Season 2, Episode 42

Welcome to the Coaching Studio Podcast

This podcast features fun, lively conversations with masterful coaches who are creating an impact. Get to know them, their journey into coaching, and discover what wisdom they would offer you about being a better coach.

Let’s go!

Welcome to the Coaching Studio Dorothy Siminovitch MCC

the Coaching Studio Guest in the Chair

I am happy to share Dorothy Siminovitch, Ph.D., MCC, with the Coaching Studio Podcast.

Quick Links from Episode
Visit Dorothy Siminovitch, MCC, by visiting her website, and check out what she is up to!
Book(s):

Find Dorothy Siminovitch, MCC, on LinkedIn

Credits

  • Host: Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC
  • Music: Frolic by Harrison Amer
  • Production Editing: Lyssa deHart
  • Social Media and Communications: Michele Logan

About This Episode

I am pleased to introduce Dorothy Siminovitch, Ph.D., MCC, in this episode. Dorothy and I cover many topics, including the exploration of what Gestalt Coaching really is. Looking at how coaches can hold the space for their clients. Gestalt is very focused on the current present state. So awareness is a very key piece of Gestalt coaching. And there are different dimensions to awareness. Picking up your awareness, body cues, framing your awareness, naming what that is, understanding that you might have whatever it is that you name physical or emotional, or an idea might have some emotional energy, excitement, or anxiety. Deciding do we act on that? Awareness is a very key part of the Gestalt approach. So, today you will get a lot of insight into Gestalt Coaching. Enjoy!

Dorothy E. Siminovitch, Ph.D., MCC, is a pioneer of Gestalt Coaching and a master coach certified coaching through the International Coach Federation. She is an international leadership, team, and organizational coach, mentor coach, speaker, and author. Dorothy is the Director of Training for the Gestalt Coaching Program in Istanbul, an ICF-ACTP offering, and co-founder and co-owner of the Gestalt Center for Coaching. She uses Gestalt theory and awareness process tools to support personal and professional development and mastery at the individual, group, and organizational levels. Her areas of specialization are coaching for executive presence and masterful use of self, Awareness Intelligence TM, and high-performance team development. Dorothy has published seminal articles on Gestalt

Coaching and is the author of A Gestalt Coaching Primer: The Path Toward Awareness Intelligence, which has been translated into Turkish. She is a co-author of a leadership assessment called Awareness2020.

Read the transcript of this episode of the Coaching Studio Podcast:

Lyssa deHart

Hello. Lyssa deHart here and welcome to The Coaching Studio. Today in the studio, I have Dorothy Simonovich. She is an MCC coach with the International coaching, uh, federation. She’s also a PhD and an expert in Gestalt coaching. And so I’m just really excited to explore that idea with you, Dorothy, and see what comes up in our conversation. So thank you so much for being on the show today.

Dorothy Siminovitch

I’m delighted, Lyssa. Uh, thank you.

Lyssa deHart

So I really would love to just sort of like, in a nutshell, really kind of what brought you into the coaching world?

Dorothy Siminovitch

I think the short answer is, I think I was fortunate enough to be awake to the changing times and also my place in those times. I had just finished a PhD in organizational behavior. So that’s the Science of Behavior in Organizations from a very wonderful place, Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. At the time, I was already a faculty member at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, which had made its history in Gestalt therapy. And recently, at that period of time, it was in the 90s also, we had a stream of thinking called Gestalt consulting. But I was interested in those, um, areas of human behavior particularly connected to organizations and also small businesses and the challenges of life that didn’t fit in. Because the world of therapy, many people would say, I’m not going there. I don’t want to be labeled. And the world of organizational dynamics and change felt too kind of foreign, too. Sometimes I think organizational speak like your organization and your position, I thought that’s not capturing where they are. But the idea of Gestalt coaching came to me as something that was informed by theory, but guided by practice and your relationship with the client. So it was not therapy, which was a history of problems that wanted to.

Lyssa deHart

Support knows you exactly.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And also organizational consulting, which is a little bit distance and requires understanding the territory. But Kristol coaching felt useful, applied relational, and something that we could comanage the coach and the client, and the rest is history. I I think I was at that moment of seeing it. And just so you know, Lyssa, which I love your name. I’ve told you that. But, um, what was funny at the time, this is in the I’ve really been here a long time, even though I don’t feel it. But, uh, the thing that was interesting to me at the time, people would say, oh, Dorothy wants to do Gestalt coaching. So I put together theory, which is about 60 years of gestalt thinking. Think about that with this concept of called coaching. And at the time, ICF Global was just really starting, me and ICF with the same start point. But I used to laugh. People would say, I think, Dorothy, you’re like the Howard Johnson’s flavor of the month. And I said, I don’t think so. I think that coaching and the gestalt coaching version is going to be an umbrella out of which people can gather for learning. Not feel stigmatized, but feel energized.

Lyssa deHart

Yeah. And you and I were chatting before when we were talking about being on the show. One of the things that I think was m a curiosity to me. And I wonder if it isn’t a curiosity for other people. There’s a theory, a therapeutic theory of gestalt, fritz Pearls and the whole kind of, uh, the history of Gestalt. But I’m not certain that I fully understand gestalt coaching. And I’m wondering if you could sort of lay out what is Gestalt coaching? I have an idea, but I’d love to hear it from you.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, I’m going to screen share this for a second, if I could.

