"Now I understand that the instinctive animal side of my being and the angel can only be united through me, the Human, when I become a bridge over the separating abyss."

–Gitta Mallasz, Talking with Angels

On Redemption

As a helper to peo­ple nav­i­gat­ing their lives at work, I want to bring the very best of myself to every exchange. Yet there are times when the best of myself would nev­er be enough. 

The solu­tions to the deep chal­lenges that peo­ple face fol­low no spe­cial for­mu­la; for exam­ple, the linked, uphill strug­gles to lead an orga­ni­za­tion as one leads one­self. The client may want to know, What have I done to deserve this dis­re­spect? Should I speak up to crit­i­cize? Speak out to say how I tru­ly feel? Am I too weak? Com­ing on too strong? How can I go on work­ing with some­one I can­not work with? Should I allow this project to fail? How far should I abridge my own val­ues in order to con­tin­ue? What will become of me if this all goes south? Such sit­u­a­tions often involve stress, high stakes, a mul­ti­tude of tough pri­vate feel­ings and concerns.

But there’s no spe­cial insight or self-reflec­tive process that can be offered, one size fits all, no spe­cial, illu­mi­nat­ing ques­tion that can be asked. To be hon­est, some­times the coach­ing feels futile — although I cer­tain­ly sense myself still try­ing, still offer­ing as best I can, advice.

Alder Lake

As a coach there may be lit­tle I can do to help the per­son, save being with them, shar­ing per­cep­tions and ideas and, if rel­e­vant, my own per­son­al expe­ri­ences, reas­sur­ing the per­son of his or her own capa­bil­i­ties, and encour­ag­ing them while nev­er tak­ing from them their exis­ten­tial right to choose what’s best. I may know all this intel­lec­tu­al­ly, and I may also still in some sub­tle or not so sub­tle way keep offer­ing advice. I’m still tak­ing on respon­si­bil­i­ties that I have no busi­ness tak­ing on, and some­where beneath my illu­sions to the con­trary I’m still think­ing about my own performance.

As coach and client, in truth we may each be doing our best, and yet it still may not be enough to move key logs out of the way, let alone break the log­jam and let the answers come through. The key dis­cov­ery in such sit­u­a­tions is that I don’t know what to do any more than my client does. 

When that dis­cov­ery hap­pens — real­ly hap­pens — some­thing else actu­al­ly has a chance to oper­ate in our relationship. 

I have been sur­prised again and again by how an implic­it under­ly­ing order appears. For it to come for­ward I tru­ly must accept that I don’t know; that in order for me to be of any help, I, too, need help. Then, I can turn toward a dif­fer­ent kind of open­ness. I’m in a dif­fer­ent role. I trust in a restora­tive rather than pre­scrip­tive way. 

I don’t know exact­ly what to call that “some­thing else” that oper­ates in the rela­tion­ship, but I like to see it as some form of redemp­tion — in a spir­i­tu­al rather than reli­gious sense. It’s the field that has no name. It has faith in it and love, and a care for the best of being human well beyond the cir­cum­stances that cre­at­ed the pres­sures the client is feeling. 

On my side, the expe­ri­ence is of revised inte­ri­or mes­sages: That I don’t entire­ly need to under­stand my role in the clien­t’s life. That I’m a mes­sen­ger, a hol­low reed through which a song is played that I did­n’t write. And in the end that’s plen­ty. I’m okay and going to be okay.

The mag­ic of all this is that I think some­how the client picks up that redemp­tive ener­gy in their own way, too, heal­ing and full of a deep­er intel­li­gence meant for them. And because they believe in it also, a lit­tle mir­a­cle may occur if the mood is sincere…and it’s then the right answer comes.


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  • Always good stuff from you, Dan. The ques­tions for self-reflec­tion in your 2nd par. are help­ful, IMO, to sup­port me to focus on “me”…attitudes, feel­ings. motives and the like. 

    As far as “…But there’s no spe­cial insight or self-reflec­tive process that can be offered” I always (and sug­gest to my clients, and oth­ers, when appropriate,as well) to ask: “Why is this (sit­u­a­tion, event, per­son, feel­ing, ener­gy…) hap­pen­ing FOR (as opposed to TO) me…with the notion of mov­ing away from any real or uncon­scious vic­tim con­scious­ness and mov­ing toward the learn­ing, les­son, insights as to why this event, per­son etc. is in my life at this par­tic­u­lar moment on my jour­ney. Often very help­ful for learn­ing and growth.
    I hope you’re well. Hap­py New Year.

  • Dear Peter~

    Thank you for your won­der­ful ques­tion for clients. Indeed, vic­tim­iza­tion is all too often a qual­i­ty of response, and I like the way you’ve head­ed that off by ask­ing “for” instead of “to.”

    Of course, there are many such ques­tions. For exam­ple, I might also ask a client, “How are you col­lud­ing in the prob­lems you say you want to solve?”

    I’m sure you see how this post isn’t about our favorite ques­tions, how­ev­er. It is about what hap­pens when those ques­tions are no longer help­ful, per­haps because they seem irrel­e­vant to the clien­t’s con­text, he/she has already tried to answer them, the deep com­plex­i­ty of the issues, or for some oth­er press­ing rea­son hav­ing to do with the cir­cum­stances of the coach­ing. I am here just try­ing to report my own expe­ri­ence of a change in ener­gy that I think is a gra­cious (and mys­te­ri­ous) release for both the helper and the one helped, an “it” that changes things.

    Thank you again for stop­ping by and Hap­py New Year back to you!

    Many good wishes


  • Dan, I love how you shared this. The humil­i­ty of sur­ren­der­ing to our role as a con­duit of the ener­gy need­ed in a sit­u­a­tion is one the high­est hon­ors I have expe­ri­enced. Thanks for shar­ing this.



  • Dear Pat­ty~

    Thank you for shar­ing your thought — with which I com­plete­ly agree. It is a kind of sur­ren­der, and it is a great honor. 

    Much appre­ci­a­tion to you, and I hope you are doing well.

    All the best

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