Chapter 5: Coaching and hypnosis integrating hypnotic strategies into coaching.
In this chapter we explore the legitimate place that hypnosis holds in a transpersonal approach to coaching. In particular, we look at the following ways of integrating hypnotic strategies and principles into coaching. Transpersonal coaching incorporates the client's imaginal capacities through engagement of evocative metaphors, images, and creative modalities within the trance state. This liberates free-flow thinking and right-brain processing, yielding access to unconscious processing.
1. Suggestion and suggestive techniques
2. Guided meditation or guided imagery
5. Age-progression and age-regression in coaching
6. Dream work
Coaching and hypnosis
A working paper by the British Psychological Society (225) suggests integrating the theoretical concepts and strategies applied in hypnotherapy and adapting them to the needs of coaching. It also proposes coining the term 'coaching hypnosis' when referring to hypnosis within the coaching arena to distinguish it from therapy. (226)
'Coaching hypnosis' may be referred to as the deliberate use of hypnotic strategies and principles as an adjunct to accepted coaching process.
First it will be instructive to remind the reader that, although hypnosis can be used as a relaxation procedure, hypnosis is not the same thing as relaxation, and relaxation is not even necessarily a part of hypnosis. Hypnosis can be carried out with the individual being physically active, open-eyed, focusing on the external environment and with no suggestions of relaxation. (227,228) Banyai and colleagues have reported on a form of active-alert hypnosis which has proven successful in their psychotherapy practice. (229)
Hypnosis can be very effective within the context of life or executive coaching. For example, hypnosis as well as relaxation techniques are used to help clients relax and lower stress/anxiety, enhance performance, anger management and reduce stress-related symptoms such as tension headaches. (230)
"When appropriate, hypnosis can be used within coaching in a similar way that relaxation and imagery techniques are applied in assisting to reduce performance anxiety and stress." (231)
Hypnosis is a valuable tool in the coaching process, often leading clients to positive coaching breakthroughs. (232)
Hypnosis and theta brain wave frequency
Hypnosis and mindfulness generate theta frequency mental activity, the same state as we experience in REM sleep when we are dreaming.
"We know that the neuroscience of mindfulness and hypnosis is parallel, causing changes in brain activation of the same magnitude. Both feature cortical inhibition as revealed by slowed EEG theta waves, and both show higher levels of activity in areas where theta is prominent, such as the frontal cortex and especially the anterior cingulated cortex." (233)
The anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) has been linked to monitoring task performance and the modulation of arousal during cognitively demanding tasks. (234) In other words, this part of the brain decides when to pay attention to the outside world (task-oriented) and when to focus on the internal world (introspection). Both hypnosis and mindfulness meditation states feature higher levels of activity in areas where theta frequency brain waves are prominent, especially the ACC (235,236) and the hippocampus, source of these theta rhythms. (237) These altered states of consciousness, then, offer unique access to the mind's higher-order control of awareness and focused attention. Clearly this phenomenon has important implications for coaching, and provides a convincing argument for the incorporation of the hypnotic state in some coaching activities.
The brain's theta rhythm circuitry is also involved in memory retrieval, survival behavior, navigation including virtual reality tracking, wellbeing, and the integration of emotion and cognition. Hypnosis, which elevates the brain's theta rhythm, assists in memory revivification and the integration of fragmented episodic memories, against a background of anxiety reduction, empowerment and psychic integration. (238)
Another important benefit of the slower frequencies of theta is the brain's opportunity to slow down its task-oriented cognitive processing involving mostly fast-paced beta frequencies. Memory consolidation of one's experience is enhanced when the brain functions at theta frequency, which is increased during hypnosis and occurs in the hippocampus. (239) The brain's theta rhythm circuitry is involved in memory retrieval as well as memory consolidation. This helps to explain why it is so fortuitous to access and correct old beliefs, release old perseverating memories, and construct new paradigms within the theta-rich hypnotic trance state.