Lyssa deHart

Um, hold on, let me give you.

Dorothy Siminovitch

I’m going to give an image and then I’m going to talk about it. Yeah. Even in my book, I have all these diagrams that people would say, Dorothy, no other Gestalt writer has diagrams. Exactly. I think actually, yeah, I think a diagram could be worth about 1000 words. So I’d like to just say this to all of us. First of all, ah, I got the idea from this from I was impressed with the Enneagram, which has nine points. And then I thought to everybody, Gestalt coaching, first of all, I wanted to differentiate it from Gestalt Therapy, which is about supporting a person, a family system, um, a group that has some deep sitting. They’re all kind of in terrible trouble, heal, uh, themselves, make themselves more whole. Um, so Gestalt’s Therapy has this deep healing power of wholeism and looking to see what you’ve alienated in yourself that could make you feel more whole. Maybe you’ve alienated your humor, or your capacity to take care for yourself, or you’re healing and you’re just staying wounded. So there’s this quality of alienation and that the remedy is healing. That’s a very interesting concept. But obviously, in Gestalt Therapy there is this dynamic of I am “therapist, ” um, and you’re my “client, ” I’m going to help you. There is this helping and this kind of you need me. And maybe we all need each other, but there is a really capital end to you need me. In Gestalt coaching, there are the ideas that, who we are, our presence, um, as coach, really meets biologically with you, your presence as client. So the meeting between me and you is understood as, uh, relational, and, um, a question of meeting from a point of view of who am I and what’s my presence and how do I see you collaboratively and respond. So that’s really at the very center of our work. And from there, I would just say these different theory pieces are all useful in helping us guide ourselves in many ways. I think what Gestalt coaching did was take all these theory pieces, cycle of.

Lyssa deHart

A can we name them? Because some people are just going to be listening to this?

Dorothy Siminovitch

Sure. One, uh, very key thing about the Gestalt approach is that it is present based. It is not interested in gathering history unless the history is something like I am aware of. This is how I am. As a current present state of my history. So awareness is a very key piece of, uh, coaching. And there’s different dimensions to awareness. Picking up your awareness, body cues, framing your awareness, naming what that is, understanding that you might have whatever it is that you name physical or emotional or an idea might have some emotional energy, excitement or anxiety. Deciding do we act on that? Awareness is a very key part of the Gestalt approach. Moving towards satisfying our awareness, having a sense of, uh, I got satisfied, like even now, Lyssa, uh, you said, can you name them? Uh, that was an awareness, I think. Oh, can I name them in the moment? As I’m naming them, I go, that was really worth doing. So that why we have a little moment of closure. And this idea of what am I aware of? Which is constantly changing, is the key piece about the Gestalt approach. But what we do is we marry it to what is it that we want or we need mhm. And then the interesting thing is what’s the level of system? If we were going to work together to satisfy that want, do we want to engage in our work? So for everyone that’s listening, Lyssa and I first talked to each other, it was a two person conversation. Uh, but now that we’re engaging in this conversation, I’m aware, Lyssa, it’s me and you. But it’s also different levels of system. Who’s ever listening? And when we think organizationally with an executive, any executive we work with, even if we’re working at the individual level, always has to respond to multiple, exactly levels of system. So that’s also a feature in our thinking. And as we’re working together, no matter how brilliant the Gestalt coach is, and we’ve had amazing people study with us. There is always the understanding that our client is the guide in the work. So how collaboratively are we are? And it’s a constant thing that I always say to all of our students is are you speaking from your eye to the other person as a you, not an it. And the person who has the issue, Marcia Reynolds, says Coach the Person, Not the Problem. We are always coaching the person. As a you, what do you hold as the issue? Because we construct our issue and that the feature of our work is not only awareness based, but sometimes we want to have a safe enough moment to do a little learning experiment. And so listen, what people really love about the Gestalt’s approach is that we create a safe place to engage in saying our awareness, which is sounds small, but we know that sometimes just saying what we’re aware of is just the actual work. But sometimes we even say, well, now that you’ve said that, what is it you want to do with that? Do you want to explore what could be as a fantasy? Do you want to explore how you could have learned from this mistake that you made so that you learn from your failures? We say no failure, no learning. But if you don’t learn from the failure, it’s just another failure waiting to happen. Um, so we are looking always and this is the thing that I love, this concept called unit of work, is we look to gauge our coaching encounter in what we call a manageable unit of work that has a beginning, a middle and an end. And sometimes people will come and say, my whole life is terrible, my work relations are terrible. Look. And we’ll say, okay, got it. Can we look at a little piece of that? Can we scale it down to look at a little piece? Because our theory is that even a little piece carries the whole story of the whole Gestalt. And what gestalt means is that all these parts are part of the whole. And sometimes when we work on a part, we work on the whole. If we work on the whole, sometimes we can also work on the many parts that we didn’t even name. That’s why when people work with us, sometimes they say, you know, you worked with me about my profession, but my personal life has gotten better because the personal life is a part of the whole. And here’s the important piece, I think, for everyone listening. But for us, we’re very sensitive to what the context is because context drives perception sometimes. And the naming of things. Right now, uh, there’s a terrible thing that’s happened in Turkey that there’s this horrible, um, event. Um, it’s taken so many people in an earthquake and that is the dominant thing I’m thinking of today. At the same time, can I shift to this type and see what the conversation is? And this is where coaching is different from therapy. Uh, because maybe if I was so incredibly unable to switch there, you’d know, that I would have some she can’t adapt or adjust because the world is feeling more traumatized. So what’s our capacity to hold multiple pictures of our reality? An organization, uh, very much with people that we’re coaching is? What’s your perception of the situation? What’s other people’s perception of the situation? Because we always say, you don’t see the world the way it is, you see it the way you are. And that has been, by the way, that’s only 2000 years old, 3000 years old, but we’re still learning how to explain that. Which is interesting, actually. And, um, I think for whatever we teach, we always want to leave a five minute pause. And this is something that we, I think, also teaches approaches, a process approach. So whenever we’re talking, I always think it’s important five minutes before we end to say, okay, what did we accomplish? What did you learn? What did we miss? Closure is this place. We celebrate what we got, or we say, we miss that, we’re going to have to do this. We’re unfinished business about it. So closure is something that people really learn. Oh, those last few minutes when we’re together, that’s the place to say, I got this, I didn’t get this, I want this. We recontract for the next time. Um, and I think the next thing I just want to say to everybody when they come and study with us and Lyssa, I love saying this to you because you’re such a big learner of all theories, most, um, it’s not true. There’s like 500 coaching schools now. I can’t believe, but it’s true. Dear listener, is really true. But many times people, when you’re just starting off, you say, I want an approach to coaching, that you tell me what’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd? You get a formula which can be very wonderful if it works for you, especially in a stable world. Now, as the world is constantly changing and in upheaval, what we’ve noticed is that how we hold ourselves to be able to adapt to the world requires what we call vertical development. Horizontal development is about adding more theory and knowledge, very important to basically, um, fill our cup. But what gestalt coaching is within the vertical paradigm means to be able to expand your to use your awareness. Instead of just filling our cup, you’re expanding your cup of self. Mhm, so that sometimes you’ll say, especially in our age of uncertainty with so much today, you’ll say, people will say, I don’t know if I can tolerate this. You’ll say, OK, what do you let’s look at what your thinking is. Let’s look at what your feeling is. Let’s do let’s just hold this and really incorporating our body. Our body is the holding container of everything. And so often, and I’m sure, Lyssa, you’ve seen this with your clients, but even the listener people will say nothing really has changed. But I feel better.

