We wish to conclude by coming full circle and turning one more time to social neurobiology – for this field yields one additional challenge that should be addressed by all practitioners and teachers of personal and life coaching. Apparently, the neurochemistry associated with formation of intimate relationships is quite different from the neurochemistry associated with formation of friendships. In both cases, powerful, chemically-based bonds are formed and these bonds are reinforced whenever our intimate or our friend appears before us. But those bonds differ in nature. Our body literally “lights up” with one set of neuro-chemical responses when the other person is considered a friend, and a completely different set of neuro-chemical responses when the other person is an intimate.
It seems that the neuro-chemical reactions of a patient in psychotherapy (especially when it is long-term and depth oriented) more closely resemble the neuro-chemical responses of an intimate relationship rather than that of a friendship—and these neuro-chemicals are released in both the patient and therapist. The processes called “transference” and “counter-transference” may be something more than the replication of patterns and images from previous intimate relationships (including parents). These processes may involve the release of neuro-chemicals that are the same as those released in our intimate relationships.
What about the personal and life coaching relationship—is that more like a friendship than an intimate relationship? What if this form of coaching, like therapy, releases neuro-chemicals that replicate intimate relationships? What if coaching differs from psychotherapy by lighting up the friendship set of responses? Does coaching in an organizational setting light up the brains of coach and client in the same way as personal and life coaching (which can involve more intimate issues)? What about coaching that touches upon the spiritual dimensions of life—how does the brain light up when these issues are addressed? Stay tuned. We suspect that there is much to be learned over the coming decade about these matters – and predict that personal and life coaching will never quite be the same once we gain a clearer sense of how our clients (and we as coaches) operate and construct life over many years and in very complex, unpredictable and turbulent time.
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