Jen Gray, on the Shutter Sisters photo walk, SF, Canon Rebel Xti
I’ve been a little sister my whole life. First to my flesh and blood sister, and then later, unconsciously, as a role to play in the world. I am a petite girl, a mere 5 foot 3 on a good day, and have often been referred to as Little A, someone to pick up and spin around (I broke my leg this way once) and someone to take care of and give advice to. I am often attracted to friends who are older siblings in their family. It’s not a bad thing, just something I’ve noticed in the last few years… something to question: How does it serve me? How does it keep me safe? Is there room to be that and more? What attachment do I have to this way of being in the world?
In my life coaching courses I began to see how much more of me there was to access. We did an exercise once where we had to be in character. The character had to be something completely outrageous to us, a way we didn’t identify with at all. My group chose “Drill Sergeant” for me and I was told to coach someone in that character. This was not about good coaching, but about exaggerating that persona and accessing new parts of yourself.
I happened to get paired up with a big man who was much older than me… someone I would normally be intimidated by. My heart started pounding violently in my chest. I was nervous, but went for it and started yelling at him:
Me: So why are you really here Doug?!
Him: a bit flustered, “Uh… my coaching practice. I want to start my practice.”
Me: (Still yelling) Oh yeah? Well, what do you want?
Him: “Um… to help people and make some money from doing something I love.”
Me: Well isn’t that nice. How much money do you want to make?
Him: Oh, the money isn’t important to me. I haven’t even thought about it.
Me: Yes you have! You’re not doing this for your health! HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Him: $100,000 dollars this year!
When the exercise was over, I was relieved and totally apologetic. I was so afraid I had hurt him by being so harsh. But he grinned really wide and told me that was the best coaching session he had ever had in his life. “You called me out in a way that no one ever has. I was trying so hard to be good, I didn’t even know what I wanted.”
Although I would never choose to coach in quite this way, it opened something up in me and gave me access to a part that was buried under being polite and good and sweet… the ways I survived in the world. In this world of the drill sergeant was a whole new kind of power.
Another skill I cultivated in my coaching training was around intuition. I have always been highly intuitive and deeply trusted this skill when it came to my own life. What I began to learn though, was that I could use it to serve others as well. We practiced the skill of “blurting” which was saying whatever came to mind as an observation to the client. It could be something like this: “As you are talking I keep getting an image of a red wagon…” Or, “My intuition tells me that you’re not telling me the whole story. What part are you afraid to share?”
It wasn’t about being right. You could be wrong, but it always sparked something and challenged the client in a new way. I was also amazed by how often we would get an intuitive hit on someone that was exactly right. It’s amazing what we can see and know when we give someone our full attention and really listen.
As I unfold as a parent, I see where I am still afraid to step into my power. When Ben was first born, I was afraid to tell him what to do (stuff his flailing arms into the swaddle for example) or make executive decisions for him… (circumcise? vaccinate?) this was of course my job! but it was such unfamiliar territory for me. Jen Lemen just reminded me of a tender conversation we had when Ben was a few months old. “I can’t be the little sister anymore!” I exclaimed. “I have to be different…”
It’s good to remember that we don’t have to get it right every time, but the power is in listening deeply and trusting ourselves. There is also power in widening the range of who we get to be in the world. What parts of you don’t get expressed? Your sexy? Your soft? Your vulnerable? Your bad girl? What would be possible if she got a little airtime?
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