Lyssa deHart

Yeah, I’m really hearing like I may come into coaching or I may come into the conversation. I have a thimble full of capacity for X. And as I name it, as I get curious about it, as I explore it, as I look at where the energy is coming from leaving um where I am feeling resistance or no resistance and I’m in flow as I do go through this process and then ultimately make meaning, I’m expanding my thimble to maybe now I have a teacup, and maybe over time, I have, um, a bigger coffee mug than that. Right? So I’m expanding my capacity, if I’m hearing you correctly.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And I think that’s such an important piece of being able to manage the constant change and actually, uh, disorientation of today’s world. Mhm, so my sense is Gestalt coaching has actually become more interesting people because they say, I can’t predict anything except that I predict that it will be more uncertain.

Lyssa deHart

Right. Which is such an interesting thing in and of itself, because I think we’ve had such a small window of time where we felt certainty about anything, and most of the lives of human beings has been incredibly uncertain. And so we’re back into that stage state of uncertainty at a higher level. Um and that capacity to navigate and move and pivot with the uncertainty is crucial then, as you’re thinking about this idea for a new coach coming into coaching. Yes, they need training, but how does Gestalt work then, when you’re actually in the I’m looking for a word here, which I’m not finding, but really into the heart of the conversation with your client. I’m, um, getting a sense of equality. I’m getting a sense of really being in partnership with the client. And how does the Gestalt inform the curiosity?

