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  • Ruth Schocken Katz

Coaching Snippet: On Watching from a Distance.




Seeing behaviours and actions of others, and of ourselves, as binary, is often a way to justify our feelings or thoughts, especially when we’re in conflict. One is opposite the other, and so are our actions, or how we feel about them. In conflict, we often forget to allow complexity in ourselves and whomever it is we are facing.

Remembering complexity, and allowing seemingly contradicting emotions or thoughts to co-exist is allowing ourselves to be human.

In this snippet, I use storytelling to take Karen outside of her situation by imagining a picture at the museum where she can see herself and her situation. It gives her a new perspective, which liberates her from the need to choose one thing over another, and allows her to accept the complexity both of herself and of her ex’s.


Ext. Day. Park.


It’s a gorgeous spring day so Karen and I are doing a walking session in the park. Full of doubt, Karen is again mulling over the complexities of her children’s relationship with their father, her ex.

KAREN

Whenever they show empathy towards him, I feel angry.


ME

About what?


KAREN

About all the manipulative crap he tells them. Stuff that is just not true.

ME

What do you say?


KAREN

I don’t want to impose my own feelings onto their minds. So I just say “OK...”


The tone of her ‘OK’ is partly questioning, partly withholding.


ME

How does that feel?


KAREN

It feels bad, because I still want to set the record straight. I want them to know that he is bullshitting them.


ME

Why do you think he is doing that?


KAREN

He cannot live with the truth, and what it says about his parenting.


ME

So you’re saying he is doing it to feel better about his own shortcomings?


KAREN

Yes! To make him look better. And I want to tell him the truth.


ME

What would you get from telling him that?


KAREN

Well.... I’ll be right! And he’ll be exposed.


ME

You want to blame him for his shortcomings, and for his manipulation?


KAREN

Yes. I guess.


ME

If you were to see this little interaction in a painting in the museum, how would you describe what you see?


KAREN

I see him being manipulative and thinking to myself: ‘ah.... He is feeling regret, he needs to make it look better.’


ME

And putting yourself in the painting, what do you see?


KAREN

I am angry.


ME

And the kids?


KAREN

They have empathy towards him.

ME

And what happens when they see you angry?


KAREN

They think they should be angry.


ME

And how does that...


KAREN

Yes, I see this now. They can be both. They can be angry and have empathy.


ME

Right. They don’t have to choose. And they can actually feel many more feelings at one time, towards one person.


KAREN

Yes, I see this now.


ME

And by the way, so can you. You have previously told me many things that made me see that you can be empathetic towards him, even if you are angry with him.


KAREN

You’re right.


ME

So what is it that we are questioning here?


KAREN

Why do I need to ‘win’ this argument? Why do I need to show him as the bad guy?




Can you see yourself in a painting at the museum? What do you see?



*names and places have been changed to honour privacy


Illustration by Evie Fridel


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