Problem or difficulty?

   When we describe a negative situation we can use the words problem or difficulty and they are often used interchangeably. But, when you explore their true meaning, you’ll see that they refer to two quite different concepts. So let’s take a minute or so to explore the fundamental difference between the subjective, personalised and internal nature of a problem – that is, a conflict in a person’s perception of elements in the real world – and the actuality – the existential, undeniable fact – of the thousand and one random difficulties that always will happen in the course of a lifetime.

   The Unitive® coaching approach does not deal with life’s external difficulties.  A person who is able to see the world as it really is will always deal with whatever life comes up with, in his or her own authentic way. If there are difficulties that he doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to cope with, he may go to a professional for help. However, the problems the Unitive® coach addresses are purely subjective. They do not exist in the world as such, but only in the client’s comprehension of that world.

  The traditional definition of a professional is someone can help the client to deal practically with difficulties in the real world – who has specialised knowledge of a particular aspect of that world, and therefore is able to identify and help to resolve the practical difficulties that arise from the client’s lack of expertise in that particular field of endeavour. By virtue of the fact that he knows more about a particular subject than the person who is asking for help, he (or she) therefore has the power to resolve the client’s difficulties – power that the client doesn’t possess. That’s what the client pays for. You go to a dentist, for example, and you ask for his professional help. You have pain that you can’t do anything about, but he knows about teeth and he can do things to your teeth that you can’t do. So we can define a professional as someone who has some kind of expertise, a practical set of skills, which you don’t intrinsically possess.

   If we as coaches put ourselves up to ‘help’ someone, then what we’re doing is, we’re saying in effect that this person needs some kind of external source of aid before they can come to terms with their problems. In Unitive® coaching, we never lose sight of the basic fact that the client’s problems don’t exist in the real world, but only in the way he or she has been conditioned to perceive it.  It’s really disingenuous to believe that a coach can ‘help’ the client by assuming the role of an expert; someone who sets himself up to know more about any particular client’s internal process than the client himself. When you think about it, that really doesn’t make sense. The whole point of the Unitive® approach to coaching is not to offer help, but to facilitate the client to help himself.  The Unitive® coach works with the client on a level playing field – faces the client as another vulnerable human being – to appreciate the client’s humanity as being intrinsically the same as his own.

   In the Unitive® approach to coaching the coach acts as a an interpreter; to facilitate whatever meaning is implicit in whatever it is that the client is presently prepared to share. We as coaches must ask ourselves, what does it mean, what does it signify, that this person has come a certain distance, paid a certain amount of money and is presently sitting down in front of us. What are his expectations? What are his fantasies about our expertise? How much power does he transfer on to us? And are we going to encourage those fantasies by acting as an ‘expert’, or do we begin to tutor him toward the insight that he doesn’t in fact need to have what he perceives as his problems – that he has within him the power to liberate himself?                                

                          – excerpt from a podcast by Charles Bentley PhD