Coaching conversations - courage
This is the first in a series of articles highlighting coaching conversations with some of my clients. They’ve all given permission for me to share the information with you and, of course, they’re anonymous. It goes without saying that we explore lots of what might be going on behind the scenes too including any medical or other conditions that I need to know about. Where necessary, a good coach will always refer clients on to other professionals.
What I’m sharing is précised as the actual conversation was much longer, but I hope it’ll inspire you if you resonate with some of the issues described.
Today’s conversation came about when Janet came to see me. She said she felt anxious and fearful about life and wanted to change things as she felt it was holding her back. This is how the conversation went.
Q: "What is fear to you?"
Reply: "It holds me back. It’s all-consuming and feels out of control. It feels like it takes me over like an invisible force and stops me; I can feel it physically. I also feel like I can’t think straight a lot of the time and I feel like I’m on the go, and then crash."
Q: "When do you feel what you’ve described as fear?"
Reply: "Sometimes it makes sense that I feel fearful. Like when I’m about to do something that’s new or I’ve had a fright or bad news. But sometimes it seems to happen when I’m not expecting it. I’m not even thinking about something worrying, but I still get the feelings. Some days, it’s like I feel it all day."
Q: "You’ve described the feelings – tell me more."
Reply: "I feel it in my solar plexus first, like a fist tightening. Then I feel like I can’t breathe and it’s like my whole body goes rigid, and yet liquid at the same time. It’s like my body isn’t my own."
Q: "And, what else can you tell me about when you feel fear – what sounds can you hear? What can you see? Are there any smells you’d associate with it?"
Reply: "Everything goes deathly quiet and in slow motion. I’m not sure about smell."
Q: "What would it be like if you weren’t fearful?"
Reply: "Oh, brilliant. I could just get on with my life!"
Q: "So you’d prefer to have no fear at all?"
Reply: "Ah, I see what you mean – no, I guess fear is a fundamental part of our survival strategy to keep us safe from dangers like getting run over or if we’re being followed/chased."
Q: "You’re right. When we become aware of something we believe we must feel fearful about, our bodies leap into action to produce brain chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. These are primaeval strategies to get us ready to run or fight the danger, and the chemicals can stay in our body for some time if we don’t take some physical action.
"Where we come a bit unstuck is that, quite often, we don’t need to run away from danger in our modern world, so the chemicals are never used up. However, if we’re stressed, running three jobs, constantly on social media with all of the calls to action, then there comes a bit of a cycle as the body becomes used to feeling this way, and feels like it’s on alert all of the time. This can lead to fear being perceived in places that wouldn’t normally arouse such a response.
"That might be why you say that sometimes you’re feeling it all day. And, when our bodies are on alert in this way, our thinking brain kind of goes offline. It’s not needed. The only thing that needs to be decided is how to get away from the danger. I’m wondering what will happen if you continue in this way?"
Reply: "I think it will just get worse and worse and I’ll do less and less. I feel I have to stop the cycle."
Q: "Tell me what might be the opposite of fearful?"
Reply: "Well, brave? Or maybe courage?"
Q: "I noticed as you said those words that you sat up straighter and looked just a little more determined. Did you notice that too?"
Reply: "Oh goodness, yes!"
Q: "That gives us a clue as to how you can, perhaps, think another way. I’d like you to bring to mind a time when you felt really brave or courageous."
Reply: "Hmm. Yes, I’ve got one."
Q: "Take a moment to really bring to mind the detail of that time. Use all of your senses to bring that time to life. It might be in pictures, sounds or feelings or something else. Let me know when you have a really clear understanding of that in your mind’s eye."
Reply: "Yes, that seems really clear now."
Q: "What do you notice about how you are?"
Reply: "I’m making eye contact with everyone. I’m standing up straight. I’m smiling and joining in. I feel really light and yet very grounded like I could do anything. I’m wearing clothes I feel good in and feel like I’ve really taken my place in the world. Oh my!"
Q: "I’d like you to make what you can see, hear and feel even clearer, then bring that picture round to the front of you. When you’ve done that, take a step forward into the picture and let it surround you. Absorb it all and become a part of it."
Reply: "That feels so good and was so easy to do!"
Q: "What’s it like for you?"
Reply: "I can really imagine I’m there with all of those feelings. Wow!"
Q: "What name would you give this feeling that you have now?"
Reply: "Courage. Just courage."
Q: "So as you come back to the present time, bringing ‘courage’ with you, what do you notice?"
Reply: "Well, I feel like I could do anything actually!"
The conversation ended with us establishing that Janet could access this feeling any time she wanted, and we agreed on an action plan to make sure she could remind herself of her new skills.
As you can see, this process is easy and a good coach will help you to go through it yourself, and help you learn how to be able to make it ‘stick’ and not revert to old patterns. Using NLP in this way is a very powerful tool to help you make long-lasting changes.