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  • Peg Hunt

Navigating Suffering

People often come to coaching because they are in the midst of a transition (e.g., they have just been promoted, or they have graduated) or they are anticipating a life change (e.g., retirement). Change often involves loss, and for many, suffering—there are precious losses associated with giving up a familiar identity to forge a new and unknown path.

As we have shared in previous blogs, the first step is to identify or name the feeling: suffering. That’s a start, but I think one of the worst things about suffering is that it often feels so lonely. We may hide our suffering because we are afraid we may be a burden to others if we share our sorrows and grief. Maybe we see our own identity as the “strong one,” so our role is to support others. Or perhaps we believe that our value lies in our lightness and humor and to share our heaviness would mean risking loss of a relationship, so we keep silent. Sometimes we don't share our pain because we deem it trivial in the larger suffering of others (I have a comfortable life, who am I to complain about anything when some people don't even have a roof over their heads).

While I believe that most relationships would be richer if we showed up with greater vulnerability and wholeness, sometimes that is too risky. A coaching relationship is a place where clients can bring their suffering and not be so alone and even explore and practice being vulnerable with another. This often makes the suffering more bearable and helps clients recognize it as part of the human condition.

Additionally, coaches help their clients recognize their own resilience. We may feel that we cannot bear our suffering and so we avoid the feelings and the situations that bring it about (e.g., we stay in a job because we fear that we would fail searching for something that truly ignited our passion, or we only put partial effort into something we really want because we don’t want to be disappointed). But the truth is we may not be giving ourselves enough credit. Yes, disappointment is hard, but is it truly crushing? What will REALLY happen if we are disappointed? We will brush ourselves off and carry on. Life is most meaningful when we do not allow ourselves to be hemmed in by our own fears. Coaching can help you recognize when this is happening and stay committed to the journey that most calls to you.

If you are going through a transition (and suffering) or avoiding a transition (and suffering), please reach out for a consultation to see if coaching could be the partnership you need to help you get more of what you want in your life. Please contact me at

© Anne Garing, PhD & Peg Hunt, MS

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