Think about your life coaching sessions. Does your client challenge you to understand his insights and integrate them into life? If that’s so, how do you help them?
Insight is a deep, intuitive understanding of something, often described as a form of inner wisdom. You can picture it as a sudden phenomenon where the ‘suddenness’ appears to be unrelated to the nature of the process that leads us to insights.
This process could involve a lengthy, and conscious preparatory journey, eventually crowned with an insightful breakthrough. But it could also result from synapses firing on the back of connections created without our conscious involvement.
The light bulb flashes and here we are, eureka!
In either case, the experience of insight brings a sense of relief. More than a relief, it may involve a certain giddiness, a moment of euphoria.
It is particularly exciting when we direct the ‘sight’ of the insight inwards, into our very selves. We are all fascinated by ourselves, and it is understandable that we will celebrate insights into the mechanisms that drive our lives.
Just like our vision relies on light traveling through our eyes, insights are instantaneous, and it enlightens our lives. After spending years in the darkness of our own soul, we are enraptured by the capacity to ‘see’ inside us. Such an insight often helps to coach clients to understand how events in the past have affected – usually negatively – the way they think, feel, or behave. No wonder this experience is so liberating.
How do you achieve such insights?
Openness to sudden insights can be facilitated through intense practices of meditation and contemplation, or even through psychedelic experiments. But for most people, such insights occur rarely in isolation. They are most commonly experienced during interactions with a professional versed in the arcana of psychology. Therapists, psychotherapists, coaches, and mentors often help their patients/clients experience such illuminating insights.
Insights can be a false signal
However liberating this sudden experience may be, it should not be misinterpreted. It is a false signal that knowledge alone can change much about our lives. Insights often take the form of propositional knowledge, which is knowledge ‘about’ something. This aboutness points to the distance between the observer and the observed, the subject and the object: “I now understand something about myself.”
Indeed, we may now have an ‘insightful’ view of our own psychological make-up, but the quest to transform it into a beneficial first-person experience is only beginning.
As humans, we are not merely an object of knowledge, however insightful it may be. We live in the first-person singular through action, through practice, through interaction with other humans, and with our environment. We become fully human when we integrate this practice in alignment with our values.
The Role of Coaches
Insights could offer a glimpse of the “North Star” that provides a direction in life’s journey. They could also reveal the reasons why the “Star” was obscured and why we were not aligned with it.
In either instance, clients who gain a thorough understanding of how they function may feel euphoric for a brief period while hoping for a one-time shift that will remove roadblocks that they may have collected in the past.
But this knowledge, per se, is rather useless if it is not translated into consistent action. Clients may understand what they were doing and why, but they are still unable to transform their behavior. It is a coach’s role to bring insights to this practical level, by offering a structure for the client to develop a consistent set of behaviors.
This transition requires hard work and sustained commitment to stay on the right track.
Integration work in coaching refers to how professionals may best help clients embed the freshly obtained insights and build upon them towards a meaningful, sustainable behavioral change.
The etymology of the term Integration derives from Latin integrat, which denotes making ‘whole’.
In the coaching context, this ‘whole’ refers to the entirety of the human person in their embodied, three-dimensional experience.
Integration, therefore, involves embodiment, grounding in our physical existence, and being more receptive to the everyday flow of emotions.
The goal of this ‘whole’ work is to help clients relate on two levels:
- in the relation with oneself and
- in the relation with the world.
Depending on the client, their focus, their communicative preferences, and the nature of relations, emphasis might fall more on the former or on the latter, but it is often a question of degree.
The Client’s Unique Experience
Coaching does not dwell on the client’s past and takes the stock of where the clients are now and how they can move forward. While this is generally true, the client’s unique experience is an important component of the process, as past experiences will certainly influence the client’s assessment of the current issue.
The integration of new insights will involve focusing on what has not been working in the client’s life. This focus could incorporate various aspects, including what Jung dubbed a “shadow” – the disowned part of the self, hidden in the unconscious part thereof. We typically dislike our shadow and we seek to ignore it.
But we have little conscious control over those shadows, and it is best to acknowledge them as the part of the self.
A good example may be anger. Anger, in its aggressive form, is a coping mechanism of the ‘fight’ type. Children learn this emotional coping method very early.
But the application of anger is sometimes displaced from its prototypical role to cope with an observed or anticipated power imbalance.
Anger continues to surface, while the real, hidden message may be instead a call for safety and security, rather than power. In the process, anger sometimes becomes the default coping strategy.
Whatever happens in life affects the nervous and hormonal systems and is stored in the body tissue. Even if the client understands this, this knowledge remains at the level of ‘insight’. Very useful to have, but insufficient to achieve a lasting change. Despite their increased self-awareness, clients may continue to externalize or internalize their responses, unable to move through the emotional baggage of their past.
It is NOT the coach’s role to help the client somehow eliminate anger from the palette of emotional responses. There are situations in life when properly calibrated anger may prove useful and even salutary. But the emotion has to be properly re-integrated.
Anger could be employed constructively, to protect, guard and build, rather than to attack and destroy. When used this way, it can be refined to bestow determination, courage, sovereignty, and empowerment.
What should I do as a Life Coach?
To achieve this, you should help the client cultivate more inner space to allow the emotional energy to move through the body. Many techniques, including certain types of breathwork, specifically designed for aggressive anger, are helpful in this process of integration.
When cortisol is in the bloodstream, it reduces our ability to judge the situation and react appropriately. Breathwork provides immediate relief by slowing down the temptation to follow through on the physiological response.
Longer-term practices, including regular meditation and journaling, help the client to build a healthier relationship with this dominant emotion. This helps build a deeper awareness of one’s inner state. Importantly, this awareness differs from insight-based propositional knowledge.
At every aspect of Being – whether physical, emotional, cognitive, or spiritual – awareness proceeds from mere detection, through acknowledgment to fully embracing those elements of the self that previously remained unavailable to our consciousness. Similarly, self-awareness in DOING also involves several steps towards the mastery of constructive action.
And then what? A certificate of achievement?
Well, not really. Unlike insights, which are sudden and sometimes based on unconscious processing, integration is a long-term process. In fact, it is not a process that will be completed one day. Like any practical skill, it has to be employed, used, rehearsed, continually sharpened, honed, and perfected. There never is an ‘end’ to this process.
But throughout the process of integration, clients, unlimited by their past, will be able to achieve what they desire to do. They will still need to set goals and they will still need to identify their North Star, but their journey will no longer be defined by recurrent fears, chronic self-doubt, and episodic spasms of worry.
Life Coach Certification
At New York Life Coaching Institute, we teach coaches how to help clients achieve such lasting transformations. Professionals acquire the key skills to conduct successful integration work – by holding space, asking transformative questions, deep listening, encouraging insights, interception, providing accountability, encouragement, guidance, and support.
The comprehensive framework involves all the four aspects of Being – physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual and focuses on the human person as a ‘whole’, as the very term integration indicates.
Coaches who master the integration techniques are more successful in ensuring that the clients’ transformation is long-lasting. A proven track record enhances the prestige of the profession and demarcates it from healing and therapy practices that rely heavily on mere insights.
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