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, I think this is where core competency, five of the ICF core competencies, maintains presence. And I think Gestalt’s thinking is very helpful, because presence is how we are in our present moment, but also how awake we are to the identity that we bring. So our aliveness, our understanding of people, our commitment to people are, if you wish, our purpose and our mission statement. Right. And so this is what I call self work. I like to say your presence is a being intervention. Just you turning up. Uh, you’re a witness, and you’re an observer. You’re not a blank slate. Someone is talking to you, and as they’re talking, you’re sitting, and you’re being affected by them, and you’re feeling. And your job as coach is to ask yourself, what, um, am I noticing? What’s the data in myself that I’m noticing? And then here’s the important question for your curiosity. What am I curious about that I have a sense might be of, um, value to them. If it’s just curiosity for me, um, you can go to a movie. But if it’s curiosity that it might be of service to them, someone is talking about, I’m really feeling in pain. You want to know in relation to what? Or I’m really disturbed about this. In relation to what? And what is it familiar about this? What’s the price of this? This is where you’re literally looking to use yourself as an instrument, your presence. So there’s two aspects to presence. One of them is you’re noticing, and that’s being filtered by your who am I? So you would notice, perhaps similar, but a little bit different. Your curiosity filter might be different. And that would be another marvelous conversation. Like, we could have a 20 minutes conversation, you and me, just about that. And everybody could. But then the question is, what do we do with our curiosity that makes it of service for you as client? And this is where the question, the observations, I notice this. Then we notice well, what’s happened in terms of how the client responded to it. Do they get quiet, go within? Then we get where did you go? What just happened? I was talking to myself and what was the conversation? What did those parts of say to each other? And we would go in that kind of way I wanted to even say respectfully, but stealthily like we hold the person invisible hand into their walking to themselves with quiet curiosity. So almost their feeling that they’re talking to themselves. What did you just say to yourself? Your head just turned. What did you turn to? What did you turn away from? And we use these very tiny curiosity questions. There’s this book out that I think is an amazing book for so many reasons. Atomic habits. I like to say that awareness is atomic. A tiny awareness in the moment where you notice carries a big story. And if we can catch it very often people will say yeah, or you go like that. What does that little uh huh really say? I said to a person recently, you just said uh huh. What is that? They said, that is how we say yes in South Africa.

Lyssa deHart

Well, it’s a really interesting point. I mean, I’ve had this conversation with, um, m, my coaching clients, um, often, because I do a lot of work with coaches also. And it’s this idea of sort of if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, did it make a sound? And I think our jobs in a large part is to listen for falling trees. And I think that that’s really what’s showing up as you’re talking is these minute little curiosities that are of things that only the client can tell you. What is the what is the looking away, what is the facial expression, what is the pulling back or the moving into what are these things? And having the client notice them so that they can then make the meaning within the context of their present moment.

Dorothy Siminovitch

I love that you say that, because that it seems when we say that to especially people who don’t know anything about coaching or are very new, they go, really? And I go, yes, because you’re interrupting a repetitive, unaware rumination. And the rumination the pattern is people sometimes are in a pattern. They even know they’re in the pattern. That’s why they could be in a pattern and they can’t stop. And when you inter, even as I said that, I felt a bit dizzy, by the way. But when you stop a person, you go now what just happened? What just happened that you stop? People say, I never stop. Well, how come I can’t stop? I’m not even aware that I’m in it. Then you have to go slow. Because undoing a pattern is undoing history. Mhm. So you want to be slow and respectful. And this is where Safe Emergency, which I love that this is, uh, um, psychological safety. I think we’re learning now that we need to go slower in these delicate moments of unlearning. Um, one, not to cause shame, and two, to support curiosity, not only our curiosity as coach, but to get them curious in. How did they get this formula? Because they could unlearn it. Then they have to book the price of it. Where did it cost them? Um, and then they have to get some compassion for themselves. Letting go of an old behavior, especially when you don’t have a new one to go to. Right. Uh, it feels very naked. So going slow with compassion and their curiosity is part of the learning.

Lyssa deHart

Yeah. And something that shows up again, as you say, that also is if our job is to and I say it a little different than Marcia does it. We’re, uh, only ever coaching the client’s relationship to the situation. Right. If we’re going into this process of unlearning, we can only go at the speed at which that person needs to unlearn because we’re all going to climb out of the tree differently. Some people may jump out of the tree because they’re that person. I’m going to come down very carefully because that’s the person I am. Um, and I’m not a big fan of climbing down trees. So it’s that process of making the unconscious conscious and then working with it in a framework that is, to your point, psychologically safe. And we can’t push people into that. And I think this is where coaches get into trouble, which is they think they’re supposed to solve for the problem. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard I need to solve for the problem. Well, to your point, no, that’s not going to be useful. And also, if I’m trying to climb out of a tree slowly, and you’re trying to get me on the ground quickly, where the tension between the two is disrespectful to.

Dorothy Siminovitch

My process, I love that you’re saying it. Well, you know, I admire your work so much, so I do love your thinking. But I just have to say this here. All over the world, there’s this initiative, diversity, equity, inclusion. Well, that really means for every single person living as well, and that we are different. Your rate of being able to tolerate movement different than my rate, no matter how it’s not about smart. It’s about your comfort. It’s about the management of your fear and the management of something we don’t even understand your fantasy of fear.

Lyssa deHart

My story of how dangerous and terrible and horrible and awful.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, and it doesn’t even have to be a story. It just lives like that. So I think we need to be very respectful of that pacing. And there’s an old thing for people who are runners. I’m not a runner, but not a runner. I would like to be, by the way, this is why I watch this and people who run. There’s a theory that says you can really run if you’re able to talk. I’ve, um, heard that actually, if you still can talk, that’s actually your good running level. Because you can still talk, it means that your heart rate and your breath are coordinated and you’re good. You could maintain that run. And that’s quite a statement of your fit, actually. And I always go, yes, something to aim for. But I think that’s actually a very good metaphor for undoing a pattern to go, okay, yeah.

