May 5, 2021

I’ve heard it said that there are only 2 forces in the universe: love, and the absence of love.  In the Elizabethan era play, ‘Dr Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe (a contemporary of Shakespeare), when asked about hell, the fallen angel Mephistopheles replies,

“Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”

Just as the absence of heaven is a living hell for Mephistopheles, so being deprived of love is a terrible loss for a human being who has previously experienced love.  The absence of self-love is often a root cause when a client has had a difficult life and struggles to move beyond surviving into thriving.  My own experience of the absence of self-love is perhaps best expressed in this extract from a poem:

Consumed by guilt, grief, shame and fear,
my body came to reflect
my inner world of pain, fatigue and misery.
If this was hell, I was in it,
my own peculiar purgatory.
I considered taking the easy way out
but I couldn’t do that to my wife and kids.

My spirit was crushed
My light had gone out.
I had judged myself
and this was my punishment:
to be living on the outside
but dead on the inside:
a dead man walking.

What is love?  We use the word ‘love’ frequently.  We say, ‘I love my spouse/partner, my friends, my children, my dog or pet.  These can all be true while also being different as there are many different forms of love.  The ancient Greeks defined 8 types of love[1]:

“1. “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.

Love Catalyst: The physical body

2. “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.

Examples in Films: Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Girl Next Door

Love Catalyst: The mind

3. “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.

Love Catalyst: Causal (Memories)

4. “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.

Love Catalyst: Astral (Emotion)

5. “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.

Love Catalyst: Survival instinct

6. “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.

Love Catalyst: Etheric (Unconscious)

7. “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. Often learning to love yourself involves embracing all the qualities you perceive as “unlovable”, this is where shadow work comes in.

Love Catalyst: Soul

8. “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.”

A definition of love that I find helpful for coaching is: being seen for who we truly are.  This has elements of ‘Philia’ (love between equals) and ‘Agape’ (selfless love).  If our role as coaches is to help our clients see themselves for who they truly are – and in my view this is a big part of our role – then we are helping our clients to learn how to love themselves.  How do we do this?  One way is to set appropriate intentions for our clients.

My intentions for my clients have evolved over time.  Initially, it was to fully understand them.  Then my intention became to hold space for them.  Now, whether I’m coaching for business, leadership, career, health and wellness or cancer, I always have the same intention for my clients: to enable them to achieve self-acceptance, self-approval and in due course self-love.  This is not narcissism; it is ‘Philautia’ (self-compassion), wanting for themselves that which they would want for the people they love.  Achieving self-love enables our clients to self-actualise and opens the potential for them to self-transcend.

To achieve self-love, the client needs 2 inner resources: self-awareness and courage.  As coaches we help our clients to develop self-awareness through exploration and reflection.  We also hold the space for our clients to feel safe enough to fall apart, knowing that we are there to support them as they find the courage to face their own shadow.  The darker the shadow, the greater the courage required.  This is not easy work: we can only help our clients to face their shadow side to the extent that we have met our own shadow.  Acknowledging our shadow side is essential for self-acceptance.

As the client grows throughout the coaching relationship, they move through the stages of self-acceptance to self-approval and ultimately to self-love.  For clients who have rarely or never experienced self-love, this can be strange and challenging.  If they have never seen themselves in a balanced, healthy way where they are able to acknowledge their strengths equally alongside their weaknesses, it can freak them out.  They may not recognise or be able to associate themselves with the capable, whole person they suddenly see themselves to be.  As a result they can retreat into self-doubt and fear, which holds them back and keeps them playing small.  This indicates that the shadow side needs further work.  We can continue to develop the client’s emotional intelligence and mindful awareness of their whole self as a route to self-acceptance and self-approval.  In clients where trauma is present, this process can take years as they gradually come to know and accept themselves, one step at a time.  For other clients, it can happen in one session when the client has a profound sense of coming home to themself.    

When people learn to love themselves, they let go of limiting beliefs and form new empowering beliefs about themselves.  My experience of rediscovering self-love was life changing, indeed life-saving.  Here is the final verse of my poem:

My quest for redemption led me to the Journey
I found the courage to face my shadow
and make peace with it through forgiveness.
Now, every day is my second chance.
I can live, laugh, and love again
and I feel truly blessed.
The Journey saved me.

Here are my tips for consciously incorporating love into your coaching:

1.      Choose your definition(s) of love.  What does love mean to you in a coaching context?

2.      Understand how love fits into the coaching journey you offer to your clients.

3.      Set your intentions for your clients: what do you want for them and what part does love play in this?

Bringing the power of love into your coaching is transformational.  It has been a key element of my coaching journey and I hope it inspires you to help your clients learn how to see themselves for who they truly are.


