I’m lying on a bed, locked in a remote house with an obsessed fan who is about to destroy my legs.
You could come and talk to me about how everything is experienced through thought. But to be honest, that wouldn’t be massively helpful at the moment. What I’d find most useful is a way out of this Misery and never see Annie Wilkes again.
In my coaching work, I talk to teenagers who are bullied, teachers who face taunts every day, people who want to leave their marriage, professionals who cry in the toilets, parents whose kids hate their schools.
From how they describe the situations to me in my study, it seems like this is their own version of Annie Wilkes. The humane response would seem to be, “Get the hell away from all that. Here, let me help you.”
And let’s be clear, if you come to a coach in fear for your life, they will help you find safety, immediately. If you want food or drink or rest they will help you get that. If you want a literal or a metaphorical hand holding they will do that. If you want space just to be quiet and alone, they will make that happen. If you want help to leave your partner, change job or find a new school, they will give you that help. Clear requests don’t need discussion.
But often the clients in my study don’t know what they want. They see a terrible situation, horrible people and they don’t know what to do. And when you come to a coach stuck, stressed, in confusion or believing you have no options, what you need is clarity.
This is where the discussion comes in, because no matter how obvious it seems that the outside world is the cause of our anguish, we ONLY ever experience it through our state of mind in that moment. And according to that state of mind, we see things more or less clearly and have more or less options.
It is always our beliefs and thoughts about a situation (and never the situation itself) that mean we fear, resist, change, tolerate, accept, welcome or choose it.
Homelessness and living on donations, for example, can be an easy choice for a monk or a 3 am terror for a city worker in his million pound apartment. This doesn’t mean we should all choose homelessness but it does mean that when we are woken up by the fear of it we are in a stressed, low state of mind.
Insults can be heard with love by the parent of a distressed child or believed with fear and humiliation by an abused spouse. This doesn’t mean we should all choose to be insulted but it does mean that if we believe the insults then we are not seeing clearly.
Our state of mind will determine how we see, hear, notice and experience the outside world, what we make this mean and the options we have as a result.
If you are stuck, a coach will work with you to take your mind from a low state to a high state, and in doing so they are not denying the elements in your life – the pupils, the spouse, the job or the boss. But they will help you understand that in a low state of mind we see those pupils, that spouse or boss through the veil of our own insecure thinking.
In a low state of mind, we are more likely to experience other people as indifferent or hostile and situations as difficult, hopeless or harmful. And this doesn’t mean that a new school, a divorce or a new job isn’t the best option.
It just means that, as our mind clears, we realise that other people behave (just as we do) according to the illusion of what they are thinking and believing. We will realise that situations are inherently neutral apart from what we are thinking and believing about them.
In this state, we see the illusions we have been making up: dependency, a need for approval and security, the past, the future, what other people think of us, what we ‘should’ do, success and failure…
And we see what is real: our birthright and natural desire to flourish, expand, enjoy life, connect and create.
With this freedom of mind our own inner wisdom will guide us to where we want to be, who we want to be with and where and how we want to work.
In other words, as my mind clears, Annie Wilkes may disappear along with all those other illusions of my low state of mind or she will be there, large as life, and I, no longer frozen with fear and indecision, will have all the mental resources I need to do what I want to do.