Navigating the unchartered territory of our emotions

11 months ago
Executive Coaching
Article

Through my personal journey as well as my coaching practice, I have become increasingly trusting in the powerful developmental potential that emerges when clients move beyond the cognitive domain and open up for a multi-dimensional process of engagement. While it is common for many individuals, especially in corporate settings, to approach coaching from a predominantly rational and problem-solving mindset, resolving more existential questions or unlocking one’s deeper resourcefulness often requires delving into the emotional territories — and exploring anything else that awaits to be discovered somatically, relationally, and more. This journey, although it may invite vulnerability and necessitate learning a new, “experiential language”, can make coaching a much richer, more integrative process of development — potentially leading our clients to a profound (re-)discovery of themselves and their place in this world.

I am currently reading Gabor Mate’s “The Myth of Normal”. He eloquently explores how our (western) culture places such strong emphasis on cognitive thinking, and how we tend to neglect the fundamental role that emotions play in shaping our thoughts and actions. Drawing from insights in neuroscience and psychology, particularly attachment theory, Maté highlights the primacy of feelings in shaping our behavior and decision-making. Quoting neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: “Nature seems to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it.”, Maté points out. In fact, emotions do not simply sit on top of rationality, but rather are integral to it. Emotional structures and emotional regulation develop long before the “thinking cortex” in our brain. In fact, our emotional experiencing starts way before birth and continues to shape the architecture of the brain throughout our lives. These early experiences mold behavior, emotional patterns, unconscious beliefs, learning styles, relational dynamics, and our ability to handle stress and regulate ourselves. Emotions serve as the mind’s primary architect. They shape the foundation upon which all our health, learning, and behaviors are built. Emotional rather than intellectual interactions are crucial for building a sturdy foundation that supports us throughout our lives, as Maté emphasizes. I suppose, this is also true for coaching.

Coaching provides clients with a safe haven and secure base to venture into their challenges, dreams, and aspirations. Providing an appreciative and enabling environment, clients can feel seen, heard, understood, and accepted. This allows them to explore their challenges at much greater depth, not through intellectual analysis, but through profound experiences in real-time.

As coaches, we walk alongside our clients, like a trusting travel companion in their unfamiliar terrain, offering rest, navigation support, and fitting scaffolding, so that they can try out new things and shift into a new possible future with more maturity and emotional grounding.

Want to learn more how coaching can support your growth and development? Find out more on my website.