Deep Listening: Foundational Skills for Your Coaching Practice (Classes)

Week 1: Compassion and Mindfulness: Noticing what’s present before it changes.

Homework for Weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be downloaded here. Deep Listening Homework for Solo Practice

Week 4 homework is in the class notes below.

Audio recording

Deep_Listening_Week_ 1_ April (right click and select “save as” to download to your  Windows PC)

Mindfulness and Compassion are the foundations upon which all your coaching rests.

Story: For more than 15 years I studied personal growth and transformation mainly through yoga and meditation. Throughout all of that time and study I was often unhappy and my body hurt most of the time. Clearly this was not the outcome I was looking for, and yet I didn’t know what to do besides trying harder and practicing more.  Some days I’d feel like giving up and others like I was having a breakthrough. Yet mental and physical tension kept returning no matter how great my yoga or sitting practice felt. 

 One evening in 2011, I was with a new friend talking and cuddling. I voiced that I noticed tension in my body particularly in my hip flexors. He asked if that was a familiar feeling and encouraged me to welcome the tension.

Welcome it? I’d tried to get rid of it for 15 years. But, OK, I’ll try just about anything so I welcomed it.

 With his guidance I was with the tension without trying to fix it or change it. Then I talked to it. The tension in my hip flexors told me that it was armor, like the shell of a turtle. Its job was to protect me from being hurt, from being too vulnerable. I was flabbergasted. Who knew? This tension was actually offering me a service.

 The miraculous shift that happened that night was not that I never had tension in my hips again, it was that my relationship to the tension, to my own body, and to healing all transformed. Compassion, parts, and listening all clicked within me to say YES! Turns out this new friend was doing a variation of Inner Empathy with me. I’ve since spent more than 600 hours studying Inner Empathy and coaching clients.

I’m sharing this story not only to make myself more human to you but to show the importance of the main tools we’ll be using in this course.

Mindfulness – I had to notice what was going on for me. The level of awareness of noticing is important. Many things that will be important for you as a coach (to hear your own intuition and your own biases/triggers) is mindfulness. The more you can help your clients be mindful, the more they will become aware of what’s happening in a given moment both within themselves and externally. From this comes awareness of their own power to create what they want and what they’ve got (self-responsibility).

Honesty or Radical Honesty – Telling the truth. Valuing my experience enough to share it. Trusting myself, the other person, the tools we’re using, and whatever else enough to be vulnerable and honest. Honesty both takes and increases courage and intimacy. It is a vulnerable act. Many of us have been taught not to be vulnerable and that vulnerability is weakness. Being vulnerable yourself helps your clients trust you which increases their chances of being honest and vulnerable. Both are essential for any real change to take place.

Parts work – Welcoming in the tension as a part of me that I could talk to. Instead of “I’m tense.” The words became “A part of me is tense” and I could talk to that part and hear what it needed, how it was feeling, what it’s job was, and what it wanted.

Are you worried right now about remembering these different tools? Don’t be. There is one that underlies all the others. Compassionate presence is the single most useful thing you can do to support yourself or support others. Theory and tools are about 20%. Compassionate listening is about 80%.

Optional Exercise: What are the qualities of compassion? How do you react, feel, and think when you are listening compassionately?

What compassion isn’t: In order to know what compassion is, it’s useful to look at what it’s not. In my definition, compassion is not being nice, making someone feel better, or ignoring something out of social etiquette. Compassion doesn’t even need to understand. Compassion doesn’t have an agenda about what should happen or how a part (or person) should behave. Compassion doesn’t need to rescue anyone.

What compassion is: Compassion is the ability to sit with what’s real in this moment. To be with without needing to fix, change, figure out, or problem solve. Compassion doesn’t need to run away from the pain or increase it. Compassion simply is present, curious, gentle, open, and aware. Compassion is humble enough to realize that each person (or part) has a right to be here. Compassion allows feelings to be felt fully, to flow and to run their course. Compassion trusts that feelings do run their course and feeling something fully does not mean getting stuck in it.

Many of your clients will resist the idea of compassion. “If I’m nice to myself, doesn’t that just reinforce my bad behavior,” they might ask. They instead believe that change comes through beating themselves up. If they are coming for coaching, they obviously think they can do something good with their behavior, but be careful. There is a voice often called ‘gremlin’ or ‘inner critic’ that says “I’m not good enough the way I am. Something about me is bad and has to change.” If that voice just shifts to thinking a part is bad and has to change, change will still be slow, frustrating, and ineffective. So what to do? Welcome in the voice of the critic. Give it time, attention, listening room (in the spirit of inner empathy where to listen deeply and reflect is not to agree or disagree but to be with what’s happening).

