burning-heart-fire-love-flame-pixmac-illustration-13897307Don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but our culture seems to be somewhat emotion-averse. At least when it comes to anything that falls outside of culturally defined “norms.”

By “our culture,” I refer primarily to the U.S. and North America. And possibly the cultures that shaped our culture as we know it today. Consider this movie quote from What a Girl Wants, “No hugging dear. I’m British. We only show affection to dogs and horses.”

In addition to pop culture evidence from the Brits, friends from around the world have shared similar messages from the cultures that shaped them.

Bottom line: We – humankind – are not so in love with emotions.

So-o-o-o…what’s the deal? Why do we collectively consider emotions to be the experiential equivalent of the Big Bad Wolf? Why is the “f” bomb for our times – especially in a business context – spelled f-e-e-l-i-n-g-s?

Here’s my theory: We are being called to change our relationship with emotions and integrate them more deeply into who we are and how we live our lives. And from the midst of this mega-transition in human consciousness, we’ve reached the point of awareness that tells us this is HUGE.

I believe on some level we know we have already opened Pandora’s Box and there is no going back.

Change, baby. Big, hairy, often messy change.

And we all know that change wreaks havoc with the fundamental need to Feel In Control. (One of my personally favorite states of being)(and…what’s not to love, right?)

As a coach – a human development specialist – change IS my business.

What this means is that as long as I work as a coach, I accept the mandate to grow myself as needed in order to support others in identifying and living into the changes they desire. (Or sometimes the changes they feel are forced upon them. More on this another day.)

In other words, coaching means change which means growth which means deeper self discovery and awareness which means (wait for it…) being present with emotions. And – doing so as productively as possible.

 As productively as possible.

This means making a conscious choice to be present with and relate to emotions in new ways. On. An. Ongoing. Basis.

We aren’t talking once-and-done stuff here.

How this relates to you as a coach is this:

Integrity requires that you walk the talk. Do the work yourself to continue to evolve your relationship with your own emotions. You can’t give to others what you haven’t given yourself. Not sustainably.

Be willing to go beyond an intellectual discussion of and experience of your emotions. Get messy. Get real. And get support because a guide for the journey really comes in handy when emotions feel like quick sand.

Learn to use your emotions as a source of wisdom. This requires developing a relationship of collaboration with them. Partnering is not just something you demonstrate in an ICF exam; it is a way of being.

Expand your bandwidth for acknowledging and including emotions, yours and those of your clients. This development of capacity requires the kind of persistent, consistent noticing derived from being fully present in the moment.

It also requires shifting out of an adversarial relationship with emotions. Explore what it means to honor what you feel. Honoring is not the same thing as self indulgence. (Not that I’m knocking self indulgence; there are times some self indulgence can be really healthy.)

Your choice to be so present, noticing, inclusive and honoring of emotions will pay off in spades: You will be less likely to get hooked into clients’ negative emotions and get your Jello™ jiggled.  You will avoid the seduction of chasing solutions and instead will be present to growth opportunities – for you and your client.

And that IS what it’s all about, right?

 If you enjoyed this article, you will want to listen to the replay of the February, 2014, Heart and Soul of Coaching conversation. You can catch some specific tips for supporting yourself with being present and holding your center in the face of your clients’ intense emotions. Access the call recording here.

If you are not yet a member of the H&S community, you can learn more and join here.

In celebration of the unfolding adventure!