Lyssa deHart

Can you still breathe? Um, can you still breathe if you’ve shut down tension? Right.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, because we know from all the work on Vegal theory, uh, um, on polyvagal theory, that when we go too quickly, we actually activate the sympathetic response fight or freeze. So we want to be able to get the softness of the parasympathetic, kind of a more healing stance and watch. Where are you getting triggered? Let’s just slow down. Let’s take another breath. So it’s interesting. Yeah. You don’t have to be a therapy person, patient, but you could get triggered by fear. And I think the work of David Rock here, I think, is one of his good pieces, many that he’s done. But the SCARF model, and that is where your status gets threatened, where your certainty is threatened, where your achievement is threatened, where your relationships are threatened, and where your sense of fairness is threatened. Those five elements of the SCARF acronym. So we know when people get threatened, that they may not, uh, tell you, but if it’s slow enough and they can still talk, they might say, I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to lose my position. I don’t want to fail. Um, and here’s what this is not fair. I don’t know how many times any of us also, when something happens I had a death in the family of a relative, and I sent to her kids. I said, It’s not fair that this happened because it’s out of our control. Life is fair and we don’t have control. And there’s nothing I could have said that made sense. So how do we manage that? Um, with us as instrument, us as coach, I want to come back to is the client breathing? Are they looking scared? And sometimes this is where you use your intuition. I think they look a little scared. Or here’s one they didn’t breathe. Really?

Lyssa deHart

They’re shouting. They’re.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Not breathing.

Lyssa deHart

That’s right.

Dorothy Siminovitch

They took a breath 5 seconds ago, but they really didn’t for, like, 5 seconds, they’re not breathing. They’re going to, ultimately, but they’ve just got a little bit lightheaded, so you could slow it down. Can we just breathe together? Where did you go?

Lyssa deHart

And I think even just asking, like, uh, what’s what’s going on here that needs to be acknowledged is, I think, really useful in those moments. Also, I think there’s a couple of different things. And I think one of the things that I’m thinking about right now is really that sense of fear. Even if it’s just existential fear, it could be a, uh, reality also. Like, you could actually have a tiger chasing you. On the other hand, it’s often existential, but it doesn’t matter, because, of course, the brain doesn’t know the difference between the existential fear and the real fear. That’s why we enjoy scary movies, I guess, to some level, because we get to have that experience of fear, um, from the safety of our home, of popcorn. But I think that if you’re working with a client and you’re leading them, uh, I think this is the difference between therapy and coaching. Also. If you’re leading that client into a scary place without the skill set to keep them safe and to create a safety container and a safety space for that client to be in while they work on something, then you have probably, um, crossed from coaching into therapy. And I think as a coach, it is so crucial to respect the clients timing. They’re leading you into the spaces they need to explore versus you leading them into the spaces you think they need to explore, so that we stay in that state of partnership and curiosity in a very different way. And I come from a trauma therapy background. I work primarily with people with serious traumas. And, I mean, there’s a lot of container safety, container creation that goes into being able to even start to have those conversations, right. The trauma is so great. And so that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about honoring the client’s process incredibly deeply. And the scarf model. Right. Like, noticing these things and asking about them and going and treading delicately through another person’s internal landscape, not traipsing through it like you think you know what it is that needs to happen here?

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, that’s the irony. Just today, I was, uh, talking to a person in another part of the world, and they said, well, the originator of gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, would have been very I wouldn’t have liked him. And I said to this person, I think Fritz Perls today would be banished because he was very, um, opinionated, very directive. He told you this is what you need. And he was very traumatizing. How could you say that? What’s wrong with you? He actually spoke this way, and I think, oh, my God, that was another time. And, uh, particularly if you were a woman, that would be just horrible to hear him. His kind of caricature of female, sort of, shall I say, issues. But I think in today’s world, uh, it’s a very interesting thing. Uh, Lyssa, I think originally ICF said something like, therapy, uh, is not coaching. Coaching is not therapy. And I think in these last three years of COVID and coming out of it, I think many people. Have been asking themselves, why do I feel this terrible? Why do I feel so scared? I mean, in fact, the new metaphor that I’ve been working with is not only buka, which is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, but it’s called BANI, which stands for brittle. Um, anxious, nonlinear, uh, incomprehensible. Um ah. People do feel much more brittle, um, much more anxious. Like, I don’t know, I’m anxious. Why I couldn’t get a parking lot. All of a sudden, people are enraged or very my day is ruined. Really, it’s just a parking lot. A parking but there’s the time, the conditions that we’re in. The uncertainty is so great that people do feel more brittle. They seem to be more anxious. Um, an earthquake in Turkey scares the whole world. It’s not next to you, but it’s terrifying. And you think, oh, in fact, someone I drive through Buffalo on my way to Cleveland and back to Toronto. This colleague of mine, Buffalo, said there was an earthquake here in Buffalo. I said, really?

Lyssa deHart

No.

