Psychodynamics, Coaching and the Validity of All Emotions
We currently operate in a world which appears to favour happiness above anything else – almost as a 'right'.
I'm not convinced by this. Being happier seems to be a goal for many people, but why should this emotion be privileged above any other. Obviously, we don't want to spend our time being constantly unhappy, angry or sad, but such emotions have equal validity as indicators of our present state. Being happy all the time would suggest that all previous experiences and circumstances have always resulted in happy states of mind. So, rather than striving for the "happiness imperative" (Western, 2016), as coaches we should be mindful of the potential meanings of all emotional states and how they arise in our organisations.
Working in education in England as a leadership coach, I notice the critical need to understand the nature of containment, self and co-regulation (e.g., Bion in Kets de Fries & Cheak, 2012) as both adults and young people make their way through the vagaries of organisational systems and lifeworlds. Psychodynamic coaching approaches suggest that exploring and dealing with emotions allows us to go "beneath the surface"
– to work on those hidden areas which may inhibit personal and professional development.
So, here I share the Tavistock 5 top tips for psychodynamic coaching
and ask what you think about them:
1. Emotions are data
Emotions are seen to be important communications that will help us to understand ourselves more readily if we pay attention to their potential meaning.
2. Be a PRO
This means attending to the Person, the Role and the Organisation. Strive to understand the context from all three perspectives by exploring role structures and dynamics, organisational discourses and the personal perspectives that will shed light on the current situation. Managerial or linear forms of coaching may only attend to professional goals or improving an organisation's outcomes. Boundaries, Accountabilities, Responsibilities and Task (BART) may also be explored here in order to fully reveal the dynamics across person, identity and organisation.
3. Work 'below the surface'
Systems psychodynamic coaching works with the iceberg metaphor to explore what is 'hidden' or affecting coaches unconsciously. This helps to reveal blind spots – what is unknown to 'self' and to others.
4. Have "courageous conversations"
Of course – handled sensitively, saying what needs to be said in order to enable clients to turn back towards the difficult conversation is often an important key to unlocking what is most important.
5. Go with your client
They are the experts about their organisation and culture – so work at their pace and trust that they will engage with coaching in ways that are helpful to them, in spoken and unspoken ways. Work at their pace and remember that if the solution was simple, they would have already gone there.
How does your coaching adopt some or all of these principles?
Kets de Fries, M., & Cheak, A. (2012). "Psychodynamic Approach". The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring, 365–384.
Western, S. (2016). "Free Yourselves from the Happiness Imperative", 1–6.
Tavistock Consulting, "The Depth and Breadth of the Matter: Five Tips for Systems-Psychodynamic Coaching".