“I know that I am safe, and yet my whole body starts shaking when my boss raises his voice.”
Eline is sitting – frustrated – in front of me. She’s 36 years old and is responsible for a number of logistical tasks in a company of four hundred employees. She was looking for therapy because she’s about to have a burn-out and isn’t good at setting limits. In our conversations, it became clear to her how her supervisor’s behaviour resembles that of her father. It also becomes clear how her own childhood patterns of behaviour continue to repeat: what’s possible and what’s impossible in meeting expectations.
In a later conversation, she easily makes the link between the past and the present and sees how she often repeats old behaviour and old emotional patterns. She sits up straight, looks at me expectantly and says: “And now?”
Eline’s frustration is understandable. After all, she knows how what’s going on and where her behaviour comes from. However, that knowledge doesn’t stop her from reacting to her boss the same way. Why is it so difficult for her to actually change this?
When I graduated as a CTA (Certified Transactional Analyst), I was well trained as a psychotherapist and I’d also travelled a long way on my own. Yet I felt frustrated in my work and personal development because I didn’t achieve the results I wanted. I started looking for other ways to work. My search brought me to a whole range of different methods, including yoga, meditation, reiki and trauma healing. Based on my experience, I’ve designed my own methodology. This technique is called Embodied Coaching & Therapy. To understand what this means, here’s a part of the theory, based on Eline’s example.
Depending on the contacts we had with our parents or educators in our youth, we’ve all made a number of decisions about how we will continue to live our lives. These decisions are unconscious and form the basis of the survival patterns that each person has developed for themselves. We call these survival mechanisms the script. As a coach or therapist, we help the client through Transactional Analysis (TA) to become aware of what decisions they have taken.
Eline says that she freezes and that her whole body starts shaking when her boss enters the room or raises his voice; even though she knows that she’s safe and that she’s protected from abuse of power within her company. Her body, though, doesn’t seem to realize this. Even when she’s describing a situation at work, her body reacts the same way.
There’s also a physical component to the script. It’s different for everyone. Your body is conditioned to deal with situations. From the very first touch, during the first 3 months of your life, your body already forms the physical part of your script. The way that the body is conditioned is called the protocol. The protocol defines your physical reaction to stress and is based on your experiences in the past. We can see it as the conditioning of the body.
Focus on calm
Coaching often focuses on our thinking, feeling and doing and helps us understand how our behaviour has developed in relation to our youth. From there, the options for new behaviour become clear. Coaching often stops there. Embodied Coaching & Therapy goes beyond that. It provides tools for you as a coach or therapist to best help this client, at that moment, to make the link between what happens in her body (the protocol) and the decisions she made in her youth.
As soon as Eline begins to shake, I ask her what’s happening in her body. I ask her to consciously slow down and describe how the stress she feels shows itself. Which emotion is there? She indicates that she’s scared and crawls away, wrapping herself into the vulnerable foetal position. It’s important for me as a therapist at such a moment to realize that my state of mind also influences her reaction. I consciously seek my inner peace and relax my body. I must let her know that it is safe and her body also has to feel this.
In retrospect, Eline says: “I don’t know why, but I feel much calmer now. I’ll take this calmness with me when I see my boss again tomorrow. ‘
Embodied Coaching & Therapy goes beyond classic TA
The way you are present as a coach helps makes the difference. Coaching by conviction is often not enough to help your client really live the life they want. In the Embodied Coaching & Therapy programme, you learn to work with the client through your own body language and your own body experiences. This has nothing to do with physical touch, but with linking thinking, feeling and doing with the physical experience. You learn to create calm in your body, and more importantly, you learn to distinguish between what happens in the body of the client and in your own body during a session.
Being able to work in detail at the level of the physical protocol is a gift that has contributed enormously to my work and development of people. I also want to share this gift with others. That is why I teach Embodied Coaching & Therapy in January. More information about this can be found on this page. Clients deserve to live fully and you, as a therapist or coach, deserve to be able to achieve that.
Ps. Are you curious about Embodied Coaching & Therapy and would you like to know more about it? Sign up for my free webinar on December 10th.