Dorothy Siminovitch

You think it couldn’t happen even in quiet Buffalo. And the truth is, it wasn’t 7. 8, it was 4. 4. But still, earthquake, earthquake. Right. So, and also, incomprehensible things are happening. You know, there was a ship going near Melbourne, and it had to dock. It had to be at sea for six weeks because they had some kind of or organism on the hull that meant that they couldn’t dock into Australia because they have a biofall lot. Incomprehensible. The ship had to be floating around and they had to be entertaining all the 980 passengers. And the passengers weren’t happy about it because they wanted to dock on these various nice, interesting places. Incomprehensible. So I think it’s interesting because trauma as a figure and this is the other thing about gestalt and why I think it’s so relevant today. The essence. I keep saying there’s so many essence things, there’s so many key things, but this is maybe what we always come back to, and this is what came from gestalt psychology and something called figure ground. And I love this, uh, Lyssa, because it’s so easy, but so clear. If you pay attention to my hand mhm right, wonderful. But now if you pay attention to the wall behind my hand okay, could you just tell me what happens to.

Lyssa deHart

My hand? I’m not sure I’m able to see the wall clearly behind your hand, but it’s like your hand gets a little fuzzier and the wall gets a little more clear, and then your hand is a little more clear and the wall sort of disappears.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And I just moved now, so I’m going to make you look at the vase behind my hand. If you look at the vase, what happens to my hand is I don’t.

Lyssa deHart

See it as clearly.

Dorothy Siminovitch

All right, if you bring your attention back to my hand, what happens to the vase?

Lyssa deHart

Um, it’s not the focus of my attention.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And so I don’t see it as clearly wonderful. What you’ve just engaged in is this principle called figure ground reversal. Came from Gestalt psychology only like 100 years ago. And the interesting thing, it basically says that what you would direct your attention to becomes your focus. So when you focus on my hand, the vase is background. When you focus on the VAS, the hand is background. And as an example, even though we’ve translated into thinking, we can really always ask ourselves, what are you paying attention to? Is your figure exactly. And to you and to all of the people listening what we have been seeing in the last at least five years, intensively, but really in the last 25 years, is this more interested into mindfulness? And why is that? Because we all know that we’re getting scattered and unable to focus. And the loss of being able to focus is costing us. Either we can’t get centered or we can’t be, um, clear about what we need to learn grounded, um, or actually connected long enough to finish something they say. Now, I was reading this thing from.

Lyssa deHart

Stolen Focus that the average and span.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Is like 34 seconds.

Lyssa deHart

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, very hard. Ridiculous is kind of a sense of humor.

Lyssa deHart

But hard. Uh, I think it’s all because of commercials personally.

Dorothy Siminovitch

But yeah, no, I don’t watch commercials because they all are on food. It’s enough.

Lyssa deHart

I try to have really hard to focus attention. So it makes sense that mindfulness would be this sort of the antidote to trying to recapture that skill set of focus.

Dorothy Siminovitch

It is. And just mindfulness in and of itself is a luxury. If you don’t really say, how am I applying it in my world? And I think actually what I will say is that the Gelta approach is the first real mindfulness approach. How are we paying attention? And the other thing is, how did we not pay attention.

Lyssa deHart

To this? How did we not?

Dorothy Siminovitch

Or it’s kind of a nice thing to say with compassion, how did you miss this? And just start really saying like, I know now if I really want to make sure that I do something for the next morning, I have to leave it out where I can see it. Even if I say, oh, I’ll remember it, I could forget because we have too many other and here’s the thing, too many other figures to pay attention to. Who’s that nice guy? Daniel Goldman? He talks a wonderful thing about how multitasking is a myth.

Lyssa deHart

People say they can do it really this, then I do that, I do this. And they do it a bit like this.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, it means you can’t do if it’s two things or three things. You can’t do either the two or the three really well because you are diminishing. You don’t even know what the quality is. You’re just jumping around. And so he really calls it ridiculous. And I think you need to be Daniel Goldman’s kind of prestige in the world to be able to get away with saying it’s ridiculous when people say, and we know in driving it’s dangerous, don’t do it while you’re driving. Why? Because it’s dangerous. Well, there may be things in your life that’s also dangerous too. If you’re saying you can do this but you miss something, the next day, you go, oh, I forgot to write down the key point. Like, now you’re talking to me about yourself. If I don’t talk about figure ground, everything else is kind of chaotic. Comes down to what’s the figure that you need to be paying attention to? But here’s something that I think is just equally wonderful. If someone has a different figure, are they wrong?

Lyssa deHart

No, just different focus.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Right. Different focus. But sometimes, if it’s science, well, they had a different study. So that becomes interesting. You could explain it. Sometimes I say to my husband, my God, if you had done this, he’s a physician. Would it have come better? I mean, he says, well, you can’t always tell. Which I think is a very wise answer, but you need to have certain very specific paths to know we’re on the right track. And then if we did something, maybe this went not the right way, or that went not the right way, but what’s the path? What’s the figure? And Lyssa, that is a very big thing. So in our world of tremendous distraction. And here’s the other thing. Old patterns. Like, I want to be totally alive to what you’re asking now, but maybe I have an old pattern. I should talk about this. That pattern can distract me from here. So how do we bring ourselves without our history distracting us?

