I want my next business card to read, “I won’t work on your problems, but I’ll teach you how to fish.”
It’s not because I particularly love to fish (although I am a Pisces and I do love being outside near rivers and lakes), or that I dislike people with problems. I mean, as a life coach, that’s my daily territory!
You can find plenty of coaches, therapists, and healers who will help you with your problems.
But not me.
Nope. I’m leaving that bag behind, and here’s why:
The more I focus on what’s “wrong,” broken, or otherwise in need of “fixing” in you (or, if I believe you when you say “I can’t because…”), the less close you actually get to standing forward as the fully capable, beautiful, whole and imperfectly perfect human being you are.
Instead, as a Soul-Centered Coach and Guide to Wholing and Self-healing (terms which I’ll unpack shortly), I will and do wholeheartedly support the cultivation of people’s innate human wholeness. And surprise surprise! This approach actually works wonders on problems.
Uh, ok. So what the heck is “Wholing”?
Glad you asked! Allow me to ‘splain, Lucy.
First of all, the word “whole” isn’t typically used as a verb. However, as I’m talking about creating wholeness here, I am defining “wholing” as this: The act of creating completeness, integrity, soundness, strength and cohesion in a human being.
In his book, Nature and the Human Soul, Bill Plotkin talks about two different approaches to psychological issues:
“There are two general approaches to alleviating psychological problems: pathology-centered and wholeness-centered (holistic). Using the pathology approach, we ask, “What symptoms of dysfunction is this person exhibiting, and what can be done to eliminate these symptoms and/or this dysfunction?” Common psychological symptoms include anxiety, depression, obsessions, eating disorders, addictions, and mania. A shallow version of the pathology approach simply attempts to eliminate or suppress the behavioral, somatic or emotional symptoms. A deeper approach tries to understand the psychodynamics of the dysfunction and then foster healing by addressing deeper causes.
All pathology approaches begin and end with a symptom focus: you don’t know what, if anything, is needed until symptoms appear, and you don’t know your intervention has succeeded until the symptoms diminish.
… With the holistic approach, in contrast, dysfunction is not a central focus. We ask instead, “What qualities or capacities are missing from this person’s embodiment of wholeness, and what can be done to cultivate these qualities or capacities?” The goal is to encourage and foster something functional and fulfilling rather than to remove something dysfunctional and deadening. Missing psychological qualities might be, for example, innocence, wonder, body awareness, nature reverence, creativity, and the development of values and virtues. Capacities of wholeness include social skills, cultural knowledge, emotional and imaginal skills, conflict resolution, and self reliance.”
(italics are my own, not the author’s)
As a human development professional, rather than focusing on what people feel needs “fixing” in them, I’ve witnessed the emboldening effects that occur while focusing on their innate strengths instead.
In my experience, overly focusing on the former seems to send the message to people that they’re somehow not capable of solving their problems themselves. Said another way, it encourages people to remain in more of a victim position rather than cultivating their innate capacities and strengths (aka, wholeness).
We all see this in other ways, too. For example, when someone comes up with an idea or solution on their own, they’re far more likely to adopt it or embrace it, as opposed to being told what to do.
Learning to Fish (aka, Cultivating Wholeness)
There’s an old saying:
Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day.
Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.
Wholeness-centered, or wholing, work is about teaching people to fish, which is to say, it’s about helping one become fully resourced in their own innate strengths, capabilities, talents, and skills.
Wholing work, as Plotkin mentioned, can include things like: conflict resolution skills, emotional skills, assertiveness skills, cultivating one’s sense of wonder in and for the natural world, body-centered awareness, self-reliance skills, etc.
Practically speaking, when I focus on wholing with my clients, my own center of gravity shifts. I move from a stance of “You need help with this” to “You’ve got this!”, which in turn produces a shift in how they relate to themselves (namely, they too start to feel that they’ve got this!).
As someone who also actively gets coaching and mentorship in this model, I can truly say that it’s incredibly empowering and enlivening to be held as the naturally creative, resourceful and whole human I am.
But what about REAL problems? Healing vs. Self-Healing
At this point you might be thinking, ‘Yes, that’s great and all, but there ARE instances when people really do need help and they do need to look at the broken or hurt parts inside themselves.’ Absolutely. I agree 100%.
Traditionally, healing is about tending to what’s broken, hurt or wounded in another. And there are certainly times when we may be in need of this kind of attention and care. That’s traditionally where a great psychotherapist comes in.
Alternatively, in the holistic model, we bring in the concept of Self-healing (with a capital “S” referring to the whole, fully resourced Self… or, one could say the Big Self as opposed to the small self).
Simply put, Self-healing is about tending to ourselves from our wholeness (or from our fully resourced and centered Self), rather than “getting healed” by another. It’s also about learning how to embrace our protective parts (aka, our sub-personalities) when we’ve been hijacked by them, welcoming them back into the fold of ourselves.
Self-healing (as opposed to leaning on someone else’s wholeness in order to feel stronger) has been extremely empowering for me. I’ve grown from the inside out in a myriad of ways, and in ways that I just couldn’t have had I been leaning on someone else for my “answers”.
Self- healing is a simple (though not necessarily easy) way of loving the parts inside of us that feel hurt, scared, scarred, mad, rejected or otherwise protective. And when done in conjunction with wholing work, it can have remarkably empowering effects.
As I mentioned earlier, as a Soul Centered Professional Coach and Guide to Wholing and Self-Healing, I won’t work with you on your problems or what you think needs “fixing” in you (although, I’m sure that you can find plenty of people to pay to do that).
Instead, if you’re ready to stop talking about your problems and really lean into your own growing edges; if you’re ready to really know and feel yourself as the naturally creative, capable, resourceful and fully alive human being you innately are, let’s talk.
You’re ready to learn to fish.
Photo: Boriskin Vladislav