It’s known as a perfect storm: a series of events all coming together at the same time to produce catastrophic results. At the time, it can be hard to see the connections. It is often only in the aftermath that one can look back and see all the different jigsaw pieces and triggers that all worked together to cause such devastating fall-out. This is the fodder of disaster movies.
But imagine instead the perfect storm to be an emotional melt down, and you are the melt-ee. You might think of huge personal storm like a complete burnout. Or a more mundane but regular storm that forms an uncomfortable pattern in your life. You suddenly find yourself exploding at your children for a relatively minor and seemingly innocuous misdemeanour, catching them off guard at the strength of your response. The disproportionate nature of your anger is really a symptom of much deeper unrest, prompted by a series of events coming together all at once – a perfect storm.
The question is, would it have been possible to avoid the storm? To proactively prevent the perfect storm by diminishing the destructive potential of the causative elements. Or in other words, to have hindsight in advance.
Before I trained as a Life Coach, I worked for many years as a Physical Therapist. I would treat patients who sustained a sudden injury that seemed to come out of nowhere.
But unpick their stories a little, dig backwards into the preceding sequence of events, and often there were clear indicators. Triggers to set off a chain of events that led to injury and incapacitation.
Postural problems + chronic weariness + over busyness + muscle imbalance + a sudden demand on the body is likely to lead to some kind of system failure. In the physical dimension, this is likely to be pain and incapacity.
Imagine if we were better tuned in to the triggers, and thus were more able to prevent the physical problems and pain. If we stepped back and saw the implications of continuing with each element unresolved and, instead, decided to take action. Change our posture. Take some time off. Exercise to strengthen, stretch and restore balance.
The physical realm has much to tell us about the realm of our emotional and mental well-being.
Go back with me to that disproportionate outburst of anger at your children.
Or should I say, my children. Because, of course, this example is autobiographical. By nature, I am a stuffer. Just deal with it, get on with the next thing, pay no heed to the rising tide of anxiety/fear/stress/irritation that is threatening to swamp me. So if I ignore how I am feeling – what my emotions are clearly telling me, a storm starts to build. If I also fail to make time for soul-restoring activities, pressure builds further. Add in an unmet need or negative self-belief, and you have the elements for a perfect storm. All it then takes is for one of my daughters to leave something lying around the house that I have asked her to tidy up, and I explode. The fallout is terrible. But it could all have been prevented by an awareness of the triggers to the storm.
Triggers are like red flags along the pathway, yelling at us to stop, pay attention, take action now to avert disaster.
The key thing is awareness. Awareness is central to any coaching conversation, and crucial when we are learning to coach ourselves through our own character growth. Asking questions like:
What am I feeling?
What do those feelings indicate?
And therefore – what do I need?
What will happen if I ignore this and continue down this path?
What is most important here? What action do I need to take?
The Holy Spirit is our essential guide here, as we learn to listen to His prompts. To also ask: God, what are You showing me about myself in this situation? About You? Where am I being tempted, distracted, drawn away from You? Where am I seeking to meet my own needs rather than surrendering to Your love, grace and purposes? We can learn much by looking back with God at events leading up to a storm and asking Him to show us how He is growing and shaping our character. The more we do this, the more we spot patterns and themes that help us identify triggers and prevent future storms.
This is a key tool that we can offer our clients. Chances are, it may have been a perfect storm of some kind that caused them to seek out coaching in the first place. Through asking questions like those above, we can help them recognise the sign that a storm is brewing, identify the triggers, and then – crucially – chose to take action to do something about them.
How does this apply to you and your clients this week?
Catriona Futter, CBLC
About the Author: Catriona Futter is a Christian Life Coach and speaker who is passionate about equipping people to discover and live out their unique, God-given identity and purpose. She runs her own business Equip for Life Coaching from her home in Glasgow, Scotland, offering coaching via Skype, and blogs at http://equipforlifecoaching.com/blog/ Find out more about The 10 Things Challenge and change the way you see yourself and your own future!