Embracing the Shadow: Getting to Know Parts
Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
Instead of talking about the parts, we talk with the parts. We invite parts to speak for themselves, to share their viewpoint, feelings and needs in their own words. Parts express surprise and delight when they finally get a chance to speak. Even more important, when they learn that the client is truly eager to listen—that’s where the healing begins.
Just like people, parts want to be known and appreciated. Thanking these parts for their service goes a long way toward helping them feel valued.
Many parts will speak of their own accord without much prompting. If the part shows some reticence, we can hold silence or ask some curious questions to get to know a part. What do you want to say? What is it like to be you? What are your gifts? What role do you play? How do you help out? What do you need? What does authenticity mean for you? What else do you want to say?
Getting to Know Parts Example
Coach: May I speak to the part of you that doesn’t want to rock the boat?
Lara: Yes, the part who doesn’t want to rock the boat definitely wants to speak to you.
Coach: Okay, will you go to the place in the room where you can fully be this part?
Coach: And what name would you like to be called?
Lara: Don’t Rock the Boat
Coach: Okay, Don’t Rock the Boat, what do you want to say?
Lara (Don’t Rock the Boat): The organization just took thousands of full-time jobs and made them all part time so that they don’t have to pay benefits. At the other end of the spectrum, the senior executives’ salaries have skyrocketed. And then they wonder why people don’t show up for work.
Coach: What matters most to you?
Lara (Don’t Rock the Boat): Even though I know how angry Lara is about the policies at work, I think she needs to keep a low profile if she wants the respect of her peers.
Coach: So you really want her to have respect.
Lara (Don’t Rock the Boat):Yes, it’s not part of my upbringing to speak up about injustice. As an Asian woman, I’ve learned to take up very little space and to honor other’s opinions. Harmony is more important. But I wish Lara could find some courage and speak up for the underdog.
Coach: I’m hearing another part coming in—the part that wants Lara to speak up. Before we hear from that part, I’d like to give Don’t Rock the Boat a chance to finish. Don’t Rock the Boat, what do you need?
Lara (Don’t Rock the Boat): I need to help Lara find inner harmony amidst all the turmoil.
Coach: What do you want to tell Lara?
Lara (Don’t Rock the Boat): Hmmm… it’s a funny thing, but I want her to find inner harmony so that she can speak up for human dignity.
Coach: You play an important role in Lara’s life—supporting her to find inner harmony. Thanks for serving her. Now can you go back to Lara’s seat?
Lara: I’m back.
Coach: What was it like to hear from Don’t Rock the Boat?
Lara: Intense… inspiring… helps me understand the deeper motivation. To find inner harmony before speaking.
Coach: Okay, are you ready to hear from the part that wants to speak up? Lara: Sure.
Empathizing with parts
Parts do not change because we get them to see the errors of their ways. Ironically, parts are most likely to shift because we value them exactly as they are. Initially, most parts have no idea what they need, nor do they know why they do what they do.
Once we start talking to a part, we can connect empathically by: creating a sense of safety matching their energy getting curious mirroring them physically reflecting their words asking questions to understand exploring emotions listening for their needs recognizing their positive intentions appreciating their contribution to the whole.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this: Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.
For more articles like this, go to the Library for Transformation.