Stepmom

I am a stepmom of a teenager. We see each other rarely, because he lives with his mum on a regular basis. Recently his Dad and I, we were given an opportunity of spending a month with him. This was a learning time for me.

What I have learned while being a stepmom for a month:

  • always explain your plans using a language of your needs and „gets” (e.g. I want to go to the mountains because I need movement and fresh air)
  • assume that your best doesn’t neccessarily mean his best; sometimes in his world it’s quite the contrary
  • try to share your likes and fascinations, but be prepared for the answer „that sucks” – keep a distance toward your preferences
  • be prepared for a mixture of emotions – from absolute joy to hate (your emotions and his emotions)
  • be curious, ask and learn
  • find fun in everything that you do.

I would summarize these points in one expression, borrowed from my colleague Maria: PASSIONATE NON-ATTACHMENT.

Thanks, my boy, for the lessons!

Wishing you many discoveries,

Dora

A depressed employee

My client has a depression. Maybe you also have someone like that in your team or in your workplace. This are the people who will not take on any challenges, will not be happy from a public presentation, will not raise their hands up for a new project. 

You might think of them as lazy, not motivated and lacking initiative. But this is what is happening inside of them:

their every day is like a fight for keeping their heads above the water, the water of saddness, grief, powerlessness, helplessness,

small things, like coming to work on a bike or shopping, are already big challenges,

their nervous system is so vulnerable that sees many things as threaths.

You might say they should take the month off and recover. Maybe. But at the same time, small successes build up their self-esteem, and contact with people enables them to forget for a while about how helpless they feel.

So, if you have a depressed employee:

give small tasks with a limited responsibility

broaden the range of tasks slowly and gently

show that you care.

I know a couple of depressed people, who overcame their depression thanks to medication and work. They were not left behind, nobody fired them, they still felt needed despite their condition. Let us create such safe environment in competitive world for depressed employees.

Dora

Negotiations

When you have been looking for a job for many months, having sent more than 250 CVs, it is easy to believe that you are a failure. In a foreign country, where you do not speak the laguage, your broad and deep experience means nothing. You cannot communicate your thoughts, yours strengths, hopes and plans, your experience and all the good deeds that were once your pride. It is easy to believe that you don’t mean anything. 

I’ve been fighting with my Internal Critic for the past 15 years. It is probably not a very comforting thought for some of you. I am of the opinion, that the fight is never over, only negotiations get calmer every time. My Internal Critic suggests me that I forgot how to do things right, I lost my enterpreneurial spirit and whatever I have to be proud of took place long ago in the past. It is hard to negotiate with him. But suddenly, my Inner Child comes out and says: hey, there are other measures in life than those of success. Happiness and joy for example. The paintings I created. The book that I have written. All the times when I swam in the river laughing out loud. My clients’ discoveries and tears. Tones on hugs from my husband and my friends.

And I no longer fear that I am not good enough. I am being remembered as happy.

Wishing you many discoveries,

Dora

Attempts

Someone close to me cannot find sense in his life. He thinks that life is senseless. Not life as a phenomenon, but just his own life. What would you do if he was your client?

I am open for suggestions, hints, advice.

I know that to every coaching intervention he’ll react with a disgusted laughter, asking me not to use words like imagine, ideal, steps and so on. Underneath his sweater he’s wearing a t-shirt (Stephen Karpman told more about them on his workshops on Drama Triangle, which I was lucky to attend), saying “Try to help me – hahaha”. There will always be a BUT, ALTHOUGH, NEVERTHELESS and other cool worlds that will stop help from coming. So, we start from the beginning:

  • Do you want to be helped? {I doubt it, comes the response} A fantastic saying neither yes nor no clearly.
  • Do you imagine that I could be your helpful person? {No} That’s it, Ladies and Gents…Time to hire an external…
  • Do you imagine that your situation has a happy final? {yes; I will fall asleep and wake up better tomorrow}

Well, we don’t have much more to say. As a helper, we get fired. We cannot want something for our clients what he doesn’t want strongly enough. Tough lesson, but still – a good lesson. Balance: one person still suffering, another sad, because she doesn’t fulfill her helping needs.

