If there is one quality that we insist upon when training sex and relationship coaches it is that they teach from their vulnerability.
We may seem like broken records but we cannot emphasize it enough: one of the most harmful and least compassionate things that you can do as a coach, therapist or personal growth teacher is to pretend that you have it all figured out and are now perfect. People suffer constantly under the belief that they have to be perfect to be loved, desired, or in a relationship. They think that they will someday get over all of their hurts and never feel bad or triggered again. This is an impossible task and only causes people to judge themselves harshly and keep themselves closed off against connection.
We also practice what we teach. When one of us sits in front of a client and says, vulnerably, “Last week in my relationship, I got so triggered, that all of my revenge fantasies started flooding in and I just wanted to make my partner hurt as much as I felt hurt,” our clients say, “You? I thought you had it all together.” There is so much projection on teachers and so much shame that results. By being vulnerable about the fact that we are all still on our own growth journey and will always be, we are saying that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved (or to be a coach or teacher).
We also engage in authentic relationships with our clients, not only listening to how we impact them, but sharing vulnerably how they impact us. In this way, they get to see that we are not perfect and to learn about being in a real relationship. Hopefully, most people in helping professions already know that they are emotionally affected by their clients. Allowing your clients to know they impact you just as you impact them helps them learn what it is like to be in a real relationship – namely, that you cannot avoid impacting the other person. Sometimes we feel joy and pleasure with our clients, sometimes we feel hurt or rejected, just as they feel with us.
If we take a step even deeper into the premise that people learn how to move beyond shame and to be in a real relationship through vulnerability, when we work with our clients we also let them know our biggest emotional challenges and how they have affected us and continue to affect us. We also learn each of our client’s biggest challenges and talk about how ours may interact with theirs and in what ways we might trigger one another. We talk about these triggers vulnerably when they arise between us and our clients.
For example, after a challenging email exchange, when we are back together in the office, one of us might say, “The hurts of my childhood sometimes make it hard for me to trust. When I got your email, I felt attacked even though I know that was not your intention and I’m sure you were triggered, too. It took me a while to calm down and write back because I didn’t want to respond from a triggered place. I can imagine that might have triggered some of your abandonment fears and I would love to hear how you felt and also tell you how your choice of words affected me.” This is an invitation to hear each other’s challenges and triggers and to move towards empathy and repair. To be able to talk openly and practice sharing these challenges in a safe space gives them the tools and skills they need to take out into their own intimate partnerships. Helping your clients learn about and empathize with their partner’s challenges and share their own almost always leads to more gentleness and mutual support in their relationships.
Sharing vulnerably and inviting others vulnerability is a skill that takes time, practice and gentleness with yourself and others. If you’d like to do some deep transformational work that will change the quality of your relationships forever, come join us for The Somatica Core Training.