Compassion creates the environment for lasting change to occur. Shame, blame, judgment, belittlement, or putdowns do not make lasting behavior changes. At least not in the directions people want to change. They do not produce better, more organized, more talented, more successful people. These strategies are likely to lead to pain and suffering for both the one shaming and the one being shamed. The voice of shame can also become internalized and starts to sound like a lot of judgments.  (I’m not good enough, I’m lazy, I just need to try harder) and wondering “Why can’t I get that done? Why can’t I complete a project?” (asking smarter questions is a better use of the brain’s power – Do I value completing this project? What do I need to do to complete this project? If I had exactly the help I need to complete this project, what help would I have?)

Optional Exercise: What judgments do you have about yourself?

Most of the trouble comes from arguing with reality. When we argue with reality we lose but only 100% of the time (Byron Katie).

When I believe something is wrong and ‘shouldn’t be’ then I waste energy getting angry at it, shaming myself, shaming others, trying to change someone, arguing, lying, trying to convince myself that I don’t care or it’s OK or not looking at it. Keeping the beach balls submerged in the swimming pool takes a lot of energy.

The antidote? Radical Honesty and Embracing what is “Let it in. Let it through.” Tell the truth. The truth changes things.

Homework for Weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be downloaded here. Deep Listening Homework all Solo Week 4 homework in part of the class notes below.


Week 2: Reflective Listening: Giving Responsibility Back to Your Client

Audio recording for Week 2

Deep_Listening_Week_2_April (right click and select “save as” to download the audio file to your PC)

What is it? 

Reflective listening is

  • shining back (like a mirror) what you heard and understood the speaker to say.
  • A major component of the Inner Empathy model of parts work
  • An important part of  Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
  • A way to decrease your own reactivity
  • A way to increase your partner’s satisfaction with the conversation and sense of being understood
  • A way to create more understanding without giving in, fighting, assigning blame, accepting responsibility, or pointing out what your partner could do differently

Story: I live in a community of people who’ve come together to live sustainably. As you might guess, there is a broad definition of what sustainable means and sometimes conflicts arise when those definitions clash over big ticket items. One such clash is currently happening. A few people want to build a new $2 million community building. Others are concerned that we do not have the economy to support such a large financial investment and that there are other ways to meet the needs for increased common space that are more ‘sustainable’. Within the concerned group there are several different factions – some focused on money and loans, others on green building, and others on feeling dissatisfied with the decision making process that lead us to where we are now.

None of these people were really talking with one another. Planning and fundraising were continuing for the building. Tensions were increasing. Communication was decreasing.

This looked like a recipe for disaster in an intentional community of people who have to live and closely interact with one another daily.

Two other community members and I decided to take action. Acting independently, we called together a series of 3 reflective listening circles. (This later expanded into 7 with the intention to continue them until the building is built.)

We gathered people together and asked them to share their feelings about the proposed building. And we asked someone else in the group to reflect what they heard. It was slow. People weren’t very good at either reflecting or speaking in ways that were easy to reflect. After the first 2 meetings, we asked how people felt about the reflection. They said they hated it and wanted to keep doing it.

After a couple of months of these listening circle style of meeting people were visibly more relaxed, having off-line conversations with one another, and saying their trust had been restored in one another.

What did I do? I sat beaming love at everyone in the room especially the person speaking and encouraged someone else to reflect back what they heard. One of the best times was when I was asked by the speaker to reflect. He spoke for several minutes of 5 or more different topics. Then he asked me to reflect. I reflected what I remembered without stressing too much about what I’d forgotten. Four other people in the room each reflected back one of the other pieces. This demonstrated to me how 1) short speakings are way easier to reflect and 2) different people hear different things. If you want to know someone heard what you said, ask them for reflection.

Why Reflective Listening?

It’s good for the speaker, the listener, and the relationship between you. It is an excellent tool to use with your clients. It allows them to have their own breakthroughs and insights without you having to do much work. It’s a win-win for both of you. And a great tool to teach them so that they can have more success in their other relationships

:Picture this scenario: It’s your job to understand your client and the whole context of their situation. You need to know all the important people in their life, their past behaviors and relationships, what they want in the future, how the people they know are helping and hindering their goals, what’s motivating the people they know, and more. You can go on and on in an endless stream of information gathering in an effort to understand your client and the context for their dilemmas because you need to understand enough to make the right suggestions.

