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Coach Unplugged: You can only Tame it…You can never Kill it

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What is the living soul of coaching? 

Coaching is all about listening and asking powerful questions. What happens when you are there with the person? What does your instinct tell you to do? What does your body tell you to do? What are your emotions telling you?

On the 50th episode of The xMonks Drive, Aboodi Shabi- a coach, a facilitator, and a mentor who brings you ‘Coach Unplugged: You can Tame it…. You can never Kill it’, unraveling the physical, mental, and the emotional space of coaching. Here is a transcripted version of the conversation we had with him.

The Essence of Coaching

Gaurav: What, according to you, is the common essence of coaching, that you have been able to notice?

Aboodi: Professions take a lot of time to flourish. The coaching profession was developed to address concerns that existing practices could no longer address or weren’t able to address wholly. And at the same time, there’s a rootedness in people looking for guidance. So, if we go back, before coaching, centuries ago, people would consult high priestesses or shamans for guidance. They would go to priests, rabbis, imams, and gurus to figure out how to move effectively through life. 

I wrote a review on a coaching book last year, and the premise of the book was, what’s the point in coaching when we’re all going to die? Human beings are the only species that are really fully aware of their own imminent demise. And that sense of inquiry has always been there ever since we became aware of that. I think that’s what a lot of religious and spiritual practices have been about. And more recently, as religions have declined – or were declining in the second half of the 20th century – people have started to think, what is this life about? We’ve got a certain level of, now what?

Gaurav: So, would it be a fair assumption to make that coaching can be a process that could assist or facilitate a journey for the other person to discover the wipeout of his or her life?

Aboodi: It could be, but it might also be about meaning, which might be connected with purpose. And that has also been one of my reflections of the year. There’s a quote from Joseph Campbell, “We don’t seek the meaning of life, we seek the experience of being alive.” It’s a sort of inner thing. What is it to be alive? What does it mean to feel alive, and it’s not necessarily about purpose. Take, for example, children. They’re not concerned with the purpose of life. They just play with their toys or argue with their siblings, but they’re fully in it. 

One of the things that’s on the rise in the UK is cold water swimming. And a lot of people who go cold water swimming say that the freezing cold water gives them a really intense experience of feeling alive that has nothing to do with purpose. Maybe the rest of their lives feel purposeless, or maybe they feel they are just going through the motions. But there’s something about human beings that just feeling alive is very important to us. 

The Concept of Being

“I wish life could have come with an instruction book, we could actually read that and then we would have lived it like never before.” 

Gaurav: The concept of ‘being’ is hard to understand and experience. How do you explain this term called ‘Being’ of human being? 

Aboodi: A few years ago, I wrote a paper on Ontological Coaching. And part of the reason I wrote that was because I’m still trying to figure out how to answer the question. “What is Ontological Coaching? Or what is being?” And I don’t think they’re easy concepts. What’s difficult about being is that we sort of take it for granted, because “I’m a human being”. So Being is so obvious to us that it’s invisible and that is why we say that coaching is the blind leading the blind. It’s not that I’m smarter than my clients, or that my coach is smarter than me, it’s that they’re not blind the same way that I am. 

My being is invisible to me, your being is invisible to you. But when I coach someone, I’m paying attention to not just their language, but their emotions, or the emotions that they don’t notice about themselves. And vice versa. I’ve got a lot of experience in coaching; I understand a lot about this profession. And yet, when it comes to my own life, and my own being, I’m not as blind as everybody else. So I think we are blind to our beings, not because we’re ignorant or, or stupid or dumb, but simply because we just live in this. We live in a narrative, we live in a country, in a language, and then we discover that there’s a different language. That’s the first time that we realize that there is this being called Being English. 

“There are certain aspects of being you can change. And there are some aspects of being you cannot change.”

Gaurav: If you can just throw some more light on that. 

Aboodi: I can’t change my height. So there are things about our body that we can’t change. We also recognize that the older we get. So if I’m never fluent in Hindi. Even if I spent the rest of my life living in New Delhi, and only being in a Hindi speaking environment, I’ll always have an accent, I may never pick up the vocabulary. This part goes back to the early coaching promise –  you can change everything, nothing is impossible, there are no limits. That’s not true! We cannot change. You suddenly cannot have the body of a 20-year-old, as much as you might like to have it. So there are some deep-rooted physical limitations or physical things that we can’t change.

Gaurav: I believe that the deep-rooted psychological relationships that you build during your formative years will always have a shade in everything that we do or say.  You might be able to camouflage it or you might be able to make something else more dominant. And yet that part would always be there. Do you think this is a fair assumption to make? 

Aboodi: It is true. It goes back to our moods and resentments and fear, etc. is that we’ll tame it, but we won’t kill it. So, if someone who has spent 40 years in resentment or grew up in trauma, in a traumatic family, for instance, they’re always going to be affected by that. But we can tame the effects of it. Even then we can’t suddenly magic that person to have had a happy childhood, where they formed secure emotional attachments. There’s a really interesting book called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk. He talks about how if a child has poor attachment, then they may always walk away from any challenge because that’s a function of poor or insecure attachment. 

We often meet clients, for instance, who find it difficult when they are challenged. If we have an understanding of the possibility that trauma and insecure attachment might make them that way, then it becomes easier to recognize that you can’t change the early attachment. Because we can’t! That’s an ontological truth. But we can start to think about how we can tame its effects on us. That might mean doing some deep therapy work. Or it might simply involve becoming more aware of how we’re being stopped. It might also involve beginning to explore how we might start to explore it a little bit  by recognizing that the shaping will not become something that we ever kill, or overcome completely.

You can’t kill it, you can tame it. 

You can’t kill it but you can tame it. It is actually quite a nice way. It sums up the possibility for change that human beings have, because it’s not true that we can’t change and that we’re doomed forever. It used to be said in coaching that we can overcome everything and anything is possible. and these coaching practices will help us help you, the coachee, to tame the history that you’ve been given.

About the Speaker

Aboodi Shabi is an experienced transformational coach and a facilitator, who has worked with thousands of people all over the world as a coach, trainer, mentor, facilitator, and keynote speaker. Today, most of his clients are based in London, although one can also get great results over Skype, Zoom or telephone, wherever you are in the world. He has been accredited as a Professional Certified Coach by the ICF since 2003 along with being a Newfield Certified Ontological Coach. He is on the editorial board of Coaching at Work magazine.

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