HOW DID I GET HERE? A business success story

February 15, 2021

In early 2020, I had a ‘pinch me, am I dreaming?’ moment: I realised that everything I wanted in my coaching practice had been manifesting for over a year.  This was a surreal experience, seeing ‘success’ in the rear-view mirror without realising that this had become my new normal.  This got me wondering: how did I get here?

What is success anyway?   I’d written a detailed vision statement when I started coaching and it was all now happening, albeit in surprising ways that I had no...

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The ICF Revised Code of Ethics - Insights and Tips

February 11, 2020

If the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) core competencies are the crown in its ‘crown jewels’ (and in my view they are!) then the ICF Code of Ethics is it’s sceptre. The Code is reviewed every 3 years and I find the revised Code, effective from 01 January 2020, to be a welcome ‘refresh’ and easier to use.
ICF members need to understand the Code in order to comply with ICF coaching competence No 1, ‘Demonstrates Ethical Practice: understands and consistently applies coachin...

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The ICF Updated Competency Model - Insights and Tips

January 29, 2020

The International Coach Federation’s (ICF) core competencies are its ‘crown jewels’ – and they are now even better! 

Following a rigorous, 24-month coaching practice analysis, the ICF announced an updated ICF Coaching Core Competency Model in November 2019.  Additionally, a new ICF Code of Ethics came into effect in January 2020.

If you want to coach under the ICF banner, then you need to be familiar with the updated ICF Core Competency Model and Code of Ethics.  If you are not y...

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Uncertainty and Anxiety - Insights from Neuro Science

August 21, 2019

I undertook some time ago to speak more about my mental health simply to help de-stigmatise the subject and encourage others to be more open about mental health issues.  Inspired by Sam Ortyl, I’m now following through on this.  This is a post on how my relationship with uncertainty drives my anxiety and how understanding a model of social threat has helped me.

I recently stumbled across an article in ‘Project’ magazine (Issue 298, spring 2019, p. 28-33) entitled ‘Walking in Fog’...

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Coaching Tips from a Mentor-coach

August 20, 2019

‘Flying is easy; it’s take-off and landing that are difficult.’ (Anon)

I’ve been an ICF-registered mentor-coach for 4 years, supporting other coaches to gain their ICF credentials.  I’ve noticed some common patterns in the recorded sessions I critique and I share my observations here to help new coaches improve.

With reference to the flying quote, one way to consider a coaching session is in 3 phases: take-off, in-flight, and landing.  Let’s look at each of these.



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My Pilgrimage of Remebrance to the WW1 Battlefields of Ypres

May 20, 2019

From 8-14 May 2019, I walked the WW1 battlefields of ‘Flanders Fields’ in a personal pilgrimage of remembrance, sleeping rough under my old Army poncho and fundraising for #homesforveterans:

I did this for 3 reasons:

1.  I'm the organiser of Salisbury International Coaching Week. We have been hosted annually since 2017 by a Salisbury-based charity,, free of charge, so I would like to give something back to recognise th...

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Professional Certified Coach in Under 4 Years

March 15, 2019

Before starting my coaching Diploma, I mapped out what I needed to do to earn the ACC (Associate Certified Coach) credential from the ICF.  The criteria are set out clearly on the ICF website:  I built my log of coaching hours and set out to meet all the criteria required by the ICF so that I could apply for ACC at the earliest opportunity.  As it happened, I had everything in place on completion of the Animas Diploma.  My ACC certificate arrived i...

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Business Plan for Coaches: Adventure, Intuition, Trust

January 1, 2019


Further to my recent posts on Start-up for Coaches and Personal Branding for Coaches, few self-employed coaches have a business plan.  We all keep putting it off; frankly, most of us would rather go to the dentist!  A conventional business plan can be helpful however it’s my experience that the energy and commitment in the coach is more important for business success than the coach’s written plan.  If your business comes from your ...

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Personal Branding for Coaches: Motivation; Values, Intentions

November 26, 2018

Further to my recent post [‘Business Start-up for coaches: Labels; Niche; Style'], I’ve been reflecting on how coaches establish their personal brand. New coaches can get hung up on the trappings of branding, such as business name, logo, strap line and so on. These are important, yet superficial. What’s more important is the experience your prospects and clients have when engaging with you. In my view, the key to creating a b...

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