Access to "procedural" implicit memory
Regarding memory retrieval, the state of hypnosis provides ready access to layers of mental processing that normal everyday consciousness does not. The information that was encoded in memory before language gave names to things is an example. In hypnosis, people frequently "remember" the experience of early childhood or even their birth. Since these source experiences and their embedding in memory were accomplished in an altered state (e.g., trauma or right brain dominated early childhood), they are "state-dependent" and accessing them is accomplished more easily by returning to the source state. We will explore ways in which retrieving core beliefs that are deeply embedded in such memories can be highly appropriate in coaching.
Hypnosis affects the brain, as well as the thoughts and beliefs processed by the brain, through the process of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. The brain is constantly adapting to new information and new circumstances, e.g., modifying patterns of connection between different parts of the brain and reorganizing neural pathways and functions (neuroplasticity), as well as developing new neurons (neurogenesis).
An example of modifying connections is using hypnosis to develop new neural pathways within the corpus callosum, the major highway between the two hemispheres of the brain, which is reduced through the effects of stress and trauma. (240) Another example is found with patients who suffer chronic fatigue syndrome, which has the symptoms of persistent fatigue and a decrease in cortical gray matter volume. After successful hypnotherapy which addresses faulty thoughts and beliefs about the condition, patients not only feel better but also show a significant increase in gray matter volume localized in the lateral prefrontal cortex (an area related to the speed of cognitive processing). (241)
These are examples of how the state of hypnosis actually enhances the brain's neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Many of the functions of effective coaching are amplified through interventions that incorporate hypnosis, mindfulness, and theta-rich mental processing.
Several discreet resting-state networks have been identified. At the highest hierarchical level, there are two opposing systems in charge of intrinsic and extrinsic processing, respectively. They are the default mode network, a network of regions that show high metabolic activity and blood flow at rest but which deactivate during goal-directed cognition; and an attention system which attends to a specific task at hand but deactivates during periods of rest. (242)
default mode network self-referential processes reconstructing the past or simulating the future (such as fantasy, inner rehearsal, and daydreaming) imagination attention system goal-directed cognition sensory-related tasks motor- related tasks language- related tasks attention-related tasks
Regions included in the attention system network show a synchronized activity in absence of any specific cognitive activity, that is, at rest, while they are known to be engaged during sensory-, motor-, language- or attention-related tasks. As for the default mode network, it includes brain areas associated with multiple high-order functions that are generally stimulus- independent and thus self-referential processes. These can be related to organizing memory such as reconstructing the past; simulating the future such as fantasy, inner rehearsal and daydreaming; and imagination such as free association, stream of consciousness, and taking other people's perspective.
Insight into the default mode network shows us what advantages the hypnotic trance state or a mindfulness meditative state offers one to facilitate just these activities related to past, future, and other people's perspective. In short, the default network is responsible for self-projection--mentally transporting oneself into alternate times, locations, or perspectives--as manifested in episodic memory, navigation, prospection (i.e., anticipating future events), and theory of mind (taking another's perspective). (243) Self-projection into alternative pasts and futures actually offers vitally important applications to our work in coaching. One is that understanding the default mode network can help to identify and explain, and potentially access, preconscious and unconscious mental activity such as moodiness, prejudice, irrational fears, or uncontrollable anger. Another is that some default mode functions may be brought under conscious control and direction, potentially through hypnotic trance states. Thus, a coach may be able to guide a client to reframe a past failure as a valuable learning experience, to gain a new perspective on the perplexing behavior patterns of a colleague, or to vividly envision a desired future that is outside the client's current capacity to imagine.
This is the case because mindfulness meditative states or hypnotic trance states allow access to both the focused attention of executive function and the relaxed openness of default mode at the same time.
One part of the brain is particularly important as an interface switch between executive function and default mode function, and is referred to as the salience network. (244) It is primarily the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) which has been linked to monitoring task performance and the modulation of arousal during cognitively demanding tasks. (244) In other words, this part of the brain decides when to pay attention to the outside world (task-oriented) and when to focus on the internal world (introspection). Both hypnosis and mindfulness meditation states feature higher levels of activity in areas where theta frequency brain waves are prominent, especially the ACC (246,247) and the hippocampus, source of these theta rhythms. (248) These altered states of consciousness, then, offer unique access to the mind's higher-order control of awareness and focused attention. And it is precisely these functions that are so crucial for coaching success.
