The Four Levels of Transformation.
Let’s talk about emotions.
Some clients feel run by them, some feel their emotions have taken over their lives, and some are entirely detached from them.
So, what are emotions?
With the risk of sounding unempathic (if that’s a word): Emotions are our bodies’ (learned) response to stimuli.
What? That’s it? So how come many of us believe our emotions are who we are?
Emotions do an excellent job of convincing us they ARE us, and there’s a reason for that: Survival.
Pretty much all negative emotion is aimed to keep us safe from danger. Pretty clever, right? This is why we have to work four times as hard affirming positive emotions compared to negative ones for them to have the same effect! The cards are stacked against us, and if you think about it, why wouldn’t they be when negative emotions keep us safe.
This is something we need to think about when working with clients. All negative emotions felt are due to keeping our clients safe one way or another, and if you try and remove that safety, you bet your bottom dollar the unconscious will kick up a fight!
Trying to control our emotions is hard work; even recognising unpleasant feelings before they take over our bodies can be tricky. And no matter how hard you try or how determined you are, you will never be able to completely diminish the hold emotions have on you by cognitively trying and overcome them. (This is one of the reasons cognitive therapies alone do not work long-term without continuous reinforcement. When we only look at the psychology, we will only be able to go so far.)
So, if controlling our emotions won’t do it, how do we work with our clients’ emotions on a way that supports them long-term? We need to start seeing emotions as a guide in their development instead of something to fix.
Let’s get one thing straight; emotions are not bad, not even unpleasant ones! Emotions can tell us a lot about a person and about ourselves. Does your client hold a lot of anxiousness? Are they suppressing anger? Are they using laughter to cover up sadness? These are all clues to help you understand their story and identity, but they do not tell who they ARE. But our clients are NOT their emotions, and neither are you. Emotions are guides that tell us how deep someone had moved down the transformational ladder.
The Four levels of Transformation
There are four levels of transformation working with clients: Story, Identity, Inner Knowing and Deep Knowing. Most coaches, counsellors and therapists work on levels 1 and 2, some may dip into level 3, and very few dare to sink into level four. Each level holds the opportunity for transformation, but the most significant transformation happens when you move into level four. Let’s break down the levels:
Level One – Story
On this level, you hold space for your client’s story to be shared. You will begin to understand how they see their world and what emotions they are holding because of it. At this level, we also explore what dreams and visions they have for their lives and what they are willing to do or let go of to make those visions a reality.
Level one is an important level. You will be able to use your clients’ emotions as a guide to understanding what emotional expressions they have been holding on to in their lives. If they have been experiencing trauma, you may stay at level one for a while until they are ready to move deeper.
Level Two – Identity
Moving further down the ladder, your client can begin reflecting on their life experiences. Who are they showing up as in this life? And HOW do they want to live their lives into the future? You will be able to pull out their strengths and help them become more aware of their triggers and shadows. They may open up further and begin to understand the gifts from their past. They may also open up to a greater level of forgiveness and appreciation for life and start experiencing regular moments of awe and wonder on a micro and macro level.
Level Three – Inner Knowing
Your client will reach this third level when they start to connect to what many call “the observer” residing within themselves. They may become aware of the separation between their thoughts and behaviours and the quiet inner presence within who holds all the answers. This is a sacred time for your client and will look different for everyone. We mustn’t rush this level but give our clients space and time to process. Some clients will stay on this level for a long time, moving in and out of it, even flow back into levels two and one. Sometimes level three can cause fear and cause the client not to do any more inner work. Allow your client to be where they are and practise deep compassion. Clients often have what Newberg calls moments of enlightenment with a small “e” here.
Level Four – Deep Knowing
Level four moves your client from inner knowing to a deep knowing that they are connected to something greater than themselves. Here, they will start to see the bigger picture and realise they are part of the greater tapestry of existence. They may start to feel deeply connected to everything and everyone. Holistic Counselling at level four results in deep healing. Your client will never return to who they were before working with you. This is often where moments of what Newberg calls Enlightenment with a big “E” happen.
Want to work with your clients on a profound transformation level? Master working on all four levels but aim to reach levels 3 and 4 on the transformational ladder.
What’s one insight you have had reading this?