Over the years I have noticed a habit in many of my clients — and also sadly in myself — where we seriously sabotage ourselves. I will paint a little picture for you, and then we will explore why this happens and how to get around it.
A few months ago, I completed a coaching contract with a man in a position of great responsibility and influence. He had been extraordinarily successful in his life, but there were a few areas that were not going so well. You know how it goes…when one thing is out of balance, it is like a stone in your shoe when you are hiking. It takes your whole attention.
Just like I do with all of my coaching clients, we made an extensive list of his intended outcomes at the beginning of our relationship. I encouraged him to dream as big as possible. Of course, I did not want him to include things that were impossible, like “I’m going to have a baby” or “I’m going to be six inches taller,” but I did encourage him to dig out the things that his heart longs for, but that his mind had given up on long ago.
The list we arrived at was fairly ambitious. To me, it was absolutely clear that each and every item was completely possible, just outside of his current system of belief. I remember he was a little skeptical about some of the items, but was willing to acknowledge he would really like these things to happen, even if he had given up on them.
We completed the coaching contract a few months ago. I think he had forgotten about some of the items on his list, but I had been checking them regularly. When we went back to look at the list in our last session, he was absolutely amazed. Each and every one of the things we had written down had come to be true, with no exceptions, including the things that he had firmly believed were impossible.
You would imagine that under such circumstances, anybody would feel unequivocally and eternally happy. “Wow, wow, wow. I thought it was impossible. I thought these things were impossible, and I got all of them.” But in fact, it trickled back to me through mutual acquaintances that his evaluation was that the coaching was really good, he did get great outcomes, but… he would have probably managed these things anyway.
His evaluation is absolutely true. I am a thoroughly imperfect human being who luckily manages to step out of the way now and then and allow the Great Spirit to do its work. I am not looking for personal credit, “I did it, I’m a great guy,” but I am aware of how we sabotage ourselves when we look back on triumphant collaborations in this way.
I have also done this a lot in my life. I have entered into a relationship with a teacher, or a mentor, or a coach, and had tremendous insights which changed my life forever, but then, a few months later, felt ambivalent about the person and the relationship that helped me. “Yeah, it was great, but I would probably have worked it out anyway…”
There are several fundamental, valid reasons why we all do this. First, the absolute deepest truth is that you are a sovereign being. You are an expression of a universal intelligence, no more and no less than every other human being. The great things that happen in your life are a direct function of your own wisdom, maturity, and connection to the Deepest. The things that do not go well are a direct reflection of unconscious habits. When you go through a big breakthrough, it is natural and intelligent not to attribute responsibility to any outside force. A good coach will show up and be present, and ask you powerful questions, which help you to have powerful insights, but ultimately, it is true, you are the one who made the change.
Second, I have yet to meet any human being on this planet who is completely infallible and trustworthy in every way. Everyone has their agenda, their perceptual bias, including the holiest of the holies and the wisest of the wise. It is smart to receive powerful support, but also to recognize that you are always dealing with another localized human mind. You are not in direct communion with God Almighty.
Third, it is wise to be cautious about “premature immaculation.” We have probably all of us learned that after having a significant breakthrough or insight, where things go more smoothly, we assume, “Now everything is going to be okay forever, and all my troubles are over.” Then we often get disappointed, because the same (or new) challenges reemerge. It is smart when completing a relationship with a coach or mentor, to reflect honestly on your triumphs, but also to have humility about where there are still areas to grow.
Many years ago, I used to be a faculty member for the Alchemical Hypnotherapy Institute, founded by a delightfully eccentric man named David Quigley. He had a wonderful little tool to deal with this very situation. You can do it in a state of light hypnosis (as he did), or you can just use three cushions. When you notice yourself simultaneously grateful for support you have received, but at the same time aware of some weaknesses or limitations in the relationship which supported you, you can simply split your coach (or mentor) into two parts. Put them on two cushions in front of you. One part is the wise, transparent, generous, helpful part of the coach. It is almost like a window into the great intelligence that transcends the human mind. To this part, you can bow down, you can give thanks without any reservation whatsoever, and allow yourself to express gratitude without any form of dilution.
On the other cushion, you can put the personality of the one who supported you. Here you might find perceptual bias, occasional emotional contraction, or even insecurities about money and business. To this part, you can offer forgiveness for being just another human being, and you can perhaps even say, “I see that you are contracted… opinionated… not always present…” and then follow it with three important words: “just like me.”
If you can maintain both of these relationships strongly with the one who supported you: full-on, undiluted gratitude for the clarity, without any reservations, and simultaneously in a parallel conversation, forgiveness and understanding for the human limitations, you will be able to sustain and be nurtured much more deeply by the help that you have received.