“I was asked to go on the High Performance Coaching for Change programme by my, then, line manager,” explained Emily Faircloth, Commissioning Manager for Northern Eastern and Western Devon CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group).
“At first she invited me to go and then, when I didn’t sign up, came a strong recommendation. I can recall the first day of the programme very clearly. It was like nothing I’d experienced before and I made up my mind that I wasn’t impressed. I remember listening to Mo talking and thinking “I haven’t got a clue what he’s talking about”. In fact, I started to wonder if I was in the wrong room. The programme was delivered in a way that I had never experienced before – it seemed unstructured and all of the concepts that Mo was presenting were alien to me. At the end of day one, I said to my colleague “I’m coming along to one more of these but if it’s no better, I’m off.”
At this time in her life, it was not just work pressures that were proving tough for Emily. “I really didn’t want to live in the way I was living. Many of my close relationships weren’t working, work and home life was difficult, I wasn’t convinced about the difference that I was making for other people and, for many years, I had carried around issues about my relationship with my father, who died when I was a baby.”
Despite her early misgivings about the programme, by the second session, Emily started to recognise that it offered her a unique opportunity to make a real difference to her life. “I don’t know what it was, but something resonated with me. I think it may have been Simon talking about what risks we’d be prepared to take in our lives (our “Up-fors”)and what might be at stake if we did. This felt like a challenge that I might be prepared to take on.“
Emily volunteered to lead a buddy group, which gave her the opportunity to have one-to-one coaching with Simon Daly from InterBe. “The first coaching session was extraordinary. I wrote a list of all the problems I was facing in my life, handed it over to Simon and said something along the lines of “fix that then”. He didn’t respond in the way that I expected him to. I thought he might say “this is terrible” or “poor you” but he didn’t. Within half an hour, I felt that I could trust him completely. For me, that was a huge thing as my background was one of mistrusting people.”
Simon set Emily a series of tasks including writing a number of letters to her dead father. “The first letter was full of anger and hurt. I saw myself as a victim and the letter was all about blaming him for not being there to protect me during my life. I talked about how much better my life would have been if he had lived. The second letter was completely different, though. It came from a place of love and forgiveness, for both him and myself. This process was surprising and completely liberating.”
A breakthrough occurred for Emily in opening up the Pandora’s Box of hidden beliefs about herself that she carried around in her head. “It was always there and I’d kept the lid firmly on it for the whole of my life. But, the course and the coaching made me take the lid off and confront what was inside. I discovered that it was just a load of made-up stories that I had about myself. None of it was real; I’d invented these stories.”
In the past, Emily’s way of dealing with the pain of her disempowering beliefs about herself had been to ask “an expert” (a counsellor or psychotherapist) to fix it, or to take antidepressants to mask it. “Avoidance became the norm and I’d become practiced at numbing discomfort and painful emotions. Narrative Transformation was an entirely new approach for me. In our coaching sessions, Simon was the catalyst but, actually, the person making the changes was me. He kept on reminding me that I could choose to access a life I loved and his role through inquiry powerfully broke down the defensive barriers I’d built to protect myself from others and consistently guided me ‘back to north’; a place of balance, integrity, vulnerability and enlightenment. It was incredibly empowering and completely transformational.”