We have to wait what the morning brings!

I truly hope that you’ll shower me with suggestions.

Dora

On mistakes

I am learning German. It’s hard. I’ve never heard from anyone that learning German is easy. But what is more difficult – is negotiating with oneself that making mistakes is ok.

I was brought up as a person that should never make mistakes. Mistakes were my main enemies. Can you relate to that one? So, I was trying hard to be perfect, and most of the time I succeeded. But instead of pride I felt only a momentary relief before the next challenge was put in front of me. I was never happy, knowing that if I climb the mountain, there is another one ahead, and another one, and then the next.

So now I am sitting on a German course with my Inner Child by my side, and this child is scared like crazy, whispering to me “we are at school again, brace yourself, no mistakes!!!” And of course there is no way I can make this Inner Child happy. But what I CAN do is negotiate from the position of a Caring Parent. Allowing myself for something that wasn’t allowed for years: being natural. You can’t learn and look nice at the same time, I tell myself. We have a right to make mistakes, as others in the group. There’s no one out there who will punish us – not anymore. We are not here to make anyone proud. It’s ok. It’s ok.

And then I stroke myself with compassion, knowing that inner struggles are those who make us who we are.

Wishing you good inner dialogues,

Dora

Right or wrong

I have a client who is stuck in the decision making process, wanting to make a perfect decision. Can you relate to this one? Well, in my world, when we are adults, we no longer make good or bad decisions. There are just consequences to every decision we make, and it’s just a pain in the ass to judge them. Good news, bad news, who knows – as my teacher John Scherer used to say.

But my assumptions about life don’t really help my client. This is lesson number one of a counsellor – differentiate what is yours from what isn’t. Keep your assumptions to yourself, and get curious of your client’s ones. How does he/she think about the world? How does he/she think about making decisions? What does he/she needs from you?

Well, in this case what the client needed from me was accompanying him in being lost, stuck and unhappy. Witnessing that, without forcing anything else. Accompanying the tears, the sadness, helplessness and fear; without judging, pushing in a particular direction, saving. Witnessing, accompanying are very passive verbs, less preferred by some people than advising or encouraging, but and as a counsellor, you have to learn both – otherwise you will pull or push the client, moreover, in your preferable direction. There is something powerful in letting things be, even when they are painful.

Wishing you many fruitful encounters,

Dora

 

On being lost

I had a challenging session with a client. What client brought, resonated with me strongly; and when it resonates, it’s time for a supervision. It was a very fruitful one. I learned again how to maintain a healthy distance and how to share responsibility for the effects with the client. I also reminded myself of pacing, and not wanting something for the client more than the client wants it.

One of the General Managers that I coached asked me once – how do you do that, work with what there is; you can’t really prepare yourself nor seek support in ready-made solutions. Aren’t you frightened?…

Well, the answer is simple. You just go with the flow. But wanting to be able to go with the flow requires some core competences:

  • Staying centred – knowing, in every moment, what you’re thinking, feeling and bringing into the relation.
  • Differentiating between what is yours and what is client’s – in terms of wishes, desires, needs.
  • Being able to let go – of your ideas, assumptions, even of your readiness to work.
  • Being willing to get lost – together with your client; not being ashamed of it.
  • Using soft power – being compassionate and at the same time focused and maintaining a healthy distance.

If you have your internal compass ready – you trust your feelings, observations, maybe intuition – you’ll never get totally lost, even in the unknown.

And working both with individual clients and in groups, when one is ready to accompany the client fully, is always an amazing adventure. Adventure without getting lost now and then is not truly an adventure, but walking in the safety zone. And because development happens only in the risk zone, we need to model that approach to our clients.

Wishing you lots of successful adventures,

Dora

more Professional, more Natural

Few days ago I received a wonderful feedback on a last coaching session with one of my clients. He told me that thanks to these meetings he feels closer to other people and able to build more natural relations at work. Let’s emphasize what he appreciated most: more natural. He did not say “more professional”.

