Resonance in the coaching room

Have you ever had a moment where you felt suddenly you were in phase with your environment, submerged by a feeling of belonging, of almost fully merging into the scenery around you and bathing in a contentment that can grow into exhilaration? The feeling of being in the right place, at the right time, and fully in phase with what is there? Is this not a wonderful feeling and does it not give us a sense that now we get it, that this is how things are meant to be? Welcome to the idea of resonance. When I am in harmony with myself and with the world, accepting and aware, I enter into resonance with it and experience it with more intensity and joy.

When the time came to write my masters paper for the Executive Coaching degree of Ashridge, I introduced my story with this notion of resonance. The thought had formed in my mind that coaches really are their own instruments and that they must enter in resonance with the story of their client to better walk alongside him as he undertakes this journey of discovery and change that is his coaching project. It could all have ended there. If not for two authors I read afterwards.

The first is Hartmut Rosa (I read the French translations of his book, résonance, éditions la Découverte, Paris 2018). Hartmut is developing a sociology of our relation to the world where résonance indicates a special way of being in the world, in which we are congruent with ourselves and congruent with our environment and so enter into resonance with it. I was flabbergasted. My pale attempt to use this concept of resonance had suddenly found its own resonance but then at a much deeper, larger, more profound scale, as if I had shouted into a very deep cave and my words were coming back, months later, with much more force, color and substance, in the form of a full ontology. But I was deeply grateful for this reading. Hartmut develops the thought that our bodily experience of the world is a mixture of our intellectual understanding of it, of our emotional sensing of it and of our biographical experience of it, all of it being instantaneously, intuitively, felt in this resonance we are entering into with the world. Our body is not only a vehicle, it is also an instrument and this instrument is « being played » by its encounter with the world, its being in the world. And I use here the concept of world to have the largest possible container for all the things we do: we see, we hear, we talk and we listen, we eat and we drink, we dance, we move, we breathe, we smell, we feel, we go to the theater and we have a passionate conversation with friends, we mourn our dead and we rejoice in birth. Listening to our body, listening to this resonance is an incredibly powerful experience.

If that wasn’t enough, I went on reading Adriaan Hogendijk’s Bezielend Coachen (translation: coaching with soul, Business Contact editor, Amsterdam, 2016). Adriaan makes this link between the resonance Hartmut was invoking and the coaching practice. I quote, in my own translation: «  the body is a purer conduit for your soul and your brain. The body of the coach can be used as coaching instrument. I sometimes tell jokingly that I inform my client of what is happening in my body. When I do this, it is always meaningful to my client and for his own development process. To my own surprise, I never have to explain anything. » . These words resonate strongly with my own experience. When I am sharing with my client the things I feel bodily while he is talking, and when I am able to put in words how exactly my body is reacting to what he is saying, I do get the same reaction: my clients understand, they can relate to this feeling, and it helps them to understand what is really going on in this moment of the coaching. I use my body as a bigger mirror, and as Adriaan is saying, this is understood immediately. It never triggers a question or any sort of misunderstanding. The language of our body is apparently so transparent and universal that my clients immediately grasp what is happening and use it to their benefit.

I had this client whom I had been coaching for a while. I had noticed that there was a pattern in our coaching sessions, where he would first describe how horrible his work situation was, how he was on the verge of losing his job, having a burn-out, being caught for doing something terribly wrong, and as I was joining him in saying how awful the situation was that he described, he would turn around and start minimizing it all and telling me he had things under control. One day, I was decided in showing this pattern to my client. But how? I used my body, telling my client how, in the first part of the coaching, my chest would feel oppressed, my breathing was short, my back was hurting, and then, when he decided to turn things around, how immediately all these symptoms disappeared and my breathing returned to normal and my chest was liberated from the weight it had before. He immediately understood what was going on. And he did see the pattern and could actually laugh about himself. This allowed us to talk about it at a meta level and identify the game that was being played (in the words of Eric Berne) and the stroke he was getting from it. This never happened again afterwards. My body had been my shortcut to something that was there but refused to be revealed otherwise, a powerful mirror of the forces beneath.

So now, I stand firmly between Hogendijk en Rosa, embracing resonance in the coaching room. This intuition I had that our bodily experience of the world was a shortcut to all the senses we have, all the knowledge we have accumulated, all the experiences we have lived has now become much firmer and has gown in strength. And with it, all the Gestalt exercises we have done at our coaching school of Ashridge, focusing on what is there, here and now, focusing on putting in words what we were feeling, including in our bodies, this all falls into place. I will listen to the client also with my body and share with him what it is expressing as it resonates with whatever my client decides to bring to our coaching conversation. And as I share my resonance with my client’s story, I know it is all of me, my own history, my sensing and understanding of the world that I am bringing to the coaching relation. I trust my body is the purest and most sensitive instrument I have to mirror my client’s experience and I trust this mirror will help my client understanding his own expression of himself. Resonance is an intuitive, holistic, almost mysterious in-way in the other.