The first period of the lockdown I spent alone in our house in Hoegaarden. My husband was in Oslo and – because of the nature of his work and the crisis – couldn’t be missed there. I experienced a lack of (physical and eye) contact; alienation; I was overwhelmed – it was all too much. Three feelings that we’re not used to and that literally confuse our nervous system. I realize that there are many people who have run into the same problems.

Warnings are already being issued for an upcoming wave of new and newly experienced psychological complaints, when the lockdown has diminished or has passed. As coaches and therapists, we must prepare for this. In the coming months I will write extensively about these feelings in a blog series about the consequences of Covid-19 for coaches, therapists and clients.

During the lockdown I do have a lot of contact via video calling. With my family, with clients and with colleagues. “Better than nothing,” many people say. However, I notice that I get very tired, much more tired than I would be if I had the same conversation face-to-face. That is what the first part of this blog series is about.

Eye contact

I think the fatigue that arises during video calling has to do with the lack of eye contact. The problem with video calling is that when you look into the camera and the other gives the illusion of looking at you, you only see the camera. So it is very difficult to make eye contact with the person you are talking to.
An understandable bump in technology. But why is this so important now? Why do we miss it so much?

The Gaze

To understand the importance of eye contact during coaching or therapeutic conversations, we need a piece of neuroscience theory, namely that of The Gaze. This is the description of the bonding that takes place just after a baby is born. The baby instinctively looks at its mother. He’s looking for eye contact. If all goes well, the mother intuitively knows that she should look back. She actually says: “Just look into my eyes. You can see that it is safe.” This creates the first contact between mother and child and, of course, a bond forms. The child can attach securely and learn to focus.

Unfortunately, there are situations in which this secure bonding does not take place. This always happens entirely through no fault of the mother. When this happens, there is a chance that the baby will not learn to attach securely. As a baby, they continue to search fruitlessly for their mother’s eyes. This can cause problems with focus and confidence in his adult life. It is important to keep repeating that no mother wants this for her child and that every mother wishes that their child can attach themselves safely. Often circumstances don’t allow the mother to be available for the bond. Sometimes mothers themselves are still looking for a secure bond, which makes it much more difficult for them to adequately answer their child’s searching gaze. There is still so much to say about this, but that’s for another blog.

Facilitating a safe situation

Therapists and coaches often use eye contact to facilitate a sense of security. You give the client the opportunity to recover. A client who – for whatever reason – has not learned to attach securely, will react differently from a client who has learned this naturally. Some clients look away or keep looking around, unable to focus. The safety that eye contact gives  – “just look in my eyes. You can see that it is safe” – you can never facilitate via video calling.

For clients who are insecurely attached, the coach is unable to make eye contact or facilitate recovery as they can in a face-to-face session. This is frustrating for the client and tiring for everyone.

After all, in this contact we keep looking for connection with the other. When we have eye contact, we know the other is there, and our nervous system is reassured. If we don’t get that reassurance, contact is much more tiring

Make video calling easier

We had previously concluded that eye contact during video calling coaching is very difficult and tiring.
I would like to give you three tips to deal with this.

  1. Allow time between the sessions to catch your breath so that you can start the conversation quietly. Know that your stress is contagious to your client and that your inner peace is also contagious.
  2. Accept that coaching via video calling is more tiring than face-to-face and don’t make your schedule too full. Even though it is tempting to fill your day with all kinds of appointments.
  3. Make conscious eye contact when you meet someone “in real life”. Social distancing does not prevent us from looking into each other’s eyes. If you spend this lockdown with your partner or with someone you feel comfortable with, you can do the following Buddha practice: Sit facing each other for 10 minutes and look at each other without saying anything with gentleness and tenderness. You will certainly experience the benefits for your nervous system. Let me know what your experiences are with this exercise.

Being tired is normal

Of course we continue to have a physical need for eye contact because the need for connection remains. It is therefore perfectly normal for you to tire of video calling. I sincerely hope that I have been able to explain to you with this blog why this is, so that it’s easier to just accept that fatigue. Our nervous system just suffers from the lockdown situation and it helps to be extra easy on ourselves.

Do you want to be well prepared as a coach or therapist?

Anxiety and stress-related complaints frequently surface during events such as the pandemic. Coaches and therapists should learn how to deal with this with the help of Transactional Analysis and Embodied Coaching, so that they can deal with the new stream of clients expertly when the lockdown is over.

Do you want to learn more about TA and Embodied Coaching, but you don’t know where to start? Request a free Strategic Conversation from me. Together we can see what the next step in your professional development can be. The button below will take you to a page with more information and you can schedule a conversation in my agenda at a time that suits you.

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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden