“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.” –Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You

Something that had always bothered me about the coaching industry? The over-emphasis, the downright preoccupation that can happen, with skewing Coaching as the “happy-happy-goals!-joy-joy-affirmations!” work that you turn to when you’re tired of going to therapy and confronting the dark stuff. Coaching is stereotyped as reciting affirmations and loving yourself, while therapy is where you go to do the “emotional work.”

I am not aligned with this idea that difficulties, darkness, or emotions are excluded from the work that one can do with a coach (in fact, it’s a hallmark difference in my Courageous Living Coach Certification that teaches women how to become life coaches. I’m aware that this idea can be considered controversial, both from the therapists and coaches alike. And just to be totally clear–I’m not a hater on the therapists or therapy.

This is my truth: My own life has been an evolution into my darkness, that has resulted in a revolution into my own light.

I’ve seen firsthand the power of looking at, turning over, getting curious about, confronting and being with all that is difficult within me. I’ve never in my life gone twenty-four hours without feeling an emotion, so I cannot imagine how I, or any of my clients, would somehow exclude “emotional work” from being part of the coaching process.

It’s important that more coaches start doing the difficult work of parsing through their darkness, because not only do coaches need it–our clients need it. Our clients, and in fact the entire world, desperately needs the message that in fact, you are normal if you cry, you are normal if you feel like a mess sometimes, you are normal if you carry guilt or shame that needs working on. People are suffering in silence thinking that “normal” is something else entirely.

We need to stop pathologizing emotions, and touting some version of a perfectly well-balanced human being that is perpetually cool and collected as the ideal. This is not a “new” statement–but certainly, the coaching industry is rampant with examples that would make it seem as if those pesky emotions are not something you need to deal with, really–why, you just need to believe in yourself!

Nope, I say. I’m calling bullshit on that one.

Note: I’m not saying that there are not gradations and degrees of what is functional or healthy within a given society with a given set of social and cultural norms and values. Of course, there are emotional extremes that do not function as healthy or normal within the society we live in.

–I am saying that I see an emphasis on trying not to feel anything in our society that is equally as unhealthy as emotional extremes. Drug it, shop it into submission, eat it away, work and rack up trophies…anything to avoid that soul-sucking shame, that inner critic that says you’re a worthless piece of shit.

No. That is no way to live. That is not living 100% fully alive. I beg of you, step forward, practice the courage of feeling afraid and diving in anyway, so that you can see the miracles of transforming that avoidance.

I can sit with a client’s soul-sucking shame, the inner critic that says that you’re a worthless piece of shit. I can do that, sit with that, because I recognize my own soul-sucking shame, my own inner critic that gets triggered to say that I’m a worthless piece of shit.

(Kate, does it still happen, even now that you’re a Coach? Of course. I get afraid, and old critical voices resurface to be looked at again, or a new voice emerges that seems bigger and scarier because it’s unfamiliar. And rather than seeing that as some kind of weakness on my part, I know now that it’s a sign that I’m evolving further, shifting, stretching, practicing courage as I step away from a limited way of being and into something that is initially quite scary, but that holds the key to my freedom).

The affirmations, the relentless emphasis on goal-setting, the externalization of “I’ll feel better when XYZ happens”–that’s the new pathology. Much of what I see within the Life Coaching industry just reinforces that, and that’s where I think we’re going wrong–that’s what I want to see coaches step forward to courageously shift within themselves and then within their practices.

This idea is what I offer my own clients and the trainees in the CLCC, and that’s what I hope more people will start to offer, as well.

Click to tweet: Stop externalizing happiness. That’s true liberation. http://clicktotweet.com/o7XLz