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Episode 67

Systemic and Trauma Sensitive Coaching

The primary buffer between stress and trauma is agency. Now more than ever, it matters where we place our attention. But how do we balance attention to self and attention to the world and our role in it in this time of personal and collective crisis?

In this conversation with coach and consultant Hetty Einzig we discuss trauma dynamics and resilience, the role of systems thinking in these times, and the two key types of existential crisis and the growth they foster.

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The Potential for Trauma

We will never change our mindset until we change our language. If we continue to use the language of war we will continue to see everything as a battle to be won; this is how we frame the environmental crisis and the corona crisis, and we must ask how constructive it is.

This is just one area where the work of coaches has the potential to make a huge difference in the world at this potent time of change. Another is helping traumatised leaders to expand their capacity for understanding trauma dynamics and how they play out in their leadership and decision-making.

Particularly now, it’s crucial to boost our collective awareness of what creates resilience in times of extreme stress; the prolonged impact of the ongoing corona virus means that there is more potential than ever for trauma to be created, and steps to mitigate this need to be taken.

Systems Awareness and Personal Agency

The primary buffer between stress and trauma is people’s sense of agency. This is where the focus of attention needs to be, and to foster the strength of the part of someone that is able, rather than focussing on the part that is traumatised.

In doing this we need to make sure we have a systems awareness; being cognizant of the place that our client has in the systems they are embedded in. Another contextual frame to look at is whether we are coming from a restorative or regenerative approach.

Another is being more oriented towards the future than we are to the past; to help our clients to explore what is calling them forwards, what they sense their contribution is to be, how they want to be of service. These questions bring us into a bigger picture perspective that helps us feel embedded in the greater context of the world.

The Two Perspectives of Growth

This model, created by Hetty and John Whitmore, portrays how we develop in a quantitative way through our lives along a horizontal axis and then the qualitative along the vertical, and how both of them bring forth growth-fostering crises.

The horizontal axis brings the existential crisis, which can bring us closer to our authentic self, while the vertical axis brings the crisis of duality; the realisation of the gap between how beautiful the world could be and the reality of what it currently is.

With both of these, coaches can help people to stay engaged and find out how they can contribute, and learn to be with the tension inherent in that existential gap.

Resources Mentioned:
The future of coaching, by Hetty Einzig
Sir John Whitmore
Thomas Hübl
Julia Vaughan Smith
Charles Eisenstein
Donella Meadows
The overstory, by Richard Powers
Transpersonal psychology
The Pachamama Alliance

About Hetty

Hetty Einzig

Hetty Einzig is a Senior Consultant and Lead Facilitator for Performance Consultants. She worked with Sir John Whitmore for over a decade, shaping the field of transpersonal coaching and increasing the reach of coaching in organizations. Hetty has vast experience in the areas of business coaching, transpersonal coaching, organizational and team development, leadership development, transformational leadership, organizational synthesis and emotional literacy. She works globally as a facilitator, inspirational speaker and coach, and has published a number of articles and books.


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