Healing approaches

Transformational coaching: Creating space for new possibilities

Woman Juggling Balls

By Laura McAvoy, transformational coach.

All too many women become engulfed in the complexity of family life as they attempt to juggle roles, responsibilities and demands. They often lose sight of who they are, what their desires are and what is truly important to them.

A first indication that a disconnect may have taken place is that people feel flat, generally dissatisfied or ‘stuck’. For some women, this situation can become very uncomfortable, leading either to a numbing and suppressing of that inner niggle, or feeling emotions, such as anger or shame, rising to the fore.

If an individual ends up staying in this zone for any length of time, it can have an impact on their self-acceptance, confidence and resilience, making it harder to break free from a loop of dissatisfaction and inaction.

But this ‘stuckness’ can actually act as an invitation. For, in reality, it is our inner guidance rising up to tell us that something is going on that can no longer be ignored. Something about where we are focusing our energy, time and attention is no longer serving us.

When viewed in this way, the fact we have noticed how stuck we are could almost be seen as a gift – as long there is no self-judgement in the noticing, that is.

This is where transformational coaching comes in as it offers women a way in to exploring the richness of their own power, wisdom and creativity. The aim is to help them tune into their inner guidance, embody their truth and generate significant shifts in their personal and professional lives.

Butterfly on zen Stones

‘Transformation’ is a powerful word, but the work is all about supporting women’s journeys based on a partnership of equality and respect. Women are not ‘broken’ or in need of ‘fixing’ and so their coach does not offer advice. Instead, by means of questioning, reflecting, challenging and space-holding, each individual is trusted to find her own answers. It may sound very simple but it can also be immensely powerful.

By drawing attention to the story a woman tells and gently unearthing old thinking patterns, she is supported to shift perspective and change her beliefs about what is possible. Significant insights usually come to the fore quite quickly and, as a result, she will start to feel less trapped or stale, and instead feel more empowered to move forward with confidence.

I call this being in a space of ‘almostness’. It is a space of possibility. ‘Stuckness’ may alert us to the fact that something needs to change, but when we are willing to accept and relish the openness of being ‘almost’ but not quite there, we often feel empowered to explore things more fully.

The path to clarity is rarely linear though. In fact, it is much more aligned with the circular form of feminine energy. This means that women coming to this work for the first time often feel as if they are being held and understood.

Women can look at their situation, their needs, and how they are being in their own lives knowing that ‘almostness’ is OK. They can spiral around this space, focusing on different angles and perspectives each time until they begin to gain clarity and insight. That is when they will begin to shift – although very often not in ways they had envisaged at the start.

But each client is always in charge of her own journey. How deep any exploration goes and to what extent new thinking is created, or new actions taken, is always the choice of each individual.

Strength

As for me, I am the founder of ‘Open Out’, an organisation that offers transformational coaching and dialogue, group coaching courses and coaching circles exclusively to women. My speciality is in helping competent and capable women, who have got to the point where they want to reassess their lives and feel that they are being called to change – whether that change be physical, situational, emotional, relationship-based, psychological or spiritual.

The coaching experience is often about helping someone return to wholeness, and for many of us that includes returning to the ‘tribe’ of womanhood. But in reality each individual can own any turning point in her life if she notices, engages with, and allows the personal growth that is inherent in each experience.

As a result, I often integrate mindfulness and meditation practices into my work. Mindfulness principles such as focusing on the present moment, accepting things in a non-judgemental way, letting go and the like are really helpful when we are keen to make a shift in life.

But do be careful not to be in too much of a rush to set goals and get to the end point and instead enjoy where you are for now. As the old adage goes, we all have to arrive somewhere before we can depart.

When a woman chooses healing and wellbeing – as is her right – it is often connected with the health of her family, relationships and wider society. I feel honoured to support that reclamation and am always awestruck to see the impact of each individual’s new choices and ways of being as they ripple out in positive ways.

But for anyone who feels ready to start this journey, make sure you find the right coach for you. Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds and have a number of different specialisms and interests, but to ensure your work together is fruitful, it is vital that your relationship is a positive one and you feel their approach works for you. In other words, take the time to find someone who really resonates with you as it will make all the difference in the world.

LauraMcAvoy

Laura McAvoy provides transformative coaching and dialogue for women. She also offers group coaching courses, coaching circles and 1:1 work, all of which incorporates mindfulness and meditation. She works in Saffron Walden, Essex, and the surrounding area.

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Inspiring stories

Picking up clues on the journey to self-discovery

silhouette of a man during sunset
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

By Helen Preston, counsellor, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert and reiki practitioner.

