Research Paper By Johanne Allaire
(Life coach, CANADA)
Underlying beliefs can play a big role on how people see the world and how they behave. Research has shown that many of these beliefs are developed during childhood. The coaching process can help the client uncover those beliefs that may sometime be preventing them from living an authentic life – a life that is true to their values and beliefs. This paper will present two techniques that a coach can utilize to uncover and shift an individual’s underlying beliefs if they are not honouring them.
How Can Coaching Help Clients Uncover Underlying Beliefs?
Many clients hire a coach because they want a change in their life. These changes can vary from finding a new job, getting healthier, seeking a more balanced lifestyle, reduce stress, etc. In her book, Life Makeover, Cheryl Richardson states,
Each client’s story was unique and yet they all had one common goal to live a more authentic life, one that reflected their values and most treasured priorities (Richardson, 2000, p. 1).
The client may be prevented from living their authentic life or making the change that they want because of underlying beliefs. These underlying beliefs can be defined as
fundamental, deep-rooted beliefs about who you are and your place in the world. (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p 124).
Gregg Baden, in his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief suggests that these beliefs are often developed during childhood and are hidden in our subconscious.
Underlying beliefs can be generally classified into three main categories – achievement, acceptance and control (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p. 125-128).
The coaching process can help the client become more self-aware and clarify their values, beliefs and what is truly important to them. It can help the client better understand their emotions and behaviours that may be holding them back.
Uncovering Underlying Beliefs
Many methods can be used by the coach to help the client uncover underlying beliefs. Below are two techniques to support the client in uncovering their underlying beliefs.
In using these or any other techniques it is important for a coach to understand that some clients may find the process of discovering their underlying beliefs to be uncomfortable. It is important for the coach to create a safe space, not to judge and to proceed according to the client’s agenda. It should also be noted that because the client uncovers their underlying beliefs it does not mean that they will automatically start living more authentically. It will be up to the client to decide how to use this new awareness and how they want the coach to support them.
The first technique presented in this paper was developed by Gregg Braden author of the book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief. By answering a series of questions honestly, it can shed some light on the experiences and the people that the client draws into their lives. The author designed the questions in a manner that helps clarify patterns of subconscious beliefs that may be holding the client back from joy, success or achieving what they truly want (Braden 2008, p. 91–96).
When completing Figures 1 to 3, it is recommended that the client use single words, concise adjectives or short sentences.
Identifying the positive and negative characteristics of the childhood caretaker.
By completing Figure 1 below the client identifies the positive and negative characteristics of their childhood caregivers – the people that took care of them before they turned 15. This can include parents, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, etc. The lists should be prepared as the client would have seen their caregiver as a child.
Figure 1. Identifying the positive and negative characteristics of the childhood caretaker.
Identifying what was important during childhood.
In Figure 2 the client lists the things that were most important to them during childhood. The client should answer the question from the perspective as the adult that they are now.
Figure 2: Identifying what was important during childhood
Identifying and dealing with childhood frustrations.
The client describes what frustrated them as a child and how they dealt with their frustrations.
Figure 3: Identifying and dealing with childhood frustrations.
Step 4: The client completes following statements.
Statement 1: I sometimes attract people into my life who are… [Finish this sentence using the answers from Figure 1(A)]
This statement can help the client recognize that they sometimes subconsciously attract people into their life (currently and/or in the past) that often display the characteristics that they least liked in their childhood caretaker.
Statement 2: I want them to be… [Finish this sentence using the answers from Figure 1 (B)]
This statement demonstrates to the client what they expect from others are often the qualities that they admired in their caregiver as a child. Those characteristics were beneficial to the respondent as a child and are still perceived that way as an adult.
Statement 3: So that I can have… [Finish this sentence with the words from Figure 2 (C)]
From the perspective of a child, this statement can illustrate what the client wants or needs. Even though the client is now an adult, they may be searching for the same things they did when they were young, but they try to get it in a more adult way.
