Pauline Goater: “A freer relationship with God through coaching”

Pauline Goater, a graduate in theology, founded the coaching firm Openings.

Why do we tend, especially in the Church, to compartmentalize or even oppose personal development to the spiritual life?

Until this question is resolved, the Church, of which we are a part, will resist this rapprochement. The first explanation may lie in the centuries-old opposition between faith and reason. For a long time, we preferred to impose a morality, guidelines, without allowing people to experience a path that pushes them to understand through their intelligence.

There is also a tension between nature and grace, between a posture that would say: “Only grace is enough for me”, and the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas that “grace does not replace our nature”. In reality, grace comes to perfect our nature, our intelligence, our will to seek and to understand.

We also oppose, and this is an important point, the personal and the collective. The Church first invites us to turn to others, to give ourselves. Seeking to understand how we function can appear self-centered. Except that giving yourself to others when you’re empty, without inner freedom, makes no sense.

Shouldn’t you first dedicate yourself to others in order to find yourself?

I have seen too often, especially in the Church, a commitment to others that actually reflects a need to return to oneself. When someone helps others without having asked for what they need, for example. Or when he projects onto someone else needs that are in fact his own. Or when, under the guise of charity, a person seeks what he has emotionally missed. You can waste a lot of time like this, but you can also do harm.

What do you think of spiritual accompaniment as it is offered today in the Church?

The Church is in the process of making progress in this matter, of laying down rules. In some dioceses, priests who are spiritual directors are appointed by the bishop only on the basis of a certain experience of the priesthood, and after having received training. But intellectual learning is not enough. In parallel with their formation in the seminary which produces well-made heads, future priests could be coached, and their transformation would be accompanied in all their dimensions.

Is this the reason why certain spiritual accompaniments lack psychological depth?

In 99.9% of cases, these accompaniments do not take into account all the intelligences that I talk about in my book: rational and spiritual intelligences are privileged to the detriment of bodily and emotional intelligences. However, there can be no transformation, no real conversion, except by welcoming and making evolve all of these components.

Discussing a person’s experience and providing biblical or ethical answers is not enough. I am thinking of serious subjects, of which, in the end, little is said in the Church, for example the question of adultery. This problem cannot do without an approach to what is at stake in the unconscious, in the body, in the affectivity, in the person’s history.

For their part, are the coaches trained to welcome spiritual questions?

I often find that either people are sure they want to advance spiritually, and choose a religious denomination and a spiritual guide in this context; or they seek personal and professional support, telling themselves that the spiritual has no place.

However, behind their work issues very quickly surface themes of great depth, particularly spiritual: am I loved unconditionally? Do I have a mission on this earth? What is the meaning of my life ?

To answer, it seems to me that there is a no man’s land today, which makes the bed of sects. I therefore sincerely ask the same question as you: are the coaches trained for this? How can they welcome these questions in an ethical way?

What is your method?

The coaching method consists in offering an alcove of security to look with different pairs of glasses at the situation experienced or the ambition targeted. On this occasion, awareness is made and words are spoken. Then, if existential questions emerge, I do not conclude that they are spiritual. Only the person knows.

Nor do I have to close the door to a problem like a management polluted by the fear of not being liked, on the pretext that it is not professional. I don’t have to guide or advise my client, but to offer him a privileged opportunity to meet himself, to find out what basic needs his fears are linked to.

I seek to know how the person will seize his question in the present to build his future. It’s up to her to set the pace. Christ is a good example to follow: He constantly refers his interlocutors to their own freedom: “What do you want me to do for you? », he asks blind Bartimaeus, despite the obviousness of the request (Mark 10, 46-52). We are on a ridge between coaching and psychology. It is up to everyone to place their cursor to know when psychotherapeutic support is needed.

What is the purpose of all this: to be an enhanced human?

In my view, the goal of self-understanding is to bring about a freer and more direct relationship with others and with God. Our life only has meaning if it is made up of encounters. For these to really take place, what do we need? Become aware of the beliefs that lock us in? Ancestral fears that bother us? Of what we project onto the other? Little by little, the encounter (that of the true “self”, of the other, of God) really takes place; it then allows Love.

To read
Coaching and spiritual life. Towards an integral humanity, by Pauline Goater, New City, €20.

Pauline Goater: “A freer relationship with God through coaching”