Most states of consciousness carry an anticorrelation between 'rest' and goal-directed behavior, between self- and external-awareness networks, between openness and focused attention; the more awareness is focused on internal processing (introspection, or self-awareness), the less it is available for attention to sensory input (external awareness) and goal-directed focus, and vice-versa. The hypnotic trance state is an exception; parts of the brain that are normally activated with an opposite on/off switch can be dissociated from each other to allow both to activate at the same time. Under hypnosis, the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) is activated which narrows attention. But, unlike in the waking state of narrowed attention, the posterior attentional system which stimulates vigilance is deactivated during hypnosis. (249) Thus hypnosis creates a state of dual effect: relaxation yet responsiveness. The conscious mind is calmed, enabling access to the unconscious mind. Maldonado and Spiegel (250) define this as 'trance logic'--a way of reasoning that does not follow the rules of 'normal' logical processes. Through this mechanism, an individual may have experiences and interpret them in ways that are not in accordance with the person's conscious rational belief system. (251)
In a similar dual effect, meditation has been shown through fMRI and EEG studies to activate both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems simultaneously, creating a calm state with enhanced alertness. (252) There is, in addition, increased activity in the reward pathway, particularly the hippocampus and the amygdala during meditation, (253) with increased levels of dopamine, (254) as there is under hypnosis.
However, there is a marked neural difference between hypnosis and meditation. In hypnosis, a decrease occurs in functional connectivity across the hemispheres, measured by EEG gamma band coherence, (255) while in meditation there is an increase in this coherence between and within hemispheres. (256) EEG coherence normally means more of the brain is being used, with an associated improvement in quality of attention. In the case of hypnosis, the decrease in coherence indicates a dissociation, or decoupling, of attention to more than one thing rather than a decrease in mental processing. This dissociation allows one to attend to apparently incongruous thoughts; for example a person can experience being a child of seven in age regression and at the same time experience being a healthy adult available to nurture that child.
Integrating hypnotic strategies and principles in coaching
Suggestion and suggestive techniques
Suggestion and suggestive techniques, while traditionally associated with hypnosis and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), can be usefully applied by the coach in almost any format of interaction with a client. In other words, hypnosis is not a requirement for suggestive influence. Professionals with training in hypnosis and NLP will be familiar with the importance of properly structuring suggestions. We will review the technology of constructing effective suggestions, following the elaboration provided by Steckler (257) and Yapko (258).
1. Keep the suggestions simple and easy to follow. Complicated and sequential suggestions engage the client's conscious mind, rendering unconscious process less available for access.
2. Use your client's language. The coach's words and language may not have the same meaning for the client. Further, the coach can miss important cues in the role of the client's unconscious as expressed by the words the client selects. This is especially true for idiosyncratic usage. "Pissed off' is not the same as "angry". Yapko cites an example of a client who used the word "telegraph" in what seemed an unusual way. In trancework with her, it evolved that her father had received a "telegraph" to go to war, never to return, a memory lost to consciousness by the client, but one which affected her trust in male relationships into the present.
3. Have the client define everything. What constitutes a "phobia" or "depression" for the coach may not be the same experience for the client. If the client defines what he or she means, both connotation and denotation are alike for coach and client.
4. Use the present tense and a positive structure. It is important to phrase suggestions in terms of what a person can do, rather than in terms of what they can't do. "I am now an organized person..." rather than "I want to get more organized." Also, link the present to the future: "As you are doing this, you can also begin to do that."
5. Encourage and compliment the client. A respectful regard for the client is crucial. Encouragement, rather than attack or critical reproach, allows the client to move to a position of acknowledging personal strengths and resources, allowing for self-generated change.
