AT IT’S ESSENCE, COACHING IS AN ACT OF LOVE.
The role of a coach has the responsibility of maintaining trustworthy behaviour with the objective of benefitting their clients .
The coach is exposed to the various types of love and needs to understand these, so they can maintain the ICF Code of Ethics position regarding managing a healthy relationship with their clients. These ethics are there to protect both the coach and clients.
Some coaches and other professionals lose their way with this, abdicating their professional responsibility to their client and engaging in selfish, destructive and unethical romantic and physical relationships with their clients, simply because they didn’t understand the part that love plays in the process of coaching someone.
Simply put, you need to understand and work with the different forms of love, in order to be an honourable and effective coach.
Seasoned coaches and trustworthy professionals understand this.
You see, in the story of Rumplestiltskin, if you don’t know the name of an emotion, it controls you. As coaches, we are forever helping our clients name and distinguish their current situations, so they have the freedom to choose and respond. Let’s explore, name and distinguish the different energies of love so we can continue to choose and respond.
The ancient Greeks distinguished out the eight different types of love, which if you can learn and understand, you’ll become conscious of how deep our connection is with ourselves and the other people in our lives.
Thanks to Mateo Sol for this excellent article.
8 DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVE
What different types of love are you currently experiencing in your coaching sessions and how are they impacting your practice quality? What kinds of structure and boundaries do you need to construct and maintain? How do you manage them as a coach?
- “EROS” OR EROTIC LOVE
The first kind of love is Eros, which is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Eros represents the idea of sexual passion and desire.
The ancient Greeks considered Eros to be dangerous and frightening as it involves a “loss of control” through the primal impulse to procreate. Eros is a passionate and intense form of love that arouses romantic and sexual feelings.
Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love that in the hearts of the spiritually mature can be used to “recall knowledge of beauty” (as Socrates put it) through Tantra and spiritual sex. But when misguided, eros can be misused, abused and indulged in, leading to impulsive acts and broken hearts.
Eros is a primal and powerful fire that burns out quickly. It needs its flame to be fanned through one of the deeper forms of love below as it is centred around the selfish aspects of love, that is, personal infatuation and physical pleasure.
Sometimes in the heady mix of clarity, acknowledgement and epiphany, the love energy that gets released in a coaching session can be misinterpreted as Eros or romantic love. If you allow this to happen, you are ethically bound to call of your coaching relationship at once. The consequences of mixing the volatility of romance with your role as a coach is disastrous for your client, you and your reputation as a competent practitioner of trust.
- “PHILIA” OR AFFECTIONATE LOVE
The second type of love is philia, or friendship. The ancient Greeks valued philia far above eros because it was considered a love between equals.
Plato felt that physical attraction was not a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” Philia is a type of love that is felt among friends who’ve endured hard times together.
As Aristotle put it, philia is a “dispassionate virtuous love” that is free from the intensity of sexual attraction. It often involves the feelings of loyalty among friends, camaraderie among team mates, and the sense of sacrifice for your pack.
In the coaching context, the coach maintains in the coaching relationship the boundaries of the one way relationship. It’s all about the client and the coach is expecting nothing in return. Philia love is a two way street: give and take. Coach’s simply give and listen, give and listen.
The person who loses the most in this situation is the coach, if they assume that they have a friendship with their client. The coaching relationship is a relationship of trust and intimacy, but it only goes one way, straight to the client. Caveat Emptor.
- “STORGE” OR FAMILIAR LOVE
Although storge closely resembles philia in that it is a love without physical attraction, storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and their children, and children for their parents.
Storge love can even be found among childhood friends that is later shared as adults. But although storge is a powerful form of love, it can also become an obstacle on our spiritual paths, especially when our family or friends don’t align with or support our journey.
It is for this reason, coaches at the beginning of the journey to mastery, are encouraged to avoid coaching friends and family. There are a lot of distinctions and boundaries that an experienced coach learns to construct and maintain, that a new coach has no idea about.
- “LUDUS” OR PLAYFUL LOVE
Although ludus has a bit of the erotic eros in it, it is much more than that. The Greeks thought of ludus as a playful form of love, for example, the affection between young lovers.
Ludus is that feeling we have when we go through the early stages of falling in love with someone, e.g. the fluttering heart, flirting, teasing, and feelings of euphoria.
The coach needs to use play and lightness to keep the coaching process moving, to help your client avoid becoming stuck in their emotional process. You need to be mindful that this does not revert to flirting, teasing or play for your own ends. Remember, we are only there for them, not for us.
- “MANIA” OR OBSESSIVE LOVE
Mania love is a type of love that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance between eros and ludus.
To those who experience mania, love itself is a means of rescuing themselves; a reinforcement of their own value as the sufferer of poor self-esteem. This person wants to love and be loved to find a sense of self-value. Because of this, they can become possessive and jealous lovers, feeling as though they desperately “need” their partners.
If the other partner fails to reciprocate with the same kind of mania love, many issues prevail. This is why mania can often lead to issues such as co-dependency.
Of course the coach needs to avoid moving into an unproductive and impotent relationship of co-dependency. This is where having a mentor is critical – to maintain the quality of a professional, detached and productive coaching relationship you have with your clients.
- “PRAGMA” OR ENDURING LOVE
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time.
You can find pragma in married couples who’ve been together for a long time, or in friendships that have endured for decades. Unfortunately pragma is a type of love that is not easily found. We spend so much time and energy trying to find love and so little time in learning how to maintain it.
Unlike the other types of love, pragma is the result of effort on both sides. It’s the love between people who’ve learned to make compromises, have demonstrated patience and tolerance to make the relationship work.
This of course, naturally develops over time between coach and client. If you maintain your integrity as a coach, the boundaries that are required to achieve that, then you get the reward of being: “a person of influence and trust”. This can be a valuable and fulfilling reward for your disciplined, consistent conduct and attitude.
- “PHILAUTIA” OR SELF LOVE
The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self-obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with Narcissism.
Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion” which is the deep understanding that only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, will you be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
You cannot share what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love anyone else either. The only way to truly be happy is to find that unconditional love for yourself. Only once you learn to love and understand yourself, will you be ready to be the effective, honourable coach you aspire to be.
- “AGAPE” OR SELFLESS LOVE
The highest and most radical type of love according to the Greeks is agape, or selfless unconditional love.
This type of love is not the sentimental outpouring that often passes as love in our society. It has nothing to do with the condition-based type of love that our sex-obsessed culture tries to pass as love.
Agape is what some call spiritual love. It is an unconditional love, bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion, an infinite empathy. It is what the Buddhists describe as “mettā” or “universal loving kindness.” It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations, and loves regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others.
Agape is the love that is felt for that which we intuitively know as the divine truth: the love that accepts, forgives and believes for our greater good.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be coached by someone in the state of Agape? This is a state that coaches find themselves slipping in and out of on a daily basis. The act of coaching is an act of selfless love that will lead you to this experience and your intentions and experiences of coaching will operate at a high and deep level, from your experience of agape.
“Coach” OR SELFish LOVE
So, what kind of coach are you? In your handling of love, are you a trusted professional…or are you a primal puppet, pulled by the kneejerk strings of Eros?
The trusted professional, knows the heat of love and how to work productively with it.
They allow the ebb and flow of love to move within them, using the boundaries and skills of a loving and professional coach, to take their clients to the journey of discovery to their own self knowledge, genius and solutions.
Are you up for this?
If you are and you want to build your skills attitudes and knowledge around the coaching process, with strong foundational structure and guidance around the nuance and correct practice of process coaching then let me know. Email me if you are.