 Your client is like a marionette waiting for you to untangle their strings and show them how to move. You are responsible for their happiness or disappointment with their lives once they start coaching with you. You can single-handedly make them happy and successful because they’ve hired you and are coaching with you.

Whew – sounds like a lot of work! With this outlook you could start to feel like Atlas carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders except it’s the weight of responsibility for your clients lives and well-being that you’re carrying.

Now Picture this: It’s your job to create an environment where your client can realize their own power, beauty, and intelligence. It’s your job to facilitate an experience for your client where they know that they have the power to create the life they want (and that they are creating their lives all the time). Your job is not to fix, figure out, or even understand them. Your job is to help them access the creative brilliance within themselves so that they realize they have their own answers and insight. Your job is to connect with your client so that the creative brilliance within you can spark with the creative brilliance within them and together you can help one another leap forward in your enjoyment of life and evolution as a human being.

In order to make the shift between the first scenario and the second, you need to make a choice and then you need to practice. It’s so easy to take responsibility for your clients experience. So easy. So we need tools which help us over and over again hand responsibility back to our clients.

Reflective listening is a very powerful tool to facilitate your clients experiencing their own power. But before you think it’s just for the client, let’s look at how it’s good for the coach, the client, and the relationship between you.

For the speaker – Everyone likes to be listened to. Until your client feel listened to, they are likely to stay in their own thoughts and personal drama rather than listen, get curious, and unleash their creative potential. Being heard and hearing their own words reflected back to them allows them to listen to themselves and examine their beliefs. It requires them to take more personal responsibility for their words, beliefs, and stories. Owning one’s own stories is powerful medicine.

For the coach – Reflecting back to your client allows you to check your understanding of what was said. Sometimes you mishear. Sometimes your client says something they don’t really mean. Sometimes the way you interpret a word is different than the way the client meant it and reflection allows you to clear up the misunderstanding quickly, and cleanly. Reflection allows them to bring more clarity to their words. While you might not get it ‘right’ the first time, each iteration allows them to refine their ideas and allows you to ask questions and make guesses about how they feels and what they need. This can prevent you from spending time pursuing tangents and get right to the heart of the vision, blocks, and steps that are most important to your client.

For the relationship – Reflection helps strengthen the relationship between you. More understanding is created. More trust. An ability to be honest and to know that you can each be seen, heard, and understood and still be OK. It’s another way of breaking down the culture of  hiding behind a mask of “I’ve got it together. I’m OK.” that even the most well-intentioned client can bring.

And that’s not all. Reflective listening is good for your relationships with your friends, children, partners, spouse, co-workers, and people in the grocery store. It’s a way to listen first instead of react first. It’s a practical step to say “hey I care about peace and understanding more than I care about getting my words and opinions our as soon as possible.” That’s some pretty cool uses for such a simple tool.

How to teach reflective listening?

Reflective listening is made up of at least two parts. Listening comes first. Sit with compassion and empathy. Open your ears and your heart. Allow yourself to listen as though that’s the only thing you need to do.

When listening like this, you may notice the urge to react, respond, argue, agree, collapse into sadness or flare up with anger. This is less likely to happen when you’re with a client than when you’re with your children, your lover, or your co-worker. But out clients will trigger our own unresolved pain. You’ll need to be vulnerable in order to be a good coach and your vulnerability will mean you will have feelings. Sometimes strong feelings. You do not need to repress or ‘pave over’ your own emotions in order to be compassionate to others. That’s not compassion.

You do need to be able to hold and offer yourself compassion while still listening to your client. You can do this through saying to yourself “I welcome this emotion. I’ll give time

Mostly reflective listening is learned with practice. Seeing it role-modeled helps a great deal.

Exercise: Go to YouTube and look up Marshall Rosenberg NVC. I really enjoy seeing how masterful this man is at reflecting feeling and needs rather than thoughts. Link to 3 hour presentation by Marshall Rosenberg on NVC

Links I really enjoy about using NVC with kids
Parenting with nonviolent communication 1
Parenting with nonviolent communication 2

Reflective listening takes vulnerability and courage more than a great memory. Letting the speaker know what you heard rather than pretending you got everything feels pretty vulnerable for most of us. Many of us are used to pretending to understand or listen more than we do. We’re used to lying to the person speaking to us. It takes courage to say what we actually heard vs what we think the person wanted us to believe. It takes skill to separate what you heard from your interpretation and reaction (defense).

