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Working with Resistance: A More Perfect Teacher

Many coaches talk to me about the resistance they experience with their clients.  This is a fascinating topic because it opens a rich vein of inquiry. Working here leads into deep developmental work. Yet, coaches often view the resistance as negative – hence triggering their own resistance to “resistance” and rather than moving with it, deal by avoiding, diverting or bowing in the face of its force.

For a coach willing to work with her own resistance there are useful questions and actions to take. (These also assist the client to find out what underlies their “stuckness”.)

First, acknowledge the resistance.  This is important. Too often the stepping around the resistance leads to superficial work. Call it by its true name. Some measure of liberation occurs here.

Inquiry can include questions like:  What fears are coming up for me? (for example, “my coaching can’t be very good’ or “the client doesn’t really like me” or “I’m not good at enrollment”.  There thoughts and their variations we visit (and re-visit) often.  A way in is to ask, “what’s happening somatically as I explore?” (Checking in with our sensations isn’t only for our clients. It is our way to work with ourselves as we become more skillful with clients.) What emotions are arising? Once you discover your pattern, you’ll know where your edge is and you can begin to work with it.

Making the invisible visible creates space around the suffering – which resistance always signals. This space expands when we are willing to hang out in it. Staying there requires working with the breath and the body – grounding ourselves.

What in your environment supports the resistance? Notice the conversations you are in wondering if the support or challenge your current understanding. (Hint, if these are very comfortable, you might wonder what they keep you from exploring.)

What do you do to return to center? Use whatever method you employ. Depending on the extent of what surfaces, you may take this “hanging out in the suffering” in small doses., grounding, then returning to underlying experience that Resistance reveals, and grounding  again.  With clients watch their breathing, their shoulders, etc. carefully to modulate how much is enough for one sitting.

Once grounded yourself (breath work, qigong, conscious embodiment, etc.), allow the field, universe, God (rather than your body) to hold the resistance while you can explore like an archeologist (structures, environment) and an anthropologist (culture, language). You work with a client in much the same way.

If you can hold resistance as a teacher opening a door to deep understanding much becomes possible in your work.

Are you willing to step through the door?
(to be continued)

Posted in Coaching, Coaching: Resistance, Leadership

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