Paradox in Coaching
On the coaching path we encounter paradoxes every now and then. We see this in our clients when they feel stuck in the seeming paradox of black and white thinking. A dilemma of "this or that".
Through coaching, the veil of limit is removed to uncover the gray areas life offers. Then eventually, if the client is willing, they see the full spectrum of colorful choices they have to choose from.
Black and white thinking is just one paradox we coaches bump up against.
Before we dive in further, let’s look at what a paradox actually is.
Paradox by Google definition:
Noun- A situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
First, I want to share that I do not believe in paradox as a “thing” that exists in reality. I find it odd that it is classified as a noun.
Here is why...
What we deem a paradox is the way we conceptualize a limit placed on our ability to perceive the whole. When those limits are removed, we see all aspects and illumination sets in. We see this in masterful coaching all the time.
In other words, when we sentient human beings that are limited to only the six senses and by what our scientific tools cannot measure, view two perspectives that seem to oppose, we label it a paradox.
In this context, paradox is a problem of perceptual juxtaposition only.
The idea being, the bigger the picture we can see, the more interconnectivity becomes clarified. In essence, the more we view life integratively the more paradox and limits are dispelled.
How can we move our clients out of paradox? We help then see the whole picture of possibilities.
In all of my years as a coach, there is one paradox that stands out the most. This paradox is the cause of confusion, heart-ache and in more extreme circumstances, abuse of personal power.
This paradox is: Every asset carries a liability.
This seems illogical. How can an asset also have a liability attached? Yet, as one of my mentors many decades ago said, “Different times. Different things.”
Take compassion for instance. If a person has an overload of compassion, many of us would be impressed and may think, “Wow, what a wonderful personal characteristic to embody.” Compassion is indeed an asset.
When I was 15 I was in a horrific car accident, flung from the cabin of a truck going 80 mph. The doctor placed his hand on my shoulder in the ER, looked into my eyes and said with deep compassion, “It is ok. You are going to be ok.” His compassion saved me from complete overwhelm and panic. His compassion was a huge asset to me.
How can there be a downside to compassion?! Paradoxically speaking, there is.
Consider the person that remains in an abusive relationship months or years too many, because the abuser claims that if they "leave the relationship, then they would be leaving them in pain". That is the time when the wonderful characteristic of compassion turned from an asset into a liability. Different times, different things.
Can a liability be an asset?
Seems illogical. Yet, the answer is yes.
Let’s look at anger. Many would say anger is a liability and hurts many people. This is accurate. Anger has hurt many people, destroyed relationships, careers and lives.
However, if that same anger is used to take one’s power back and draw a line in the sand in the face of injustice then that liability has become an asset.
In the case above where too much compassion was enabling abuse to continue, drawing the line in the sand is the asset and it may take the power of anger to light that fire.
The paradox buster here is location. When does the asset or the liability show up?
There is an ancient Toltec teaching of “Victim, Warrior, Master”. If someone is stuck in victim then anything done through victim can’t help but have a liability attached.
Warrior is needed to step out of victim. It takes the person being abused to stop the cycle, rarely the abuser. In warrior, they take a stand for themselves and leaving abuse in the dust.
Yet, if someone is stuck in warrior too long this can turn into a liability, or a pushing against life. Different times, different things.
Here is where location becomes really profound!
Anything done in master is an asset. The master lives through the wisdom of balance. When is compassion too much? When is compassion too little? When is anger too much? When is anger too little? The master responds to life and adjusts accordingly from a higher perspective.
This is the brilliance we offer our clients as integrative coaches.
As a coach, we reflect back when we observe our client living “in balance”, or “out of balance”. We inquire if a motivation is coming from victim, or warrior, or master. We hold space for master to step in and begin answering life’s biggest quandaries.
This level of awareness rests at the heart of true integration. The journey from warrior to master is where alchemy transpires. The quest for excellence is the birthplace of human brilliance.
What is possible when clients are moved out of paradox and into possibility?
How can you use the paradox of asset/liability to become more masterful in your coaching?
When can you help your clients see if they are stuck in victim or warrior for too long?
By Laurel Elders, PCC
IICT Founder / Senior Faculty