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Transforming Distress Into Light

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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A practice that deepens awareness is transforming distress into light, a way to harness the energy of distress in life-serving ways. This process is adapted from the work of many practitioners, including: Marshall Rosenberg, Susan Skye, Robert Gonzales and Meganwind Eoyang.

The transformation of internal distress into light is the psychological alchemy of turning base metal into gold. Holding the light of awareness intently on an internal emotional state alters the frequency of the energy and completely transforms the initial emotion. As we mourn, we touch the sadness of the unmet need, but if we stay with it, we touch the beauty of the need as it lives in us. This connection activates healing and transformation.

This inner practice can also be brought into dialogue. It can support us in coming from our aliveness and fullness, where we’re connected to our core authenticity and can share from our passionate, wholehearted desire without expectation or blame of others. Even when our needs remain unmet, the practice of putting our attention on our needs is nurturing and energizing.

Example: Transforming Distress into Light

Erika: My best friend is acting cold and distant lately. She won’t say exactly what’s wrong. It’s been this way ever since I said I didn’t want to give her a copy of my report because I didn’t want her to use the content inappropriately. I asked her if we could talk about it and she just says there’s nothing to talk about.

Coach: What are you telling yourself about this?

Erika: I’m so stupid. How could I have said that to her? Why was I mistrustful of her? I will never be able to fix things between us. I’ve lost her friendship for good. I also think she’s being inflexible. She is so stubborn sometimes. How can she end such a long friendship over a misunderstanding?

Coach: What physical sensations do you notice?

Erika: I have this deep aching around my heart chakra. The pain is emotional but I feel it physically too. There are tears always near the surface. Sometimes I just let them out. I feel so weighed down.

Coach: What are you feeling right now?

Erika: I feel this overwhelming sadness. We’ve shared so many good times together. I really value her friendship. I feel anguished and heartbroken and regretful. I wish I could take those words back. I don’t know how to fix this if she won’t talk about it. I’m also feeling hurt and angry by her refusal to have a conversation.

Coach: What needs are you aware of?

Erika: I have a deep need for connection and harmony. Also for relief from this intense pain.

Coach: What if this need were never met?

Erika: My life would feel so empty and sad and lonely. It would be like sitting alone in a dark room.

Coach: Stay with the distress and then imagine a bright light entering your body through your head, filling you with bright golden energy...What are you noticing?

Erika: My heart is wrapped in the yellow light and the light is also encasing my tears. I see the light flowing out of me and toward my friend. I notice some of the tension easing and I’m breathing more deeply and evenly. I’m smiling as the light connects the two of us.

Coach: What requests can you make to honor or meet your radiant needs?

Erika: I want to give my friend space to heal, so my requests for myself are that I connect with her possible feelings and needs and that I spend time each day this week journaling about my needs and hers, and envisioning all of them wrapped in the golden light. That will give me some relief and allow me to open to what might be possible for us.


Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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