Listen for the nuggets of truth. Sometimes repeating back the words verbatim is necessary. Usually it’s clunky and not that effective. ‘Parroting’ the speakers words back to them runs a higher risk of sounding mocking or robotic while still leaving the speaker unsure that what they said really landed in you. When you say it back in your own words, it’s more personal and likely more flawed but has a greater chance of helping the speaker feel heard.

It often works better to use the words “What I heard was…” or “What I understood was…” rather than “You said…” or “You want me to hear…”

Exercise: Practice reflective listening with someone in the class. Pick a topic

  • Tell me about your vision for your coaching practice.
  • Tell me about the obstacles and blocks to manifesting your vision.
  • Tell me about something that’s up for you today.
  • Complete the sentence “If you really knew me, you’d know that I ….”

Week 3: Listening for Needs, Motivation, and Underlying Beliefs

Audio recording for Week 3

Audio download for Week 3


Notes from Week 3

Opening Story

 At the beginning of our Week 2 call for this class, I wanted to record and remembered I needed a PIN code to start the recording. I felt slightly embarrassed to have forgotten the PIN and not have it immediately available. I remembered it being in my email and thought a quick search would allow me to find the PIN and not be ‘found out’ that I hadn’t prepared for the call as much as I should have ahead of time.

I played it off while asking people how they were doing and then not really listening to the answers while I searched. But the words and phrases I searched for did not find the right email or the PIN. After 10 minutes and feeling thoroughly embarrassed I found the email and the PIN, started the recording and we were off. The class went well and yet I was left with a lingering feeling of curiosity about my choice, because on some level it was a choice, to begin the class that way.

I was even more curious when I realized that I had written the PIN on Week 1’s class notes (so that I’d have it handy for Week 2) and added it to my passwords file as well as had it saved in my email. I had done my homework but I believed I hadn’t.

So what was going on?

I have an underlying belief that I need to work hard in order to earn money. I had not put enough time into planning for last week’s class to meet my own criteria for ‘working hard’ or ‘enough time planning’. I had a strong belief that I was not as prepared as I should be in order to teach a really quality class.

I reinforced that belief by manifesting a situation in which I seemed to prove it true. Clearly I wasn’t prepared or I would have had my PIN ready, right? Taking 10 minutes out of the start of the class proves I wasn’t prepared, right?

This story illustrates how underlying beliefs not only inform but actually create reality. When we bring this level of awareness, we can see each opportunity when we or our clients ‘mess up’ as a great opportunity to get curious about underlying stories and motivations.

Part of what allowed me to see this underlying belief is work I’m doing around building my own business. As I step into manifesting more of my core values and vision for my life and work, I’m encountering more obstacles. Bigger risks, bigger rewards, bigger obstacles. They all go together. One of the recent ones I uncovered is a concern that if I make a lot of money with my work it will invalidate my dad’s work. He worked 50-70+ hour work weeks and we barely had enough money to pay our bills. He stood all day long in a stinky machine shop and would go to work when he was sick or had just broken his toe. I watched him pay for his money with his health, his happiness, and his marriage. What right do I have to do work I love, from the comfort of my own home, while making more money than he did?

In addition, we’re very ideologically different. One of the few ways we connect is for him to buy me things or give me money. If I don’t need his money, will we lose our last remaining connection?

After I uncovered that belief I had a conversation with my dad on Sunday where I asked him if it was OK for me to make 2-3 times more money per hour while sitting on my butt in the comfort of my own home. He said “Go for it!” Uncovering that story, using radical honesty, and being willing to allow new information into my system also allowed me to see how my ‘mistake’ in class was really a great teaching moment.

Listening for underlying motivations, limiting beliefs, and the needs and values of your client is one of the most important things you do as a coach. Helping your client connect with their own ‘hidden’ strategies with compassion, gentleness, and trust allows for spontaneous self-correction to unfold and any new strategies you create to be much more effective.

How do you do that?

The compassionate presence delights in listening and utterly trusts that each part is exactly where and how it’s supposed to be. The compassionate presence does not argue with reality even to soothe or console a part (although it welcomes parts that do soothe and console, suggest, try to fix, want to understand, and long for change).

While none of us would be here if we didn’t want a change, going into the work with an attitude of ‘something is wrong and needs to be fixed’ is unlikely to be successful. From that attitude you are likely to create strategies which you client resists on some level and is nearly certain to fail at.

