On Monday I enjoyed my first time on a Pathwork international-level conference call. There were only a few on the call, but the call brought up a lot. I behaved badly I suspect, reacting out loud rather than being with what was going on in me. But it was good. The next topic was announced: “Asking for help.”
As I sit with this notion of asking for help I realize that asking for help is an issue for me, and I’m curious why. Of course their is my childish pride in, “Me? I don’t need help!” But I notice too that I react to the active nature of the word “help.” In using the word help I am feeling my helplessness and my childish longing of wanting another, a superior, to do something for me that I feel I cannot do myself. In this distortion I feel like a young child asking a parent to help me, say tie my shoelace, because I am not capable of something or other. I react to the condescending or patronizing “unequal” nature of this “helping” relationship.
Now as an adult I do not necessarily need “help,” a superior doing something for me because I am helpless. Rather, perhaps I need emotional support. I need encouragement to do what I can now do for myself. Perhaps I need what might better be called a coach.
To me a coach is someone who helps bring out the best in me. (I realize I used the word “help” here, so it is not black and white.) The responsibility in this relationship remains on me, but the coach observes me, studies me, and perhaps suggests I approach something differently. But it is always the “I” doing it, never the coach doing it for me. Huge difference. And I realize this is all semantics, but semantics seemingly that matter to me.
The coaching role thus defined seems very important for psychological and spiritual development. Only I can do the work, but my coach can observe me, query me, and suggest things I might try to further my development. In addition, my coach can encourage me and inspire me. But it is always I who is doing the work.
I note that in sports the best coach is not necessary the best player. The same, perhaps, with life or spiritual coaching. The best spiritual or life coach is skilled in observing, in knowing how my unique beingness can grow and develop. In fact the best coach in spiritual matters is often the one who has and continues to struggle, rather than the one who seems to have it all together. The wounded healer idea. I can be inspired by a great spiritual giant, but not necessarily effectively coached by the giant, especially at the early stages of development. Then after I develop to a certain level I can advance to learn under someone more experienced in the field of spirituality with whom I can continue to grow. Interesting distinctions.
In matters spiritual I also back away from the word “director,” again because of the potential condescending tone of such a title. No, for me, “coach” is what I relate to. So I think of my Pathwork helpers in that light. And to the extent I am in this role, I too would be comfortable with being a Pathwork coach rather than a Pathwork helper.
A Pathwork or spiritual coach is more than being a spiritual friend, too, because while a spiritual friend may be able to offer me emotional support, and while that emotional support is so needed, the spiritual friend may or may not be skilled to see the nuances or patterns or distortions that stand in my way and that need to be addressed. My “friend” may also not want to “hurt” me with the truth that I really need to hear, truth that a coach may be more skillfully equipped to deliver to me in a way that I could take it in. An important skill indeed.
During coffee time with Pat this morning she noted the added role of “elder.” She noted that “elder” connotes the flavor of “wisdom holder,” not intellectual wisdom from book learning but wisdom that comes from a long investment in personal and spiritual development. Often the spiritual elders are interested in investing in the spiritual and personal development of those who come after them. It is a passing on of living wisdom, wisdom that has come from deep living. And I noted in agreement that this wisdom comes from being faithful to the practices of the tradition they are following, be it AIP or Pathwork or any of the multitude of spiritual practices that exist. Yes, elders, too, are key, holding the wisdom of the tradition and lineage of a given spiritual path.
So I have a rich collection of people in various roles who support and encourage and, OK, help me on my path. But always, my path is my path, and my responsibility. Guess I’m getting ready for this next Pathwork conference call, “Asking for help.”