Ramona, a senior engineer in a midsize software company, was talking with João, her coach.
“This has been an impactful month,” Ramona said with enthusiasm. “First, I started opening up to my team, family, and friends, telling them what’s going on for me. Then I asked for help from each of them. And I’ve been making clear I am still fulfilling my responsibilities. As a result, I am feeling better than ever. So much more confident and content than before our first conversation about all this.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” João congratulated. “Are you saying everything is feeling right?”
“Well, no, not really,” Ramona hedged. “Should it be?”
“Your last responsibility is doing what feels right,” João declared.
What you feel may be different from what you know
“But, that’s not what you asked,” Ramona pointed out.
“You’re right,” João agreed. “You can do what feels right and still not feel right about it. If everything feels right, however, you’re almost certainly doing what feels right.”
Ramona scratched her head while she considered this.
“If I’m doing what feels right, why wouldn’t I feel right about it?” she asked.
“Let’s work through what’s not feeling right for you. Then, maybe we’ll find the answer,” João suggested.
“Sure thing,” Ramona agreed. “Let’s start with my team. I know I’m doing what’s right there.”
“Sounds good,” João responded. “How do you feel about your team?”
“I feel guilty,” Ramona replied. “We’re all feeling stressed. We all have more to do than we can finish. And we all have not-work things clamoring for attention as well.”
“I know I’m doing everything I can,” Ramona continued. “Yet I still feel like I’m letting my team down. I should be able to make this work.”
You may have forgotten parts of what you know
“What tells you that?” João probed.
“I get paid to solve problems. I should be able to solve this,” Ramona said vehemently.
“What is underneath that belief?” João explored.
Ramona fell silent. João saw her settle into her chair and close her eyes. He noticed her breathing slow down.
A few minutes later, Ramona opened her eyes. “I checked in with my body, heart, mind, and spirit,” she reported. “I had a really intense memory appear. My mom was berating me for not pulling my weight. ‘You really let me down,’ she kept repeating.”
“How old were you in this memory?” João asked.
“Like 5?” Ramona said a little uncertainly.
She paused, reflecting.
“Wow,” she said finally. “That’s absolutely why I’m feeling guilty. How weird.”
She sat a bit more.
“I already feel my guilt abating,” Ramona reported wonderingly.
“When we understand the root of a feeling, we can examine that experience. That’s the start of letting the experience go.”
“And so, the start of letting go of the feeling as well,” Ramona said, understanding clear on her face.
“Exactly,” João confirmed.
The feelings that stick around are giving you something
Ramona stayed quiet for a few minutes.
“That’s everything at work,” she said eventually. “I’m feeling good about everything with my sister and parents,” she continued. “With my best friend, though….” She trailed off.
“I’m confident I’m doing what’s right there,” Ramona asserted. “I feel sad, though. I wish I could do more.”
“What is telling you that you could be doing more?” João asked.
“She’s having such a hard time,” Ramona explained. “She’s handling it all well. I don’t believe there’s anything more that she could be doing. She’s going to be ok. Still, I wish I could make her life easier.”
“What is underneath that desire?” João probed.
Ramona reflected for a bit, then said, “Nothing seems to be underneath. What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” João assured her. “Not all of our emotions are driven by our experiences. So let’s take a different line of inquiry. What does holding onto this desire to make your friend’s life easier give you?”
“What does it give me?” Ramona queried.
“What does it give you,” João confirmed. “You wouldn’t be holding onto this feeling if you weren’t getting something from doing so.”
“Hmmm,” Ramona said. She felt into the question for a minute.
“I guess,” she started slowly, “feeling sad tells me I’m being a good friend.” She paused for a moment, then continued, “Like, if I accepted that things are what they are and let them be that, I would be letting her down somehow.”
João nodded. “What is behind that?” he questioned.
“Let me check in with my heart, body, mind, and spirit about that,” Ramona requested.
João nodded assent and sat quietly while Ramona talked with her parts.
After a time, Ramona refocused on João.
“I have this belief that I need to actively support everybody to be of value,” she said. “I need more reflection to find what’s below that.”
“Good work,” João said supportively. “We can dig into that next time if you like.”
Use your emotions as guides
“Well, this has been super interesting,” Ramona declared. “So many learnings today.”
She held up a finger. “First, even when I know I’m doing the right thing, I still might have emotions about what I’m doing.”
“Second, those feelings might echo experiences I had a long time ago. When I was a child, even,” Ramona continued.
“Third, if I’m holding onto an emotion, it must be giving something to me,” Ramona said.
“You’ve summarized it well,” João complimented. “Any questions still hanging around?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Ramona said after a short pause. “I’ll ping you if any come up.”
“Sounds good,” João said. “Happy reflecting!” he said as Ramona started out of his office.
“Thanks,” Ramona replied.
This is the last part of a series: