The Coach’s Guide to Sticking with Being Stuck

‘I really don’t know where to go from here’. Those were my honest yet resigned words halfway through a recent coaching session. ‘I’m totally stuck’. ‘That makes two of us’ replied my weary client and we agreed to take a break. Where would the session go from here? What does a coach do when the stuck-ness strikes?

My client disappeared to the toilet and I sat, pen in hand, and wrote in my notepad the single word ‘Help!’ I stared at this word and listened. This was a type of listening we refer to in ‘Challenging Coaching’ as sensitive listening (p.159-161). Then I found myself writing the following phrases:-

  • ‘Stick with it’
  • ‘Work harder’
  • ‘Be comfortable not knowing the answer’
  • ‘Know that everything changes in time’

I read these phrases again and then let out a long sigh of relief. My client returned and said to me ‘Have you had any inspiration since I have been gone?’ I sat back in the chair and replied ‘I’m not sure. My logical, analytical left brain has got to the point where, at last, it has asked for help. I have just written on my notepad the word ‘help’ and then I handed the problem over to my intuitive, holistic right brain and listened. And this is what I heard….’ At which point I reeled off the list of phrases above. ‘What on earth do you make of that?’ he chirped, still puzzled as to where we were heading. (As was I for that matter!).

Being Stuck

‘Well, it’s like this. My temptation in these situations is to put the problem in the file marked ‘too difficult’ and give up. I don’t like the uncertainty of not reaching a conclusion so I’d rather force a conclusion prematurely so that we can relieve the frustration of being stuck and move on. However, that is my left brain speaking and if I seek inspiration from my right brain I get a different message. I hear that I should stick with this, work harder, ride through the uncertainty and trust the process at a deeper level.’

So we stuck with it. We worked harder. We threw the problem over to the right brain and we trusted that it would inspire us with its analogies, its metaphors, its pictures and its spontaneous outbursts of strange wisdom. We ended up at a point we never could have predicted and might never have reached if we had let the stuck-ness get the better of us. My client marched away at the end of the session and later in the day sent me the most uplifting email. I could tell that somehow we had tapped into a deeper inspiration that had surprised both of us. How easy it would have been to have missed that turning in the road, never to find it again. How easy it would have been to think of being stuck as the ending and not the beginning. How strange to think that the best thing you can do when in the middle of the stuck-ness is to ….. stick with it!

My thesis then, is as follows; in addition to our immediate consciousness…there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals.’ – Carl Gustav Jung

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