Years ago I went to see a life coach. She spent the first session listening to my story, and she really listened. I had never been listened to in such a manner. She heard, she validated, she empathised, she understood. I felt seen and known.

I went home feeling like I’d found the Holy Grail. I came back eagerly the next week and she told me we’d done enough talking, that it was time to set goals and work on what I was going to do next.

I understand this, I was trained this way. It’s not what we talk about that changes things, it’s what we do differently. Except that’s not always true.

I sat through the second session while we planned and set goals and talked strategy but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t do any of my homework and I never went back.

She probably wrote me off as resistant and not ready, but I was ready. I’d already done cognitive behaviour therapy which had been helpful, I’d joined a Gestalt therapy group. I was doing the work.

But the reason I sought out a life coach was because something was still missing. And I found it in that first session – as Alice Miller calls it, an enlightened witness.

Someone to make space for the pieces of my shattered story to be put together again in the light, without changing it or judging it. Someone to truly be with me as I grieved the pieces that had been missing and lost.

I left that second session feeling broken hearted and betrayed. I also unlearned something important – that not all clients need to be ‘doing’ in order to create change.

Sometimes painful feelings don’t need to be fixed. They are normal reactions to all we’ve seen and endured. They simply need to be held in awareness, honoured and loved. This is what I do.

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