Life in the Catalyst Intensive: Ego
When Empathy Gets in the Way
I’ve been through three weeks of the Catalyst Coaching Intensive so far. Even at this early stage in the third week of the program, it’s difficult for me to express and comprehend how this course is changing my life! I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it’s truly how I feel. Yesterday I told my husband, “I think I need to go away for a couple of days to be alone. I have so much work to do on myself and I’m getting distracted by life.” His very loving answer was, “You can do that, I think the only thing holding you back is you.” (He’s referring to the fact I’m a cheapskate and freak out about spending money on myself or leaving others to care for themselves.) Which brings me to my topic: My ego.
One of the things I am learning is my ego plays more of a role in my interactions with others than I recognized. This is especially true when it comes to holding space. What do I mean by holding space? Well, that's a great question. Honestly, my definition for holding space is still developing, mostly because the one I had was probably wrong, or at least incomplete. You see, I consider myself to be an empath, a term I learned recently. I now have a name for a part of myself I couldn't describe before.
Empathy is a good thing, except when it's not. There just might be times when too much empathy is counterproductive. Since I can relate to others by feeling what they feel, I make the mistake of thinking I can fix them, or telling them how to endure or eliminate the feelings altogether. When I do this, I'm not holding space for another, I'm bringing them into my space.
Caring for people in the way they need is not about me, it’s about them.
Caring is about listening, not just hearing, and not feeling obligated to respond. It’s about allowing someone to be their true self, whatever that means for them, without judgement. It’s about letting go of the illusion of control or influence.
Without full acceptance, my ego will only get in the way. I’ve often felt I wanted things for someone they didn’t want for themselves. I used to think it was a bad thing if a loved one or friend didn’t see what I saw—how their lives could improve “if only.” My ego made their refusal, or inability to see the light or truth I saw, a bad thing. I’m beginning to recognize the difference of opinion is more about diversity than either one of us being right or wrong.
To truly hold space for another person, I need to let go of my preconceived notions and my ego. I must stop contemplating how I can help them and allow them to help themselves if they so choose—and I must remember, it’s their choice to make, not mine. Also, I have to figuratively remove myself from the equation completely and walk with them on their journey, wherever their journey may lead. For a control freak like me, letting go of the illusion of control is frightening! I'm also beginning to see how powerful loosening the reins is, and how validating and how truly empathetic a surrender of control can be.
I enrolled in the Catalyst Coaching Intensive with one objective: to learn valuable tools to be able to help others. I wasn’t prepared for the self-transformation I am seeing unfold before my eyes. I now see that to be a good life coach, to be the kind of person, wife, mother, grandmother and friend I want to be, I have to be aware of my ego and how it may deter me from my goal of helping others.
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