Lyssa deHart

So, a couple of thoughts. Uh, as you’re talking, you keep it lighting my brain with different ideas, and one of them goes back to something your husband was saying. We have this idea of science, and what I like about science and what I like about that in respect to coaching, is we’re testing hypotheses. So it isn’t about right or wrong. Like, this viewpoint is wrong and this viewpoint is right. It’s that we’re testing hypotheses all the time. And I think that that’s not that dissimilar from coaching. As a coach, I can have a hypotheses about what it is that I think is going on with you. But there’s a piece of transparency and presence where I let go of my attachment to my hypotheses, being right or correct and assume that, but rather ask you the question that invites you to name, what is that for?

Dorothy Siminovitch

You right. Wonderful.

Lyssa deHart

I think that that’s kind of an important element to add to this, because I think you’re right. And I also think this idea of focus is so crucially important. We can have different focuses, and we all do, because we have different experiences, hopes and dreams, goals. We have different biases, uh, just a, uh, whole plethora of different filters that we filter all of that information out. Whether or not you focus on my hand or my glasses or the couch behind me or the fireplace is going to be dependent on who you are. And as a coach, that’s the place to be curious. And I’m loving that you’re bringing that forward, because I think it’s the little new one. This is why you don’t need to have the book of 100 best questions, because really, the best questions are happening right here in the present moment, where you’re like, tell me more about that base behind you, in retrospect to what you said was important to you, versus going on some question that has zero relevance to the client in that particular situation. Not that the vase does either. That was just sort of an example from the hand vase thing.

Dorothy Siminovitch

No, uh, it’s an example, but I think sometimes I think those examples give us the starting point, because I think, like you, I hold that. And for all of us, you may notice when we meet a client, you may notice five things, and the client says maybe three of those things, but you may notice two things that the client didn’t say. But you as an observer, want to be able to respect their, what I call, figures. They’ve noticed this about themselves. They had that question, they had this. And you noticed two things, and that is how you come back to so what’s interesting about you name these three things. And by the way, this little thing here, what about that in relation to this? Because actually, what you’re doing is you’re offering them what is most alive on their table of choice. Mhm? And I think that’s where we have a real privilege to meet them. This is when someone invites us to coach them. Uh, it’s a very big invitation. So exactly what you just said is it’s not the ten preset questions or 100. They’re actually horizontal, uh, knowledge. They’re good questions, but if they’re not living in this moment, they’re old, they’re stale bread. So what’s most alive here? That either comes from the client or you’re offering them to join. The way you said that I was interested in your face changed when you said that. One little thing is that you want to look at this or that and give them then, a very alive choice. And that’s what our job is. To be living mirrors of awareness to them, helping them to face what we have. This expression I love very much. Uh, it says something like this our job is to provide a presence supporting the client, to do what they would not or could not, all on their own.

Lyssa deHart

That’s beautiful. And living mirror. I have to say that I have not heard that languaging before, but I love that languaging.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Yeah. Uh, we even add this a living trustworthy mirror.

Lyssa deHart

Yeah. Some mirrors are like, oh, yeah, I don’t want the funhouse mirror. I need the living, trusting mirror.

Dorothy Siminovitch

I just thought of that. Yeah, thank you. But isn’t that something? Because so often when I really think I also think in many ways, i, uh, have been working to incorporate the concept of regret into gestalt awareness. And that is, very often, when you’re aware of something, you don’t act on it. You say, why didn’t I tell you this in the moment? Or ask you this or remember this? And later you go, uh, I should have. And then I say, can you learn from that? Can we can we learn from that? So that the next time that opportunity comes, we are more expanded that we can offer. And, ah, I think this is where can we learn from these moments that really we learn something. I want to remember to say that to you. And even now, trustworthy so much, I think, Lyssa, today comes back to, can I trust myself to ask you this question, which I know is big? Can I trust myself to give you this awareness, this little awareness? And I know that it’s really big, but your voice just changed when you talked about this. Where is that coming from? Because, uh, I know the way that you said that is probably bigger than you might want to say. And, uh, very often people will say, you saw that, right. You.

Lyssa deHart

Notice it also, when we have trust with our clients, and depending on how we set up our agreements with clients, I’m always telling them, look, if I ever ask you something you don’t want to answer, please just tell me. I don’t want to answer that. Don’t feel any sort of compulsion of money here. You’re at choice always to determine through your own agency what is going to be most useful. And I’ve had clients go, that’s not the question I want to answer right now. This is the question I want to answer right now. It’s like, cool, let’s go with that question. Right. Um, and I think that piece that I think you’re talking about here is also to be able to offer that external observation, that external trusting living mirror for another human being, which I am going to use that. So you’ll see me, um, talking about the trusted living mirror. I love that. Um, and how do we do that without attachment to what it is that they do with what they observe?

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, I can offer yeah, uh, I do offer, but I think that’s exactly how I do it. Can I offer you something? Can I give you something?

Lyssa deHart

I’m noticing, yes, there’s a permission piece where we’re offering this up as an option, but not as mandatory or an absolute. It isn’t a certitude, right? It isn’t absolute. It’s kind of like, which truth? Right? We’re testing other parentheses.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Isn’t that interesting? Because even an observation could be I see it. This way, but maybe you won’t see it, or, uh, maybe you won’t be interested. But to offer it that way gives always the power of choice. There is, um, a wonderful poet that is no longer in the world, but his name was Robert Bly. And, uh, he was quite remarkable, actually. And he did a lot of work, actually, with people who had survived trauma. And he used to say to them, remember, your hand is always on the doorknob from inside the room.