6. Determine ownership of the problem. It is difficult to facilitate change in people who see themselves as "victims," who are "other-blamers." Helping people to discover that they can control their reactions to life events is in fact one component of the hypnotic experience, helping to establish an acceptance set for subsequent owning of responsibility.
7. Determine the best modality for the trance experience. People experience the world through their senses, and Bandler and Grinder (259) have hypothesized that people utilize a preferred sensory mode in their thinking, and further that they express this preference in their language. Some people think in pictures, while others favor the auditory modality, remembering conversations with clarity or recalling their inner dialogue during particular experiences. Still others express themselves in kinesthetic terms, remembering primarily the feeling components of experience. While each person processes experience in terms of all modes, identifying a client's preferred mode can allow the coach to couch communications in the words of the favored system, increasing the likelihood of facilitating client change because of the improved communicative rapport.
8. Keep the client only as informed as is necessary to succeed. An advantage of hypnotic communication is its ability to make contact with the client's affective rather than cognitive domain. While this may present an ethical dilemma at one level, Yapko advocates handling this on a sensitive case-by-case basis. He notes that telling a client about using a confusional technique to disrupt a maladaptive thinking pattern will effectively destroy the gain of the technique. Dealing with affect inevitably has a greater impact than dealing strictly with intellect: "I know (cognitive) I shouldn't feel this way, but I do (affective)."
9. Give your clients the time they need. Everyone responds according to their own pace, and it is crucial that the coach remain patient and flexible with the coaching agenda.
10. Get permission before touching your client. Always ask before intruding on personal space. Respect the client's physical integrity. Touching without permission may also reorient the client outwardly, diminishing the inward focus of trance.
11. Establish anticipation signals. To avoid startling clients, always say, "In a moment I am going to..." Anticipation signals foster trust in the hypnotic communication.
12. Use a voice and demeanor consistent with your intent. It is a therapeutic contradiction to urge relaxation in a stressed, tense voice. Further, soothing tones discourage intellectual analysis, thus further facilitating trance.
13. Chain suggestions structurally. Hypnosis can be utilized to build a link between what the client is doing and what he will do. This can be done with "and" or "but" ("You are sitting here and beginning to feel relaxed"); or with implied causatives such as "as," "while," and "during" ("As you notice yourself breathing more comfortably, you can begin to remember your birthday"). However, the strongest link is the causative predicate, suggesting a current behavior will cause a future one ("Thinking of your birthday will make you remember other holidays").
14. Be general specifically. Avoid the use of detail in suggestions. The more specifics one provides, the more likelihood of the client's contradicting the suggestion.
15. If desirable, substitute other terms for hypnosis. Some clients are afraid of "hypnosis" but welcome the idea of progressive relaxation, focused imagery, and other hypnotic techniques by other names. Possible additional alternative labels are deep relaxation, controlled relaxation, visual imagery, guided imagery, guided fantasy, guided meditation, or mental imagery. However, as Yapko points out, if a focused state of attention is narrowed to suggestions offered, and influence then occurs, hypnosis is present.
Use of suggestion is not manipulation. Manipulation involves the intention to get someone to do what you want. Coaches use suggestions for the sole purpose to meet the client's agenda, not their own. It is goal-directed communication when a coach says, "This will help you improve your performance--I can already see the difference!" while offering the client feedback about improvements to his public speaking.
An individual is more receptive to suggestion in a hypnotic trance state than when she is in her everyday cognitive mindset. One way of capitalizing on this receptivity is to use presuppositions. You get the client thinking that something desired has already happened, is now happening, or is inevitably about to happen. A coach might communicate the presumption that something is about to happen, establishing a positive expectancy for the client by saying, "Allow a time to come to you when you felt confident, and when you are there raise a finger to let me know" (presupposing that an appropriate time will come). Another example of using this technique is to present a choice, either of which accomplishes the task, such as "Would you like to discuss this today or during our next meeting?" or '"I wonder where you'll start to implement your clear priorities first. Will it be at work with your clients or at home with your family?"
