Home Concepts Interpersonal Relationships Piercing the Armor: Professional Coaching and Vulnerability

Piercing the Armor: Professional Coaching and Vulnerability

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As a coach, how do we address the issue of armor – whether our clients have clad themselves in the armor or the armor has been placed on them by society and their profession? What do we do as coaches about our client’s persona? Do we leave it alone, or suggest that our client seeks out a Jungian analyst? Taking an appreciative approach, do we help our client see the value of and appropriate use of their persona—or at least help them identify the nature of their persona and its dynamics interaction with our client’s shifting environment?

I would suggest that we also consider approaching our armored/masked client by posing (in a gentle and appreciative manner) the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the armor (persona)? How does it help people with whom you relate in your role:
  • their ability to readily identify your role (particularly important under conditions of stress and the need for rapid response),
  • their sense of safety in relating to you and asking for your assistance (recognizing your expertise or carefully defined role) and/or
  • their assumption that you will act in a predictable manner (no room for surprise under conditions of stress and the need for rapid response).
  • When can you take off your armor (persona)?
  • What sessions
  • With what people (your family, friends, peers in the same role)?
  • What are the “secondary gains” associated with this armor/persona
  • Status
  • Personal security
  • Job security
  • Hide what is “really going on” inside.

One of the people I have coached and with whom I have consulted is a high-ranking official in her state.  She has to wear a “uniform” while doing her job and is often featured in the local news. As a result, she can’t go out to a local bar to hand out with friends and have a few drinks. She even finds it difficult to take off her “uniform” while going out in public. As a result, my client has purchased a second home in a city far away from her state – where she and her husband can enjoy an evening out on the town. This delightful and deeply-dedicated public servant loves going out to small night clubs and dancing the night away: no uniform and no mask (or at least a different mask).

The Fall of Public Man

There is an even deeper and more historical assessment of armor. In The Fall of Public Man. Richard Sennett (2017) writes about the shift that occurred in European society several centuries ago. For many years, the condition of European cities was deplorable. Sewage ran in the streets (which were nothing more that muddy wastelands of filth and disease). Men wore hats and walked with their women folk on the curb side of the street because inhabitants of the rooms located in the buildings beside them were pitching their waste products out the window and onto the street (and hats) below. Under these conditions, there was no need to “dress up” when going outside. Rather, formal wear was reserved for “at home” living. Men, woman and children wore their fine clothes at home and presented their refined manners at home – leaving their courser behavior for the streets outside. Thus “private man” was refined and “public man” was crude and less restrained. Reich would say that the character armor was reserved for domestic life. The Jungians would concur that the “persona” was most consistently engaged at home.

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