Embracing the Shadow: Honoring the Coach’s Parts
If we do our own inner work with our own parts, we’re less likely to hold judgment of a part of ourselves, and therefore we’re less likely to judge that part when we encounter it in others. It can be difficult to advocate for social justice if we haven’t brought social justice to our internal world. The healing and reparation work of honoring marginalized parts starts at the individual level, but impacts families, organizations and larger systems. Honoring all parts means we take a stand for honoring internal and external diversity.
As coaches, we often attract clients who are working on issues similar to our own. Th eir troubled parts are often similar to our troubled parts. Inevitably, our clients trigger us. When we get hijacked, occasionally compassion, curiosity and courage are not enough to return us to a state of equilibrium. Suppose a critical internal part says, “You’re a terrible coach,” right in the middle of a session, and follows that up with, “You should just quit, right now. You’re not helping.” First we can take a breath and empathize with the Critic, “I hear how troubled you are, but if you can step aside for now, I’ll talk to you right after the session.” Many parts are willing to step back temporarily if they know they will eventually be heard.
The process, the structure, the skills we use in Embracing the Shadow are not nearly as important as how we connect—with an open heart, deep curiosity and full presence. By loving each part of ourselves, we create trust that all parts can get the understanding they’ve been wanting. When we connect energetically with a part, and allow ourselves to emotionally engage, other parts begin to trust us. We can bring ourselves into the relationship with each part, without bias, without disconnecting. This opens the doorway for our clients to do the same.
Doing our inner work deepens our trust—in ourselves, in our clients and in the process. When we know how to listen deeply to all the voices in our inner world, we are naturally more eff ective in getting others to do the same. But we don’t have to wait until every part of our internal committee is in harmony. We can start by honoring parts that want to be heard, and keep welcoming new parts as they show up. Our parts will love us for it—many will be astounded and grateful to fi nally be heard.
Questions to Consider
What parts of yourself are you eager to get to know?
What parts of yourself are blocking you from doing shadow work?
What parts of your clients would you like to avoid?
What is your commitment to exploring your inner critic?
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