We communicate the presumption that something is happening when we say, "That's right, now continue relaxing" or "Allow this sense of purpose to spread throughout your body." And the coach suggests to the client that something has already happened when she says, "Notice the calm excitement you are feeling as you breathe deeply and recall that experience." (260)
These suggestions presented as presumptions are important in the wording of guided imagery or hypnotic facilitation. A coach trained in the use of hypnosis is very familiar with phrases such as, "Now you are beginning to feel confident and well-organized as you sit at your desk and review the day's top priorities," or "Beaming confidence, you recognize the respect that each colleague sitting at the conference table has for you." Notice how important it is to use descriptive language to bring the client's awareness directly into the situation being imagined, and to link the task with strong emotions.
Repetition is a powerful reinforcement for any suggestion. The coach's suggestions will be more successfully received and acted on when the main message is repeated several times throughout the coaching session, thereby repeatedly directing attention to the intended goal or idea.
State suggestions as a positive, gearing them toward a desirable goal rather than away from an unwanted one. Rather than "Don't let others' judgments about you stop you from following your plan", the client will respond better to "You love the sense of freedom that comes with absolute confidence in the rightness of your plan."
Guided meditation or guided imagery
Guided meditation or guided imagery is very helpful for mindfulness, relaxation, and de-stressing. Coaches can bring guided meditation or guided imagery to the attention of their clients to help them enhance performance as well as to reduce stress. (261) The technique is also sometimes referred to as imagery rescripting.
A variation of these techniques is anticipated memory visualizing future thoughts that help to frame hopes and dreams and make them become real. (262)
A specific example of guided imagery is presented by Alcid M. Pelletier (263) as an excellent technique for establishing goals. Although she writes the instructions for use by a psychotherapist, the technique is equally useful in a coaching context.
A Creative Thematic Apperception Test The psychotherapist lightly relaxes the patient by verbal suggestions while the patient faces a painting on the counseling room wall. A plethora of paintings which are colorful with an abundance of recognizable and natural detail may be used. Once the patient is relaxed the therapist gives instructions much as one does in administering the Thematic Apperception Test. "Please look into the painting there. Let your imagination become very active until your activity seems very real and enjoyable. Be aware of every detail of your activity there. (Italicized words are emphasized for deeper suggestion). The patients have been instructed in ideomotor responses to signal the therapist whenever they are actively involved in the scene. "Now please tell me your story. How did it begin? Then tell me exactly what's happening in your present involvement. Then, follow the story on to its conclusion so we will know the ending. As soon as the story ends you will remain relaxed and everything will be like it was before the involvement in the story." Bring the patient out of trance.
Stories dealing with past or present events in the client's life are helpful in diagnostic procedures and indicating the need for the use of psychodynamic work or possibly referral for psychotherapy. Stories which are future oriented can be helpful to assist in determining previously unacknowledged possibilities and the establishment of goals.
Research findings show that many individuals with little or no previous experience with hypnosis expect that hypnosis induced by a professional would be experienced as involuntary, but that self-hypnosis would be experienced as voluntary. (264) Therefore a coach who intends to utilize hypnosis in the engagement may want to introduce the client to self-hypnosis to empower a sense of self-efficacy and to diminish possible resistance.
Self-hypnosis is an accessible and effective means of following through on many of the practices a coach may facilitate for the client, either during the coaching session or in between sessions.
* Practicing/rehearsing skills.
* Facilitating learning.
* Regaining control.
* Maintaining motivation.
* Accessing resources.
* Goal attainment
Hypnosis is an excellent vehicle for exploring an individual's internal imagery and conclusions that may be unconsciously influencing a client's everyday choices in life. If the coaching focus at any one point in time is on interpersonal relations, dealing with conflict, approaching competition, or one's personal level of organization, it may be very useful for the client to understand what unconscious influences are at work. Of course it is important to access positive, supportive associations as well as negative, inhibiting ones.
