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Coaching lessons from “Gone Girl” and public shaming

I sometimes like to think about coaching as happening mainly in clients’ heads. Whenever I catch myself doing this, I know that sooner or later something will happen, something will change and I will remember to think about life coaching as a process which involves bodies as much as minds, ideas and emotions. Here’s what happened recently.

The first book: “Gone Girl” and the importance of all five senses

If you haven’t read it yet, you may be in for a treat. “Gone Girl” is tense and thrilling – read the blurb to decide if it’s your thing. Then go for it if you fancy such stories. I enjoyed it a lot, not only because of the skilful way in which relationships are built in the book.
On a few occasions, the characters’ actions are described in a particular way. The act of drinking a sip of whisky and then smashing the glass against a wall, for example, evokes all five senses within one sentence. When I read it, I thought it was a neat little way of drawing the readers in. For coaches, writers and anyone who works with words, this kind of language awareness helps. But I didn’t spend much time on it (I was keen to find out the ending, after all!)

The second book: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” and the loss of all five senses

Jon Ronson’s book sounds daunting: it’s a story of big mistakes and stupid jokes that became public. It is not daunting. It reads just as well as “Gone Girl,” which lately is high praise indeed coming from a guy who thought he could not handle complicated reading after some busy time.
There’s a lot to cover in the book, but one thing struck me in relation to senses again. A review for the book (which you can read here) mentions this as well: the feeling of shame is actually an anti-feeling, a numbness, a state of being “mortified” – dead-like. Shame makes you feel nothing.
The book is a great read for those interested in psychology, in modern digital storytelling and in ways of building online personalities. It’s also great for those who could use some self coaching and want to start with questions of self-esteem.

Connecting the dots: from pain to joy, or from numbness to all senses

One of the tools which a life coach can use works on the basis of a simple visualisation: it lets clients imagine the pain of staying in a current (unwelcome) situation, along with the joy of changing to a more desired state. This pain-joy duality then works to motivate client to changes.
This is strong, and I’ve experienced the motivating kick of this tool on a few occasions. But reading these two books lately made me think of another tool: the numb-alive process. Let’s have an example to explain it.
Imagine a smoker who is ashamed of his habit. He is alone when he smokes. His health deteriorates with every cigarette. He becomes more and more distant. This is the “numb” part.
Then, some time after deciding to quit, he takes a walk in the woods. He sees the green trees, hears the birdsong, feels the wind on his face. He can smell the fresh air and the picnic he brought along tastes much better. This is his “alive” moment.
A good life coach will know how to help their clients do three things: first, imagine and re-live the “numb” moments that cut them off from reality (boring work, bad times in a relationship, pain problems etc) – second, find and carefully recreate the “alive” times which help the client feel connected with what’s around them – and lastly, identify the best way to move from “numb” to “alive.” Effective life coaching (in business, relationships, or in productivity) will operate with “pain-joy” as much as with “numb-alive.”

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