In 2007, I read an article in the Sunday Times that changed my life. It resonated with me very strongly, although at the time I had no idea why. I cut out the page and stuck it in my ‘little book of inspiration’.

It was written by a woman who called herself an “intuitive”. She was sharing a little of what she did, how she did it and how she helped others to make sense of their lives. These words were particularly emotive for me:

“The inner world is created first, our thoughts create our environment. So it’s about what you decide you are about to become. When we truly know ourselves from the inside out, we no longer look to the outside world for validity. Inner beauty comes when we ‘know’ ourselves and it manifests as confidence and self-assurance.”

At that time, I was lacking in confidence and self-assurance. We’d moved house for the fourth time in five years, my children were very young and I was a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mother and a friend. But I didn’t really know who ‘I’ was.

I had a feeling there was something I was missing but didn’t know where to start the search for ‘it’. I just knew I needed to keep those words. What I didn’t do was write down the woman’s name. I cut out her picture – she’s looking gently into the camera’s lens and there is peace in her eyes. As corny as it may sound, she has the serenity of an angel.

The thing I’ve grown to realise is that you don’t know what you don’t know. That said, I’ve grown to believe, through my own experience, that what you need to know will show up – sometimes in the words you read in a book or hear in the lyrics of a song, sometimes through a chance encounter with a stranger or a poster on the side of a bus. The messages are everywhere – we just aren’t looking. Our lives are too busy, too frantic and too stressful to notice.

From the moment we are born, we are being conditioned. We are taught to seek approval. We are discouraged from being who we naturally are for the convenience of others. Fear is ever present. As the BeeGees once sang, ‘staying alive’ is what it’s all about. And of course this is true, but there’s a big difference between surviving and thriving.

In the article, the intuitive said: “Some people don’t understand what I do – including my own father. But I never really edit who I am. Not everyone can like you: I learned that in the playground.”

Looking inside

Woman meditating on a mountain
Woman meditating on top of a mountain (Bigstock)

Back in 2007, I was surviving too and it didn’t feel great. My stomach was tight, my breath shallow and my fear and anxiety levels high. I was still editing myself for others. I was the people-pleaser I’d learned to be from early on. In truth, I didn’t know who I was. But I knew there must be more to life than this.

The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said: “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” I say: “If you don’t go within, you go without” – and I say that because it scares me how much would have been left undiscovered if I hadn’t sought out a relationship with my spiritual self.

Instead I rocked up at a spiritual development group at The Arthur Findley College in Essex’s Stansted Mountfitchet in 2010 after a ‘chance’ conversation with a stranger at a party who made the suggestion. I learned to meditate. I learned to let go of fear. I learned to open up to my feelings and feel safe doing so. I developed a trust in myself I had never imagined I could feel. I developed inner confidence, resilience and contentment. I found my tribe after a lifetime of feeling like the odd one out. It turns out that I wasn’t so odd after all.

But Jung also talks of the shadow side – the part of us that we don’t want others to see and that we find difficult to accept is within us. We can hardly bear to experience those feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, of not being good enough or of not being lovable.

So rather than sit and feel the discomfort of those old wounds and try to find healing, we distract ourselves with activity. We try to escape from something that is intrinsically part of us. A client once told me that after having ‘run away’ to Hong Kong to escape her pain, she realised that she had simply taken herself with her. As a result, she realised it was necessary to face her inner suffering and heal it in order to be free.

So what does spirituality mean to me? It means living in the here and now, being aware of what is around you, but also feeling what is within and working with your own inner peace. It is living your life from a position of unconditional love rather than fear, having faith and trust that everything is happening exactly as it should be, and learning from life’s lessons.

At the time, I didn’t have the first idea why that article spoke to me. But although I had no real understanding of what the intuitive was saying, I did feel it was important in some way.

Like a clue in a ‘Scooby Do’ cartoon, one piece of the puzzle appears to make no sense in isolation, but if you pick it up and take it with you, you’ll be one step closer to solving the mystery. Actually since then, I’ve collected a whole book full of clues: sayings, articles, inspiring words that others have shared which resonated with me. And each clue has taken me one step closer to me.

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Helen Preston is a counsellor, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert and reiki practitioner. Her approach to therapy acknowledges the crucial inter-relationship of mind, body and spirit. Helen is a member of the National Counselling Society and has an Advanced Diploma in psychotherapy and counselling, a Diploma in Hypnotherapy and an EFT Master Practitioner certificate.