An example of incorporating hypnosis into coaching is using it to neutralize negative elements and promote adaptive responses in rehearsing competitive situations. (265) Understanding the source of a current performance deficit is half the process of resolving it, and in the hypnotic trance state, in age regression, the coach can effectively assist the client to access early conflicted experiences and to release the original debilitating beliefs and conclusions (e.g., "Other people are unreliable", or "Conflict is scary and I always lose", or "Competition is threatening because it means the winner is boastful and the loser is humiliated").
Then the second half of the healing process is to find early experiences of success in the area of current focus, and to amplify and anchor viscerally that experience. Perhaps the client remembers a time in grade school when she won a spelling bee and was jubilant while remaining gracious with the other children competing in the spelling bee. We then want to anchor that resource state with a word or phrase, a color, an image, or a somatic experience. It becomes a powerful inner resource which can be called on in a rehearsal of the problematic situation in the client's present day life. In hypnosis, we would implement a mental rehearsal technique in which the client recalls herself in a current day challenging situation that felt like failure, and give the suggestion to let the memory fade. Now, in a moment, she would go back into that same situation, and first find compassion for herself in light of the early conditioning she has now uncovered. Next, still in that same situation, she is encouraged to use her anchors to recall her resource, her inner strength, and her new perspective, to feel the strong presence of her compassionate, secure self.
Because our visceral experience is so much a part of the pattern of behavior we want to change, we can use hypnotic and self-hypnotic techniques to de-condition the automatic reactions and replace them with more adaptive responses. Perhaps the client's heart tends to race and her hands begin to perspire when confronted with a conflictual situation at work. We can again use the anchors already established to calm that automatic sympathetic nervous system response in a rehearsal of an actual work-related conflict. The client can experience in mental rehearsal a calmness, an alert but open perspective, a composed heart and dry confident hands.
If it is useful with a given coachee, the TV technique (266) can be used to review troublesome situations "with the emotional volume turned down," enabling a client to more objectively identify elements of success as well as obstacles to problem-solve.
Finally, Homyak (267) suggests utilizing hypnosis to develop protective buffers for highly challenging environments. It is a fact that there will be people and situations that we would prefer to avoid but cannot. It may help the client in such a situation first to use the anchors she rehearsed to establish confidence, calm, and to not take it personally. Then it may be helpful for her to create a metaphor such as learning to "take your sail out of their wind" or participating in the situation with the dispassionate perspective of the TV technique. The client may want to visualize the daunting boss or co-worker as an immature child, or as a particular animal to accurately remember who one is dealing with and to neutralize their impact. The client could create an imaginary structure such as a protective bubble, or suits of armor to protect herself and reduce the absorption of toxicity from others.
Rehearsing recently taught coping strategies; rehearsing benefits and gains in order to increase motivation; and identifying problems that may arise and managing them in advance are all applications that rely on age-progression.
Age-progression and age-regression
We have discussed a number of ways that age-progression and age-regression can be adapted to fit a coaching approach. For example, age regression was utilized to go back to times in the client's life when they expressed their signature strength with confidence, or dealt successfully with transitions. Likewise, age-progression is an integral part of an anticipated memory conjured in a guided imagery process, or of the various processes we have elaborated in work with the potential future self.
As well, time projection imagery can be included to demonstrate to the coachee that they can tolerate current difficult or challenging situations, moving the perspective ahead to a time when he/she can imagine the current challenge has been mastered or resolved. (268)
In an age-progression experience, the client can imagine and explore an image of his/her future. What do they want to do or feel? What is it like? What is needed to get there? Are there any anticipated difficulties? From the vantage point of this imagined future, the client may find it easier to recognize clear goals and what success looks like and feels like. What resources and personal skills are needed? What coping mechanisms will need to be developed in order to make this vision a reality?
When looking back from this potential future, what would make you think, "I handled this well." Within the non-defensive state of hypnosis, a client may be more open and receptive to feedback from that future self than she is from her current day self.