What mindset works better?

  • Compassion and a belief in the intelligence, creativity, and goodness of your client and all their parts.
  • Connecting with the needs that the strategy is trying to meet.
  • Don’t get stuck in what your client thinks.
  • Don’t get caught in judging their behavior as right or wrong.
  • Do ask them powerful questions including:
    • How does that belief serve you?
    • What are you getting out of that point of view?
    • What needs are you trying to meet?
    • How do you act when you’re feeling/thinking this way?
    • If you could respond any way you wanted in this situation, what would you ideally like to do? (Then listen for how what they want to do or think they should do might not meet some of the needs they have and help them see why they aren’t as successful as they’d like to be.)

Here’s an example: A client says she wants to lose weight but she finds herself snacking a lot. Her kids are also snacking and she’s worried they are getting overweight too. She tells them to stop and eat healthy food but they don’t (and neither does she). She wants to find time to go to the gym but between flute, piano, and soccer lessons she never seems to have time.

As a coach, what could you do?

Suggestions: tell her to stop buying snacks. Then she won’t have them in the house. Book babysitting 2 days a week and go to the gym while the sitter is there.

These are good strategies for addressing the things the client talked about. And they completely miss the underlying needs. Why is she overeating? You might have a hunch that it’s to numb out of some other area of her life where she feels powerless or that having a soft covering of extra weight helps her feel safer (less desireable, less of a target) in a world where rape and abuse are all too common. It could be she’s pissed off at her husband for something he’s done or not done and this is a passive aggressive way of getting back at him. It could be that her family has a history of diseases which increase with being overweight and it’s more important to her to be ‘part of her family’ than to be healthy and different. These are just a couple of ideas and they may or may not be true for this client. What’s important is for you to admit that there is likely a lot more going on that you know about, a lot more going on and connected to being overweight than you client is aware of, and to support her in using the tools to find and work with her underlying motivations and stories.

Once you find what’s true, you can help your client. For instance if the last idea – being a part of her family – is the underlying belief that’s motivating her snacking then once she becomes aware of that belief, you can work with her on ways to be more connected with her family. Once those steps are being taken, it will be almost easy for your client to make the other behavior changes you suggested and those behavior changes will become self-evident to her. She’ll start coming up with her own good ideas instead of feeling confounded by her own behavior.

Parts work makes this easier to do. It is especially useful when we have something we want to do and some other thing that we are doing instead.

Let’s demo it. Who wants to be in the hot seat?

Homework – listen for underlying feelings and needs. Print out the CNVC feelings and needs lists. Invite in two different parts to do the exercise with.

Week 4: The Inner Critic and Voice of the Saboteur

Audio recording for Week 4

Audio download (right click and select ‘save as’) DeepListeningWeek4

This is one of my very favorite parts of coaching. I love playing in the shadow – mine and my clients’. Familiarity with my own has lead me to trust my clients’.

I want to do shadow work today which means I’m going to coach each of you for 10 min each.  We’ll zoom in on something in your shadow and demonstrate ways to bring it into the light of loving compassion without telling it it has to go away.

The notes that follow provide a bit of theory and additional ways to practice with the shadow. Use the Try Its in your partner practice with each other.

Whenever your clients want to make a change in their lives that is significant enough that they are hiring a coach, there are at least two parts active in your client. There is the conscious part that wants the change. There is another part that does not want the change. This part may or may not be conscious. Usually there is a conscious protective part that is covering up an underlying belief that is not so conscious. The resistant part is often called the Inner Critic and it’s job is to keep your client safe. Change is not safe. The IC nearly always resists change.

Side note – I think rebirthing and other ways of revisiting/healing birth and early childhood trauma/experiences are very helpful for dealing with the fear the IC has of change. Birth is our first experience of change. It is huge. For many of us it is traumatic. So your client may have a very deeply seated and very justified fear of big changes. To somehow address and hold that very young, preverbal scared part is to help your clients immensely. Parts work can do that but it takes awhile to build trust and it takes your client being willing to trust their imagination and go to irrational places (infants are not rational creatures). There are other modalities that work too.

This is part of where your homework journaling comes in. What have you learned about yourself in your journaling?

To the degree that you’ve looked in your shadow you can be a resource and guide for your clients. You can see other choices that they cannot yet see if you’ve cleared something out of their shadow but for them it is still there.