Initially, for most of my clients professional means not natural. Professional means absolutely self-controlled, cool/cold, logical, impersonal. But how can you remain a person and not be personal at the same time? Does that mean that for 8-10 hours a day you are just…not yourself? Who is that guy then?

After some years of leading trainings, coaching and counselling I am pretty sure most people need not to be more professional this way anymore. Learning from my clients about the costs of being this professional, I challenge them and hereby also you my dear reader: if we were to assume for a while (just a crazy thought) that professional = natural, how would YOU defend this assumption? How would you convince your boss, your colleagues, your clients to it?

Let me and others know 🙂

Dora

Slowed Down

Have you ever experienced a phase of limited capabilities? However strange it may sound, I like such moments. This time I slipped in the mountains and, unable to walk, I was rescued by mountain guards from freezing. Currently I am slowly walking around using crutches and on pain killers.

I try to treat every situation in Life as a learning opportunity. It does not mean I am trying to impose a MEANING on it. My learning means:

STEP 1 AWARENESS: observing myself in new circumstances: how am I adapting to something new? Do I just treat is as „the end of old” and dream about being capable again, or as a new frame that requires creativity (behaving in new ways) from me? What helps me adapt?

STEP 2 EXPERIMENTING AND ANALYSIS: using new ways of being and handling the situation. Making conclusions concerning the old ways – how my old ways look for me now, from a new perspective? How do I now see this person that I was couple of days ago? How could I describe her functioning then, how it appears to me now?

STEP 3 HARVESTING: concluding the learning – what from my new behaviours I’d like to adapt once these circumstances are gone, over? What from my old ways do I want to keep, continue doing, and what maybe requires changing?

So – thanks for that learning opportunity, iced slope!

My most surprising learning up till now is that slowing down does not mean that I don’t deliver; on the contrary – thanks to limited mobility, I quitted multitasking and I deliver more deliberate, thoughtful results within a time frame. I would have never believed that before, trusting that only being “Fast and Furious” could bend the reality around me according to my will…

I wish you many learning opportunities. Remember these 3 STEPS and don’t hesitate to use them whenever you find yourself in a new place, moment, situation. It can be painful but it can be fun, too. And it’s for free – no training required, just a conscious practice.

Stay flexible,

Dora

PS. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Interior Responding Wonder

Interior Responding Wonder – this notion was primarily used by Herman Melville more than 150 years ago (!) and means, quoting after Sally Atkins in “Presence and Process in Expressive Arts Work”, “the capacity to be touched by the beauty and pathos of our human existence in the world.”

I recently spoke to my young colleague, who described his week for me. This is what he said:

  • Monday – a depressive day
  • Tuesday – nothing ever happens
  • Wednesday – well, it’s just a middle of the week
  • Thursday – a day before Friday
  • Friday – I might get drunk
  • Saturday – I might get sober
  • Sunday – the end of the week

Actually, this post could end with two worlds facing each other as if in the opposition, but let me take you one step further.

Paolo Knill and Steve Levine (2005) write about aesthetic responsibility – our responsibility to respond to beauty in the world. The first step to do that is to be sensitive – turn your senses ON and tune them, like a radio, to sense beauty. Try this out; it’s a bit like wearing magic glasses. Do not judge, just observe and see beauty, even or especially in the “mundane”. Sounds crazy? Well, when did you last time pay attention to the tree growing by your window? When did you stop on the street to stroke the cat that you spotted couple of times already? When did you notice the smile on your friend’s face and got moved by the fact that you are both getting older and smiling to each other brings out new wrinkles to your faces? When were you fascinated by these holes in your boss’s sweater (wonder who made them!), intrigued by your husband’s washing dishes or moved by your child discovering her feet?

Instead of imposing on my colleague my personal truth about how different life can look like from the version starting with depressive Monday and heading toward Sunday that ends the whole week torment, I encouraged him to create a “depressive calendar”. And I hereby declare I am going to use his list of weekdays to create something. Long live the aesthetic responsibility!

And you? What are you going to do today with such a beautiful Tuesday, when nothing ever happens? J

Dora

PS. Mark my words! 🙂

caledar