In the past, words likes “vulnerability,” “emotion,” “sharing,” “empathy,” “hurts and hang ups” had always felt like a business liability to me. After all, business professionals are supposed to be rational, competent, hard-nosed, and get things done with efficiency. Sales, profits, and growth make the world go around and nothing else really matters in a business environment, or so I thought. Emotions, I used to think, are weaknesses and it is better to keep them inside than expose them.
The Process Group
This was my approach to business until I enrolled in a master’s program in Executive Coaching and Consultation at Concordia University, Irvine. You see, all incoming students had to attend a kickoff conference that featured group sessions and a series of lectures spread out over 4 days.
A group session of coach modeling and learning turned out to be an opportunity for processing and sharing issues in front of a cohort of 10, led by a trained facilitator. It will not come as a surprise that I wanted to get out of the room (and the entire program) as soon as I learned about this uncomfortable activity. I should have known that there was something amiss when I saw that the chairs in the room were formed in a circle, with boxes of Kleenex visibly located in the middle. I thought: why are boxes of Kleenex needed for master’s training, let alone located in the middle of a circle? Does executive coaching involve making people cry?
Upon reflection, there was a tiny part of me that didn’t want to quit and wanted to push my comfort level. So I decided to stay and go through the entire process. It wasn’t easy for me, as I didn’t have colorful emotions, I hated sharing, and I despised touchy-feely discussions. Miraculously, after processing my inner issues and receiving warm acceptance and validation from my empathic group, something strange began to occur inside me. I began to feel liberated, joyful, and hopeful. It was as if a weight (and a hardened shell) had been lifted off of me.
Technically, this is referred to as a “mismatching experience” to rewire the brain’s memory path. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, or otherwise we harden.” This experience changed me forever, renewed me entirely, and rejuvenated me emotionally.
The Road Ahead
Since my first experience in the process group, I have learned a lot about myself, especially about my emotions and the irrational beliefs I held. I’ve been working on strengthening my character structure – comprised of attachment, separation, integration, and adulthood. This is the bedrock of Townsend’s competence and growth model. It has been about 11 months since I attended the process group and I am happy to announce that I am now more confident, hopeful, and self-aware than I have ever been in my lifetime. I have found peace within myself and anchoring values that will withstand the trials of life. It all started with a group of people who were willing to be vulnerable and meet the emotional needs of each other. It’s daunting at first, but was incredibly rewarding and enriching.
The Next Step
Why not start processing your relational, emotional, and life issues with a small group of safe people or a safe person and start your journey of self-discovery and growth. Better yet, contact a coach who can guide you through this process with warmth and support.