Age regression applications include accessing resources that 'once were' and building on them; accessing desired resources or skills that already exist in another area and 'transfer' them to the immediate need; and review previous performance in order to build on positives and develop what's missing. For example, a client may have been out of the work force for a period of time and lack confidence in her ability to do well in a job interview. The coach could take her back to a time that she did very well in a similar situation, and she could anchor the feeling of confidence.
An important part of the coach's role is to help clients with their journeys into self-awareness. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries (269) suggests that, to help coachees with their journey into their own interior, coaches can also pay attention to their clients' dreams. Clients' dreams can offer useful clues about their main out-of-awareness preoccupations and concerns, their internal struggles and challenges. Making sense of dreams can be a very powerful problem-solving and inspirational tool as well--the theta-rich dream environment is highly creative and free of many of the mental limitations that dominate our everyday thought processing. (270)
Dreaming is a state in which we can access our inner selves, find inner resources to discover new solutions not available in our waking state. Dreams can open our perspective on what is possible, beyond our self-limiting everyday beliefs and behaviors.
Of course, revealing their dreams to a coach may be personally challenging for many clients, fearing that their dreams may unmask parts of themselves unknown even to themselves. That may be a degree of vulnerability too far so some. Even the idea of incorporating dream work into life coaching may strike some as outlandish, "new age", or a waste of time. Working with their coach over time will hopefully nurture a growing sense of trust in the coach and his expertise (even if it includes dream work).
Clearly, the dream belongs to the dreamer, and the interpretation of it also belongs to the dreamer. A qualified coach will not offer interpretations of dreams, but only listen intently, ask probing questions, and suggest possible correlations to other material the client has brought to the coaching relationship.
Coaches may ask the client to reflect on their dream imagery to encourage uncovering the meaning of the dream. For example, what emotions did they experience? Were they scared, angry, embarrassed, joyful, jealous, disgusted? Did they still have those feelings when awake? How comfortable were they with those feelings? Can they identity any recurring thoughts associated with their dreams? If so, in what other situations have they had them?
An even more kinesthetic method for helping the client to realize the messages in the dream is to ask the client to have a dialogue with certain dream elements, those that hold the most fascination or disturbance. "John, now that you've identified how intensely you react to the policeman in your dream, I suggest that you become the policeman for a moment and speak to John, the dreamer. Tell him why you have acted the way you did in this dream, why you said what you did, and what message are you in the dream to deliver to John?" Then allow John to address the policeman dream element, and for a dialogue to develop between the two. You can proceed to do a similar process with other symbols in the dream that are particularly engrossing to the client.
I do realize that this kind of work is not for every executive coach. Dreams are full of discontinuities, ambiguities, and inconsistencies that can be downright bizarre, necessitating nonconformist thinking, acceptance of ambiguity, and flexibility of thought. In dreams, content and organization are illogical; the conventional notions of time, place, and person do not apply; and natural laws are disobeyed. Sense-making becomes a kind of detective work, for both client and coach.... Executive coaches should view dreams as stories or puzzles that clients must solve to be free. (271)
Another way of working with dreams is to approximate them in the waking state so that the coach is available to participate directly. The waking dream technique (272), developed by Dr. Paul Schenk, is similar to a daydream, and consists of having the client go into a relaxed state, after which the coach might advise the subject that he or she relax and go within even more deeply. The subject might then find himself or herself beginning to imagine being someone in a movie: a person whose story will contain experiences that will be timely, useful, and constructive for them in their own life. A client who has unfettered access to her imagination and who is willing to share it with the coach without inhibition will produce valuable dreamlike imagery and storylines.
Coaches are well-advised to incorporate their clients' imaginal capacities through engagement of evocative metaphors, images, and creative modalities within the trance state or otherwise. Encourage free-flow thinking, right-brain thinking, intuition, and storytelling. These are ways of accessing the client's unconscious processing that often uncover aspects of herself and her interpersonal relationships that are known neither to her nor to others.
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|Author:||Hartman, David; Zimberoff, Diane|
|Publication:||Journal of Heart Centered Therapies|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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