It is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid getting caught up in identifying with the label that matches to one’s own sex. Men by and large want to be masculine; however because of the way the feminine has been experienced historically, women are more conflicted or divergent about their relationship to the label ‘feminine’; nevertheless, a woman will almost inevitably assume that ‘feminine’ has something to do with her fundamental nature. It is possible that this idea holds some truth but for the purpose of this thesis, its inaccuracy is far more important. The stereotypical images of male and female that we have held in various cultures through history are complex, multifaceted and profound in content. Rather than holding these images as telling us about what men and women are like, we can perhaps begin to understand them as outward signs of the kinds of limiting projections each sex makes on the other and the kinds of restrictive expectations we have of ourselves.
Coaching grounded in the feminine principle
I am not in any way implying that the masculine principle ought to be negated and is secondary in importance. Considering that the feminine principle has been so devalued and neglected in our understanding of life and, consequently, during the coaching process, I am urging coaches to be attentive to this principle and enable the coachee to develop the orientation that is more appropriate for the challenge at hand.
Also, I believe that the process of coaching ought to be centered in feminine principle as much as in the masculine principle to influence the relatedness between the coach and the coachee. Not knowing, experiencing, being rather than the doing which are characteristics of the feminine principle most definitely have a place in the coaching space. To begin a coaching acquaintance with a coachee means we begin in the dark, by the light of the moon. We do not know how the coachee will work through his dilemmas, challenges, questions and quests; collaboration instead of the individualistic approach is the nature of coaching.
The masculine approach is to tell, to advise whereas the receptive feminine approach believes that everything the coachee needs lies inside him. To take the feminine approach will be to mobilise and actualise the wisdom within by facilitating a process of discovery. Instead of trying to act on the coachee the attempt is to receive from him what his psyche is trying to produce. This is not a passive standpoint; it is an actively receptive one. It is about wanting to be with the coachee rather than do something to him. However this feminine work must be contained and supported by the dynamic masculine principle’s rationality, just as it is contained and supported by the static masculine principle of the framework of the coaching model
CLIENT: Hema (name has been changed for confidentiality purposes)is in her early 40’s , successful at work, highly qualified and a management graduate from a top tier B school. She came in a distressed and angry state, unhappy with her current situation at work and personal life. She had reason to have hoped to achieve real eminence by this time of her life and much of her self worth was invested in this hope. She felt she had compromised her ‘self’ in trying to fit into this aggressive masculine oriented corporate world. She took up dance to get in touch with her feminine side and even changed the way she dressed. But nothing altered the way she experienced her self in professional and personal relationships. She held strong opinions about most things and was judgmental and critical toward those who did not epitomize her standards. She constantly looked for courses to do; on relationships, on love or on being feminine and also engaged in therapy to satisfy her expectation that she know everything including her ‘self’.
There was an excessive concern with standards and expectations, to ‘fit into’ a collectively defined standard ( a clear static masculine characteristic). She termed herself the ‘ugly duckling’ constantly trying to fit into various systems.
In her personal life Hema had been unable to maintain a relationship with a man for any length of time, being disillusioned too soon with what at first appeared to be his fine qualities. She was attracted to charming, witty, seductive men who were fun to be with but were unstable and insensitive.
Here we can see the dynamic feminine principle projected onto her lovers, for whom she carried the static masculine, which they had split off from. As she has been unable to bring her own dynamic feminine to consciousness and integrate it, she was unable to put up with it in her lovers for long and therefore rejected them. They resisted to fit into her rigid expectations and therefore were not tolerated for long. She was angry and bitter and was given to stints of depression, an expression of her negative dynamic feminine.
While she is clearly identified with the static masculine, the dynamic feminine is experienced as a conflict between control and impulse. The dynamic feminine is disempowered and disowned and viewed as inappropriate, this feeling also stemmed from messages she had received as a child from her system. This inner conflict also led her to project these needs onto the relationships she was in.