help clients in the path of healing by exploring with them the possibility to see and do things differently, stay in the present and look at the future, open up new opportunities, build new connections, shape new perspectives, and create a new positive horizon.
You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You can find yourself by coming into the present. – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now.
I want to thank ICA and all of my peer coaches for giving me so much, for being an important part of my healing journey. This research paper is based on my personal story.
I suffered many years from trauma, had a lot of health issues in the past that lead to many surgeries, hospitalizations, and much fear. I did a lot of therapy, but I could never forget or overcome what happened to me. The memories and the distress, the physical and psychological pain, the fear, it all constantly came back to my mind triggered by a very stressful ambiance or a health issue. I was always scared of being in those circumstances again. It was like an anchor pulling me down. I was every time revisiting the experience and then trying to figure out how to forget it. I remember that my therapist at that time told me once to consider the possibility of never forgetting it, but just with time be more comfortable with it and I felt terrified, not forgetting was never an option. I thought the therapist was giving up on me. Now I can see she was right.
Studying coaching, the process, the positive mindset, the learnings made me rethink, stop, and work on myself. I applied all that I mentioned in this paper as a coach and as a client. It is only through coaching that I found the right powerful questioning that helped me create and develop this new “conscious positive leadership future-oriented mindset” that changed my life.
I will never forget how free and strong I felt when I decided to take control of my life and decided to find lightness where before there was only heavy and dark significance.
I decided to let go of the anchor. I stopped thinking about what happened and focused on how these memories were serving me and how I wanted them to impact my life in the present and future. And this was a huge change. I accepted them and stopped revisiting them.
I learned that conscious leadership is something you apply in your life, determining what you want for the present and the future – Leading your brain, body, mind, and soul into a different level of consciousness and new potential of achievement. Conscious leadership can and should be used for healing. The memories still come, but I am more prepared. Scare full thoughts and old memories are not my reality, my present anymore. I accept the fact that they are still there and just let them pass. It’s like traffic in my brain, there is no reason to“dialogue” with the memories, it’s not my goal, and with that, they fade away. I am aware of what I want for my life today and in the future, I made choices, and I stick to them. So at the end of the day, with much courage, effort and practice (still work in progress), I realized I have a choice, I am in charge and I am the leader of my life.
As Carl Jung said:
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
- “Therapy is not coaching
A therapist tends to focus on feelings and experiences related to past events, whereas coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward. A therapist typically works with a dysfunctional person with the aim of them becoming functional. A coach works with a functional person to get them to become exceptional. A therapist might work with people who need help to become emotionally healthy and explore past experiences. Coaching focuses on goals toward the future. Coaching is action-oriented. The focus is on where the client is right now, where they want to be next, and how to get them there.”
- “The Coaching Process
Coaching involves a dialogue between a coach and a client and is a process with its unique competencies and codes of practice. It’s a solution-focused practice, with the goal being to support the client to create their ideal life. A coach’s job is to move a client from where they are now to where they want to be and to do that in a way that allows the client to take the reins and direct the process. The client sets the intention for the session, identifies any goals, and brings forward any blockages or challenges. They do this within a structure and a process provided by the coach.”
Consciousness is by the Cambridge dictionary (ref3): “the state of understanding and realizing something” or/ and “the state of being awake, thinking, and knowing what is happening around you” or/ and “the fact of noticing the existence of something”.