Statement 4: I prevent myself from getting this sometimes by… [Finish this sentence using the answers from Figure 3 (D2)]
This last statement is the most powerful as it may suggest that the client may be preventing themselves from accomplishing what is possible in their life by continuing to use similar techniques they used as a child to get what they want. Most humans are creatures of habit and they tend to stick to what works. This can be healthy if it is honouring what the client truly wants, however it can be unhealthy if it is preventing the client from getting what they want and need.
This exercise can be done many times and render different results because the context may change for the client. It will help bring to light different patterns of underlying beliefs. The author also suggests that this technique can be very powerful when someone is going through a challenging time.
In their book The Resilience Factor, the authors Karen Reivich and Andre Shatté have developed a model that can help the client uncover their underlying beliefs. This model will help the client understand behaviours that have confused them for a long time.
The coach begins the process by asking the client to describe a situation where they overreacted or they let a small thing ruin their day. Then the coach asks the client to break down the experience as follows (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p. 67–75):
Once the ABCs have been determined, the authors’ state that the coach and client check the B–C connections and focus on the following issues (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p. 139):
- “Check whether the Cs are out of proportion to the Bs
- Check whether the quality of your C is mismatched with the category of the Bs. That is if you feel sad even though your ticker tape suggests anger, or you feel embarrassed although your ticker tape is about how you’ve harmed another person
- Check if the client is struggling to make a seemingly simple decision”
If any of the above situations are present than the coach would move on to use the “Detecting Icebergs” skill. The coach would ask the following questions (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p. 139):
- “What does that mean to [you]?
- What is the most upsetting part of that for [you]
- What is the worst part of that for [you]?
- What does that say about [you]?
- What’s so bad about that?”
The authors emphasize that it is important that all these questions are phrased as “what” as opposed to “why” questions. This allows the client to understand the belief or emotion as opposed to defending it. The coach does not need to ask all of the above questions or in the order listed, but only ask the questions that they feel need to be explored.
Shifting the Underlying Belief
Should the client decide that they would like to shift their underlying beliefs, the coach can use the “Logic Patch” developed by Braden. The author suggests that a belief can be changed through the power of logic.
For a “Logic Patch” to be effective the mind needs to see a pattern that leads to a rational conclusion and makes sense. There are a few ways that a perspective can be shifted. The client can look for someone who they perceive to have accomplished the impossible- someone to prove the belief to be wrong. Secondly, the client can build their own “Logic Patch” (Braden P. 169-171).
This exercise is a framework to organize the client’s belief into statements that are true and can’t be dispelled. Here is the process to follow:
The client states:
- Key 1 – How they feel regarding the desired outcome as if it has already happened. For clarity, it’s important to do this in one concise, brief sentence (e.g., I will feel successful when I get the job as a diversity manager).
- Key 2 – Which passion they choose to express (e.g., I have a passion for creating an inclusive workplace).
- Key 3 – The limiting belief(s) that they have about themselves and/or filling their need. (e.g., My limiting belief is that I am not competent enough).
- Key 4 – The opposable of the limiting belief(s) (e.g., I am competent).
- Key 5 – When they feel most fulfilled in life. This will become their goal (e.g., when I help people).
- Key 6 – The inarguable fact(s) that support their goal (e.g., the company needs to be inclusive to be successful).
Using the statements above the client creates their personal logic patch below:
Coaches can play a pivotal role in helping their clients uncover the underlying beliefs that may be preventing them from living an authentic live. This journey can be difficult for many people. Many different techniques exist to uncover underlying beliefs and two were presented in this paper. The first exercise helps the client understand the type of people and experience they draw into their lives and the second helps the client understand behaviours that have mystified them for a long time. Although the techniques presented in this paper are very simple to use, they can lead the client to reflect on whom they are and increase their self awareness. It can help set them free to move forward to the next stage of their life.