Lyssa deHart

Is that good? That is really good. Yes.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And I think you have control always. So I just want to go with you. But you really are in charge of the gear shift here. And I think that actually allows us to can we go a little deeper? Or maybe not today. If we could lighten it up, how could we do that? I think this is where what’s our range? And I think that I don’t really have a big sense of humor, but I always go, what if we lightened it up? What might that be like? Because all this research now that in humor, there is actually more creativity. So sometimes I go, can we do that?

Lyssa deHart

Well, just going back to that whole brain science from earlier in the, uh, polyvagal nerve, you cannot be in a state of fear and a state of humor at the same time. Those are not two things you can focus on equally. So then your choice as to whether or not I’m going to find the funny or I’m going to be in the swirl of the fear. And I think to your point also, that’s where creativity comes through.

Dorothy Siminovitch

And I think actually the interesting thing is that seems to be the answer more and more. We could almost take account how many times you’ve heard that word creativity in the last four years. It’s like stratospheric, right?

Lyssa deHart

It’s not fair for me, though. My mom was an art teacher and a young ian therapist. So creativity was, uh, a word that is everywhere in my life. Um, but I think you’re right. I mean, it has certainly come into its own in a way that it wasn’t for many, many years.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, it’s interesting, actually, always. Maybe that’s why we could talk so forever, because union theory has now gotten much more recognized. And that is you used to be looked at. Ah, hocus pocus now, or you cannot prove it. Lunatic fringe. Little bit out there, actually. Although just to make you laugh, that was my dissertation. It was on the archetypal determinants of generativity in senior executives. I know I was out there and I found very interesting people who were the king archetype. So you could do that. But I think this is where sometimes you can say to people, okay, this was a total misunderstanding, and see you’re unhappy. What new thinking do you have? And that’s like I think this is the other thing. I think when I think about Gestalt, I think it plays friendly with many different approaches. It doesn’t claim to own the territory, but there is a playfulness about this. And so I would say this one piece of theory, and I’m aware of time, let me say this to you comes from Ron. Heifitz at Harvard. And I love this statement that he says. He says, our job as coaches is to disturb the client at a level they can tolerate. Absolutely.

Lyssa deHart

I think that is such a beautiful summary of what we’re talking about, which is why we want the client to lead us versus us. Leading them is because disturbing people at a state that they cannot abide only shuts people down. And that’s not the space in which to do anything.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Well, it’s like goldilocks. It’s just right. Terrified if you do it too little to board.

Lyssa deHart

Uh, there’s a place.

Dorothy Siminovitch

There is a place, and I think we can co create that really together. So there is this co creating quality to the Gestalt approach. Many people seem to be people always, who would say, well, this feels right because many formulas are formulas that don’t allow you to find your own niche. And the Gestalt approach allows you to find your own goldilocks of how you use yourself, how you use your diversity to meet with the client. Because your way is different than my way. But, you know, they’re waiting for your way, and some way, they might be waiting for my way. And there’s room for all of it.

Lyssa deHart

There’s room for all of it. On that note, um oh, my gosh, what a great conversation, and thank you so much. I have a question that I’ve been asking everybody, uh, for this season, which is, if you were writing your autobiography today, what would you title.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Your autobiography? I used to be afraid of that question, actually, as a young person. Um, but I think it’s the right question to ask as we create and build things. I really do believe I would say, um, she couldn’t believe it, but she knew she made a difference. That’s beautiful. It still amazes me. It amazes me that even today, people say, oh, are you in Turkey? Are you here? Where are you? And I thought, oh, my God, they all know that I go there. People have followed me, and I think, isn’t that amazing? Um, so I think, against all odds, and I think this is what leadership is, Lyssa. We can’t believe it, that we’ve done these things and it’s made a difference. I can’t believe I wrote this book and I actually did that. And here we are, even to do this podcast with you. I know. I just want I know we’re closing. I’ve loved your work. So thank you for inviting me to talk with you and feels like it’s gone too quickly because we’ve had such fun.

Lyssa deHart

Thank you. You’re so welcome. And thank you so much for being here with me in this present moment, having this just, uh, fascinating conversation, which, uh, I have enjoyed so much. I’ll be putting links below for everything so people can get a hold, the view. And again, Dorothy, thank you so much for being on the coaching studio today.

Dorothy Siminovitch

Stay safe. And to everybody, everybody, stay safe, stay well, stay alive. Cheers.

 

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Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC

Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC

Host

Lyssa deHart ditched her therapy practice to become a Leadership Confidence Coach. Along the way she discovered a passion for professional coaching and wanted to find ways to share that passion with the world. Come join her in discovering and meeting some of the most amazing professional coaches on the planet. Her goal is to inspire coaches. Lyssa is the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Dialogue, Transform Your Life , and The Reflective Coach. Lyssa is an ICF PCC Assessor, Certified Mentor Coach, and budding Coach SuperVisor. Lyssa uses her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies, combined with her knowledge of Neuroscience, to work with people to become extraordinary professional coaches. Let's Go!

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