If you haven’t done the shadow work that your client is ready to do and you’re willing, then you will be inspired and prompted by the work you’re doing with your client. For me, it’s a fun and quick way to do my own work. And it’s often challenging and scary. I regularly use the analogy of riding a roller coaster.

If you haven’t done the shadow work that your client is ready to do and you’re not willing, then you won’t be able to help your client through it. You won’t see the possibilities.

Working with the shadow means being vulnerable.

Curiosity and empathy are the main tools for looking into our shadows.  It’s great to use emotions like frustration, anger, annoyance, irritation, hopelessness, sadness, and numbness with our children as opportunities to explore our shadows and work with what we find there.

Try It 1: Think of a situation where you were frustrated or angry with someone. Ask yourself if it’s possible that this situation is pointing to something within your own shadow.

Noticing when our emotions are more strongly connected to the ways we are not living our own values rather than to the behavior of our children is a great step. It’s not easy. There is little cultural support for seeing your parenting this way. One reassurance I can offer is that this is not an excuse to indulge your child’s poor behavior. Instead it’s a step towards a radically more effective way of parenting.

How the Shadow Communicates

The shadow communicates most noticeably through emotions, usually the ones we don’t like to have. Anger, frustration, and sadness were the dominant emotions I was feeling that day with my daughter.  It’s habitual to avoid these emotions but gradually over time, I’ve learned to listen to what they are trying to tell me.

Try It 2: Being honest about your experience by feeling, noticing, and naming the emotions present for you is the next step. Rarely does anyone have just one emotion at a time. Ask yourself “What am I feeling? What else?” Jot down the answers.

Emotions arise in response to needs. The next step in communicating with our shadows is to get curious about needs. To understand the needs prompting the feelings is to empower ourselves. When our needs are met, we may feel loving, excited, peaceful, elated, encouraged, or renewed. When our needs are not met we may feel exhausted, confused, resentful, jealous, or anxious.. **insert link to CNVC website or other resource?**

The easiest way to understand the needs under the feelings is to look at the strategy and ask what needs will get met through that strategy. In this case, my strategy was to get my daughter to clean up her toys. The needs may seem obvious, but when we get really upset at our kids about something there is usually more going on than is superficially apparent. It’s valuable to look beneath the surface.

Try It 3: Look at the feelings you jotted down. Ask yourself “What do I need right now? What unfulfilled needs of mine are prompting these feelings?” Look at the answer you get and ask again “What need of mine will get met by (my answer)?” You may need to do this several times for each feeling.

 Empathy For the Other

At this point, you (or your client when you’re coaching) have probably given yourself enough empathy that you’re ready to look to the “other” – the person or situation that prompted your initial reaction. When we’re really triggered into our own strong emotions, it’s nearly impossible to empathize with someone else. Like putting the oxygen mask in an airplane on yourself first, giving yourself empathy first helps you have the resources to have clear and caring relationships.

To better understand the other, connect with their needs and feelings. While adults and older children are verbal enough to be asked, most people (children and adults) do better when you guess at their feelings and needs. When you empathize with the other, they become a real person rather than a strategy or a block to getting your needs met.

 Try It 4: Guess at the feelings and needs the other is trying to meet through the situation in Try It 1. Perhaps it’s a strategy of theirs you’re not fond of like playing with their friends instead of cleaning their toys. How do they feel when they leave their chores? Disconnected? Indignant? Irate? Insecure? Afraid?

What needs are they trying to get met through leaving their chores? The feelings will point  you in the direction of the need. For instance if the other is feeling insecure the need might be to feel safe. If they are feeling irate the need might be freedom. Get curious and then check it out with the other person.

To my daughter, I might say something like “Are you feeling happy when you play with your friends because your needs for fun and connection are being met?”

-pause for her response and if it’s affirmative then-

“Yet when you think about cleaning up the toys I wonder if you’re feeling worried because you want to do a good job but aren’t sure how?”

-pause –

“and you want companionship but don’t know how to get someone to do it with you?”

Try It 5: Have a conversation to check out your guesses with the other person. Take the time to listen and reflect in a heart open way.

Shadow work can seem like an endless spiral. Even as I write this article, I’m finding other insights and other connections between my frustration at my daughter’s distraction and the important shadow work within me that is asking for attention.

The good news is that you don’t need to do it endlessly. Whatever time and energy you put into shadow work will pay off. And the work you haven’t yet done? Don’t worry. It will be waiting for you when you’re ready. And your kids will be sure to show it to you.

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