The change process, the coaching journey…whatever you want to call what we do as I walk alongside you, is a tricky balancing-act. I’m going to be totally honest with you. Sometimes it gets messy. Emotionally challenging. We get into a whole bunch of stuff that sometimes we’d probably rather ignore, or at least pretend aren’t part of the puzzle.
But that’s not how we grow. And that’s not really how this whole coaching thing goes.
This week we’re bravely going to be looking into some of the dark spaces. Action is critical for change. But real growth goes hand in hand with a little bit of discomfort. Let’s just call it growing pains.
Coming from a place of fear or of love?
I like to think of the coaching work I do as “soul-work”. I believe it’s about helping you listen to your heart’s whispers, taking you out of your head and ultimately aligning you to your soul’s calling.
Anyway, the more of this soul-work I do (with you, and personally too) the more I am convinced that all our feelings stem from one of two polar ends of a spectrum. We are either driven by feelings based on fear or those that are firmly rooted in love.
Think about it for a minute. All those ‘negative’ emotions – anger, jealousy, impatience, anxiety, even hate – they are all grounded in fear or at least have some tendrils that wind their way back to a fear-filled place. I don’t need to compare the opposite situation. You know where that point is going. But the key to fully engaging with this is so very simple. Whilst there are two base emotions that are really driving whatever we are actually feeling at any given time, in practical terms there is only one.
“But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross)
It’s that “or” that makes all the difference when we’re tackling growth.
Fear and control
Our fears are often derived from situations where we feel that we are losing control, or maybe never had any in the first place. Where we are with people who deplete our control, or we allow them to take control. Life has this incredible way of throwing us headlong into situations where we learn this lesson the hard way. Believe me I know.
The sudden death of my husband showed me undeniably that when it comes to how things turn out, I am very often at the mercy of circumstances that I have zero control over. I lived the entire first year after Charles’ death operating from a place of fear. In fact in some visioning work I did earlier this year I realised that if I’d had a ‘word’ for 2016 it would have been fear.
Some people would say that I was in a position to control the nature of the relationship I endured with Charles though before he died . That I allowed him to control me, that I allowed myself to be part of an emotionally abusive relationship. Perhaps. There is still apart of me that shamefully believes that (check out what I believe about all of that here)
So this whole fear/control relationship is a complex one. In my personal growth over the last couple of years I have battled viciously with fear. There are still times when my reactions are borne directly from the fears that embedded themselves so brutally back then. However a huge part of my healing and learning has come with the freedom acceptance has granted me.
An exercise in acceptance
“How wild it was, to let it be.” (Cheryl Strayed)
Life hurts sometimes. Unbearably so. And we all have the scars to prove it. Sometimes though we do just have to make friends with reality. It’s not possible to go back in time and choose differently, say differently, do differently.
I have a few practices I use when I’m with clients to help work through this messy phase. If you have a journal grab it, or go and find a piece of paper. Write down a list of all the things that are causing you pain right now. Big or small, old hurts or new ones, it doesn’t matter just let that list flow. It’s not about re-feeling the hurts, we’re not after an essay for each one. Just name it and move on to the next.
When you’re done, go back through your list and for each entry ask yourself, “is there anything at all I can do about this?” Be brutal with yourself. If there is (and maybe you just don’t really want to but know in your heart that you probably could) then start a to-do list on another page and sort that shit out. Because if it’s causing you pain and there is something you could do affect a different outcome, come on…be a big girl and sort it.
But if there’s literally nothing you can do then you need to take a long hard look at it and write ACCEPT straight through the words. This accept thing is a one-off deal and it is immensely powerful. It enables a huge shift of energy and focus. Literally a letting-go and a surrendering. Pretty wow actually!
The power held in our shadow
While we work on accepting the things we can’t change that affect our lives we normally stumble upon the shadowy parts of ourselves. Oftentimes the very acts and behaviours that are so abhorrent in others are the exact parts of ourselves that we reject. Or at some point have labelled as “bad”.
It’s easy to own our light. The “good” characteristics and traits that we display to the world – the things we sell to rest of the world. Our darker side we often try to hide or ignore and hope that she won’t surface in front of others. Oftentimes they are two sides of the same coin.
I love to own my strength and fierceness – they’ve seen me through some of my darkest days. But on the flip-side, when I’m not at my best the darker side of those same traits come out as anger, a short-temper and impatience. I love to make decisions and make shit happen. But sometimes that decisiveness isn’t necessary and I can come across as too direct when inaction slows down progress. More impatience.
“The brighter the light, the darker the shadow” (Carl Jung)
If we are going to grow we can’t just focus on the light because we aren’t just sweetness and light. That’s not a true reflection of our whole. More than that, if we can’t recognise our dark side we are allowing others to define that space. And it’s not for them to do. Own your total Self. ALL of it. Shadows and all. It’s freeing and empowering.
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he represents anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good – he represents joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
Sometimes it’s really good that I can be decisive. Channelling the energy that is tied up in my darker side is actually incredible when I can turn it towards a positive outcome. My competitive streak for example is mega when I’m in the pool racing (whenever that was!) – it’s definitely not part of my business space though.
There are a whole bunch of exercises you can do to help you understand your light and dark. It’s something you need to be gentle with yourself about though – don’t be doing it when you’re feeling fragile! This understanding brings self-awareness, and being self-aware is a good thing. Owning your whole self is even better. I can name my shadow qualities and I can do so without any shame or embarrassment now. That’s been a process, and it carries on. Alongside self-awareness comes self-acceptance.
Remember that exercise earlier about accepting the things you can’t change? Well there’s acceptance involved here too. Our shadows are part of who we are. Wherever we go, whatever we do, our shadow follows. We cannot out run or hide from it.
“Sometimes the shadow stays next to the light, sometimes it disappears into the light.”(Rumi)
There’s nothing to fear in the dark. There is power in the shadow.
If you are ready to do some soul-work, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make it happen.