The Power Of Identifying What’s Holding Someone Back

Dr. Ron Young, the Co-Founder/Chief Science Officer and lead psychologist of PAIRIN, specializes in professional coaching and development.

Have you ever had a coaching client who had specific, well-articulated coaching goals but session after session did not follow through? What was holding them back? What creates this counterintuitive, often subconscious, resistance

Sometimes our client’s resistance is a result of an underlying challenge that is outside of their awareness. Coaching around the goals that these clients bring to the coaching engagement may not address the source of their challenge. Let’s say your client believes they have earned a promotion. They have a list of supporting evidence and know other employees in similar situations with similar justifications received promotions. How do we coach them if they repeatedly fail to follow through on coaching homework involving steps designed to move them closer to asking for a promotion? Sometimes neither the client nor the coach knows what is holding the client back. How can coaches understand the underlying causes and help their clients achieve their goals? I believe the answer lies in an understanding of emotional regression.

A unique aspect of my coaching practice is to simplify complex psychological theories and utilize them with my coaching clients. One of my favorite theories of personality development is Heinz Kohut’s theory of self-psychology. He explained that early caregiving experiences impact our development into adulthood. The internalization of the behaviors, voices and ideas of caregivers define the way we view ourselves and the world around us. As adults, we evaluate those internalizations and develop our adult sense of self. Emotional regression occurs when caregiving deficits or traumas are triggered by present circumstances.

When operating as an adult with no regressed issues, our clients are better able to deal with their present circumstances in a rational, analytical and clear-thinking manner. But if they find themselves reacting more emotionally than the present situation warrants, it is likely because they have regressed.

I had a client whose mother frequently told her, “You just wait until your father gets home.” When he got home, he was angry and shaming. As a result, my client internalized the belief that authority figures are not there to help you, but will punish you and are to be feared. If that internalization remains stored by her childlike mindset rather than being reevaluated by her adult mindset, it will impact her present view of herself and the world around her. When thinking about asking her boss for a raise, she subconsciously felt panicked and regressed (more like a child than an adult). This, in turn, created her resistance toward asking for a raise. Her present situation became entangled with childhood internalizations, creating a resistance that interfered with achieving her coaching goals.

In his book Growing Yourself Back Up, John Lee explains that emotional regression occurs outside of our conscious awareness and is a natural aspect of the human condition. His book provides skills that help identify when we regress and teaches us how to “grow ourselves back up” when regression occurs. Lee writes, “Mature adults respond; regressed people react.”

As coaches, I believe we also need to be aware of our own internalizations so we are less vulnerable to being triggered by clients who remind us, whether consciously or subconsciously, of someone from our past who made us feel angry, abandoned, disappointed or hurt. This helps us to avoid regressing and responding to our clients as if they are the offending person from our past.

Lee compares our body to a large bag where we stuff — rather than address — our anger, sadness and disappointment and carry it from our childhood to the present. Subconsciously holding on to a bag of repressed feelings could impact coaches and clients alike. Coaches who approach clients from a regressed mindset have the potential to cause more harm than good. In turn, clients who approach coaching from a similar mindset may resist coaching, and that interferes with achieving their coaching goals.

I suspected that the client who wanted to ask for a raise had resistance based on emotional regression. I asked her to imagine asking for a raise and explored how that made her think and feel and how it impacted her mind and body. Then, I asked her to take a few moments to consider whether she had had similar reactions to caregivers or authority figures throughout her life. We discussed the similarities between the past people and experiences and her boss and evaluated her assumptions about her boss. We role-played asking for a raise and debriefed each role-play, looking for examples of continued resistance and replacing childlike internalizations with adult internalizations created from an adult mindset. Once her resistance was addressed, she began to execute her coaching homework and ultimately asked for a raise.

One of my favorite phrases from Kohut’s theory is “transitional object for transmuting internalizations.” Put more simply, it means that sometimes we need an object to hold on to until we can internalize a more adult mindset. Remember Linus from the Peanuts comic strip? He’s the one who sucked his thumb and carried a blanket with him everywhere he went. According to Kohut’s theory, Linus’ blanket served as an object upon which he deposited (transmuted) any comfort and security he experienced (internalized) from positive interactions with caregivers. His blanket served as a bridge across which positive caregiver experiences could cross until he fully internalized them and no longer needed his blanket.

