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Have you Seen Your Shadow Lately?

Have you noticed any uncharacteristic changes in your behavior or client behavior as  Covid 19 has impacted life in numerous other  ways?

As Covid 19 became a reality to the U.S. I began to notice changes in my clients and some of the  coaches I supervise.  In some, it was a focus on things that weren’t important in the past. For others it was an edge to their behavior that I hadn’t seen previously.

And then one day, it happened to me. I had an internally alarming and uncharacteristic reaction to a health concern a supervisee shared with me. I managed to reign it in  before it flew out of my mouth, but my presence was impacted, and upon reflection, I realized I missed a number of opportunities and nuances of the session. I also realized my shadow side was making an appearance.

Psychologist Carl Jung was first to use the phrase “shadow side” According to Jung, we all have parts of our personalities that we reject and therefore repress. We avoid admitting to our negative tendencies, and are often not conscious that they exist, until we blurt something out or behave in ways that are unacceptable. The Jung-inspired Myers-Briggs Type Indicator identifies uncharacteristic behaviors as “being in the Grip” as we are subject to uncharacteristic behaviors as a response to stress.

Psychologist Robert Hogan, took this concept step further labeling it our “dark side“ and assigning 11 personality traits to our dark side.

According to Hogan, the behaviors that the dark side of our personalities exhibit are the result of primitive negative emotions and are behaviors we wouldn’t consciously choose,  including:

-Seeing oneself as a victim -Quick to criticize people in less power -Harshly judging others on an impulse -Projecting our insecurities onto others -Unacknowledged bias -Overreacting to small issues -Emotional outbursts -Vacillating between dire and optimistic predictions of the outcome -Developing conspiracy theories -Inability to make decisions -Hoarding -Take a business as usual stance and not addressing the human side of change -Violating norms and policies -Micromanaging

According to Jung, self-acceptance is a key to moving beyond these unconscious behaviors. Learning to manage our stress response can also keep us out of “The Grip” and keep our dark side content to remain behind the scenes.

When our clients seem to be behaving uncharacteristically, our curiosity on their behalf may help clients become aware of their behavior and help us stay in the flow of coaching. When my client brought up his health issue, a thoughtful reflection, following by a simple, curious  question on my part could have helped me stay focused and help us move through his uncertainty together.

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