For years I lived under the shadow of ending up like my mother. With a clinical depression, not in control of my life, wasting a huge potential for happiness and self-fulfilment.
I was so afraid this would become the truth that I locked down as deeply as possible any feeling that seemed a bit off, any thought that frightened me, and stayed as far as I could from any let’s-get-inside-your-insides form of support.
A good friend from my days as a dancer told me about a session she had just had with her psychologist. She was excited by the revelations she had experienced and how it had changed the way she felt about herself. I was aware of the jolt of energy emanating from her. This, coupled with knowing she had had a “dark” childhood story similar to mine, prompted me to follow her advice to “just try it”.
When I met Rebecca at her office for the first time she was nothing like I had expected. She was in her 60s. Her room was furnished like the old living room of a person who loves books, plants and antique carpets. Everything that I too love. She didn’t flood me with questions about the past. She was patient, kind.
Most importantly, she didn’t say “you’re amazing, you grew up to be who you are with a history like yours.” For me, that was the sign she’s what I needed. She simply got me.
I felt like I had a relationship with a mother I had never had before.
Fast forward a few years. I was in need of support. My coach was the opposite of everything I had been looking for in a therapist or a coach. She was younger than me, bold, spicy, and she used the 'F'-word without flinching.
She had had a lot of experience in both meditation and therapy, and she didn’t take any BS for an answer. Just like me. With her, I felt I had a wise spiritual friend, and I could comfortably lay my meditation teacher and life-coach hats aside for a while and simply be myself.
Unlocking your gift
Why do you think people come to your coaching/therapy?
Because of your special expertise that no one else has? Because you hustled enough on social media? Because your educational credentials are impressive? Because you wrote a book? Because you have been able to manifest your qualities?
While some of these qualities will for sure bring you some clients, I guarantee this is not what makes people say ‘yes’ - not 'yes' to paying you money but to opening up their heart and giving you their trust.
Today, in a world filled with free online knowledge and training, and a lot of very excellent books in every bookstore, what you have to offer is one thing - your humanness!.
One client told me once “to see how you handle yourself and your life gives me strength to be myself”.
Your ability to show up as a human before you show up as a ‘title’ allows you to form a relationship based on deep genuine connection. When you see yourself, you allow another to be seen. That’s what really makes a difference - to you, to your client, to the world.
How to build Trust
Each person has a different need and those needs change as we evolve.
Some need a coach who can just cuddle them. Others need tough love and a kick in the butt. Some are looking for a wise mothering presence. Others need a wild free spirit to light their fire. Some need the authority that comes from an open person who shares their own experiences while others need to feel the authority of those who feel they’re higher up in the pecking order and have more knowledge.
People may not even consciously know what they need or what they’re really looking for, but they can sense it. For me, the most supportive forms of healing relationships always started with those who were clear about who they are.
What comes up for you when you reflect on those that gave you the strongest support?
Trust is not something we build!
Innately we have trust we just nee to relearn how to let this capacity out to the light.
Learning to know myself has been the biggest gift for my clients because I’m not trying to be everything for everyone. It has taught me where my trust hid and now I can teach others how to trust themselves.
My first client was very dependent on me. She counted how many words I’d write in my responses to her emails in between sessions. When I dived in with her to that pain she said “I expect you to be my womb”. I realised that what I’d like to offer her and what she would like to receive from me were two different things. It taught me to be clearer about what it is I actually offer people.
“No one knows the dream better than the dreamer,” said Carl Jung. That is true of both our night-time dreams and our life-dreams.
There’s no right or wrong. We all need different things at different stages on our journey. You can’t be right for everyone. It’s not your dream to decipher. With presence we might be lucky enough to be able to offer the other the right thing at the time. Because the moment is full of potential.
Shedding light on hidden gifts
Jules mentioned her ‘darkness’ in one of my sessions with her as something she doesn’t appreciate and thought she would have healed by now. I was curious to learn what she referred to as her ‘darkness’. She said at first she didn’t really want to express it out loud, but she gave it a brave try nonetheless.
When I first met my own ‘darkness’ it was in a meditation retreat. I was so afraid of it that I had a full-scale panic attack.
Jules said that she finds she is happy when she learns the person she’s talking to has had as difficult a start in life as hers. I told her that I feel the same. Because I can have a completely different resonance with people who’ve 'been there' than with those who haven’t.
This made Jules feel she’s not a bad person who wishes others to have a bad start in life. Her ‘darkness’ was flooded with a new light.
She continued by saying that she drifts a lot to horrific imaginings. For instance, in a busy crowd she’ll instantly imagine a terror attack where she and her loved ones get hurt, where there’s lots of blood and fear.
I told Jules that I have these kind of phantasies as well. We live in a violent society where there’s violence everywhere - in advertising, driving, moving, politics. We internalise this violence and our mind makes marmalade out of it.
But mostly it’s because we know that we are vulnerable and our survival brain responds immediately to possible threats. Jules resonated with her intuitive response to her vulnerability and her desire to protect her loved ones.
On that day of my panic attack, my meditation teacher guided me through. She taught me how to meet the places in myself I’ve never met before. She taught me how to stop being afraid of myself - even from the most unpleasant darker rooms in my own mind.
Without going into my own darkness and looking at the parts in me that are not nice to look at - I don’t have humanness to offer to my clients. My credentials will never cover up for that.
The only thing that can bring light to darkness is awareness.
Awareness is all love.
When we take the brave step to go beyond our training and invest in exploring and becoming aware the corners of our own existence, we ensure that we are forging a beautiful gift that will not only serve our own life but will be a gift to pass on to people we serve.
Your human gift is not something you’re born with, but a presence that has been forged through honest meeting with your own demons and fairies, with your pains and joys.
Shelly is a Life Alignment Coach and a meditation teacher who brings close to 15 years experience in helping people grow from challenging feelings and life's questions through self-knowledge. She is a pioneer in the movement of integrating authentic conversations about feelings, healing and vision in business.
You can get in touch with Shelly here.
Photos credit: profile by Caroline hancox
In article: Anastasiya Pavlova on Unsplash ; Mathieu Stern on Unsplash ; Mae Mu on Unsplash ; Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash ; Craig Whitehead on Unsplash