Think about your clients who just cannot overcome some invisible resistance, and ask yourself if emotional regression could be the reason they were stuck. Gaining a basic understanding of foundational counseling and development concepts will equip you to detect the invisible resistance of emotional regression and help your clients “grow up” key parts of themselves. It can better help you to understand the importance of being the metaphorical “blanket” for them. This process can help release additional potential and enable clients to soar to new heights

1. Combine Gifts, Passions And Innovation

Know who you are today by doing a fresh analysis of your gifts and passions. Use the results of your analysis as your lens for identifying unmet needs in the business world. Think outside the box by breaking away from conventional wisdom. Combining your gifts and passions with innovative ideas is foundational to a successful business that meets your and your consumers’ needs. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Gain Clarity And Choose Metrics For Success

I’ve had numerous pro-service clients do this, and most of them have considered it. The most important thing is to have clarity about why you want to start a business. The second thing is to very carefully choose the metrics that will indicate to yourself that you are succeeding. Your “why” and your metrics will keep you grounded when the going gets tough—and it will. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Leverage Your Experience And Do A SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths, be clear on your personal motivation and leverage your current experience and insights that you have developed over the years in your industry. Think about the pains and gains your clients have experienced and gaps that have not been filled. I also recommend doing a SWOT analysis to gain clarity and alignment and to determine the value proposition. – Breshana Miller, Kairos Coaching & Consulting, LLC

4. Brainstorm With Close Friends

You can’t hesitate or keep your new business too close to your chest. You need to brainstorm with your closest friends, your professional network and those whom you trust. Bounce your ideas off of others and see if they resonate. What do they think your new business is worth? Who do they think the customers would be? Do they know someone who would buy? Have that conversation 100 times and get to work. – Jacob Warwick, ThinkWarwick

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Match The Commercial Proposition With The Value You Offer

It is important to match the commercial proposition with the value that you are offering. Before leaving, start researching the potential market to ensure there is a real need. When you are clear on the commercial viability, you can reverse-engineer the process to ensure the proposition fits with your personal drive and passion. – Claudine Reid, PJ’s Community Service

6. Have A Strong Support System In Place

Being an entrepreneur and working for a corporation require different mindsets. To sustain the personal drive and passion, it helps to have a strong support system in place—people who are just as passionate and driven as you and believe in the success of the new business, such as friends, a mastermind group or an experienced coach who can ensure there is a balance between work and personal well-being. – Masha Malka, The One Minute Coach

7. Don’t Follow Your Passion—Bring It To An Opportunity

Don’t follow your passion. I’d rather you bring your passion and drive to an opportunity. The first step is finding a way to improve lives in exchange for profit, then apply your natural passion and drive to improve as many of those lives as possible as efficiently as possible. Because when you do that really well, vision, momentum, growth and, eventually, profit are the results. – David Robertson, Growthpoint Coaching Co.

8. Leverage What Makes You Irreplaceable

You need to clarify the market need for what you do via research, interviews and more. In regard to fulfilling your own needs, a reflective, holistic approach is required to uncover your own personal wants, needs and values to be successful. And above all else, you must uncover something that makes you irreplaceable in the market that you serve. Get all those right and then go for it! – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

9. Connect With Your Four Selves

First connect with your four selves—intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical—and be crystal clear about your purpose and commitment to it. Launching a new venture requires all your energy and commitment. Sometimes, it’s rough. Second, get deep input and feedback from those around you—both your trusted network and your more fearless critics. The wider the scope, the richer the insights. – Luis Costa, Luis Costa – coach · facilitator · speaker

10. Enroll Clients To Help Craft Your Company Vision

Get connected to your purpose, build a business plan around your core values and enroll the customers you want to serve to help craft the company vision. In doing this, you will likely find that your needs and the needs of your future customers are very aligned. Trust that a successful launch will follow and that you will have a tribe of allies ready to offer guidance and support when needed. – Emily Rogers, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching

11. Outline The Customer Journey And Your Sales Funnel

First, outline the customer journey to define the scope of their need. Second, outline your marketing and sales funnel. If you are not excited to do that, hire someone who is or don’t launch. If the idea of selling and marketing for hours every week does not excite you, pursue a hobby instead. Third, if you don’t have the drive or passion to build a business, get a dog. The dog will love you back every day. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Experiment With A Minimum Viable Product

Take small steps. Too many people get sucked into the entrepreneurial dream without realizing how tough it can be. I would suggest experimenting with the product—take a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market and get feedback. Leaning on your personal drive, experiment with your own business identity. Too many people overestimate their passion and drive and underestimate the challenge. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

13. Take An Inside-Out Approach

Start with your mission and vision. I believe, as a coach, taking an inside-out approach where executives can start exploring their passion as well as what they would see as success for this new endeavor is key. Then, we can explore the marketplace and how this would be sustained as a successful business by developing a strategic business plan. Allow your personal drive to set the tone for success. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

14. Build A Business Around Your Retirement Dreams

Start by thinking about your retirement. If you grew your business and sold it for a killing, what would you then be doing in life? At that point, when you wouldn’t have to think about money and profits, what would you be doing with your time? That’s what you should build your business around. It’s bound to be an area where a strong customer or market need is coupled with your own passion and drive. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

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