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Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Cults | Also: Practitioner and Coach Categories and Types

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Someone asked me if I had watched "The Deep End" - the documentary about Teal Swan. I had never heard of her. I watched the trailer and as soon as I heard her speak, I knew she was full of sh*t. Took me 5-10 seconds.

Then I had someone tell me the kinds of things she has people engage in and I was disgusted. after stating what I saw as the positive purpose of the exercise, I broke down for the person the dynamics and meta-structures of what she was up to in those instances and why one should not do that to participants, and how it is actually counter-productive.

But this is not about her - it is about cults and cult-like communities in general, many of which are far worse and include a lot more systemic pathology. And the exposure of some of them in recent years ... has me thinking about cults and coaches and politics and just how and why people fall for these people, be they gurus or politicians. Which got me thinking about the transformation industry in general.

I try to spend as little time as possible thinking about the coaching and practitioner industry. That might seem strange since I have been in it for so long (full-time since 2004), but honestly, the more I am exposed to it, the more I find myself recoiling. Maybe it is what I perceive as a lack of depth in the industry, or - as a meme one friend sent me the other day said, “God, please give me the confidence of a 25-year-old life coach”. But in contemplating it - and in noticing trends over the 30 years I have been engaged in transformational communities, I have distinguished a few “types”.

These are off the top of my head, so I am open - and welcome - any feedback, comments, or additions. Or for you to share your own experience in encountering these or other categories of “coach”.

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🔮The Regurgitator: they parrot the thing they just read, heard, or learned in a workshop and they get it all over everyone. Very little precision, and it often feels very gross (vs subtle) and like a blunt instrument. A lot of projection may be involved. You can contort yourself to see how it fits, but it really has little to do with what is happening for you or your desired outcomes (if they even asked you about that). They also have little apply-to-self or self-reflection. 

🔮The Mentor: they have vast experience in one area and teach others how they succeeded (sometimes often after a lot of trial and error or at least one major failure).

🔮The Technician: They are very skilled in a very narrow area - one modality - and it is the only lens they view things through, they are, however, very competent at that one thing.

🔮The Mindset Master: They really have one primary tool: linguistic or perspective reframes. “If you just think about it differently, you’ll feel better”. While this is true - and critical for day-to-day happiness and an integral part of developing facility with self, the problem with this one is if used as the only tool - or over-applied - it often steps over somatic feelings and emotional build-up that will need to eventually be cleared out - and in doing so they stack up in their body and may lead to a massive meltdown of sadness or depression later on. The deeper thing needs to be addressed and often goes unaddressed so they are engaging in bypass or what I heard recently may be termed as “toxic positivity”.

🔮The Synthesizer: they consume all forms of personal development and likely have for some time and then come up with their own version that is an amalgamation or an integration - or new material entirely that builds on what came before. They are also very good at pulling from that experience and applying it at a more individual level for people - choosing the approach or modality that will best serve them in the presenting context at that time. There is both depth and breadth.

🔮The Guru: This one seems to have deep spiritual knowledge and has adoring followers. Their followers' eyes glaze over when they talk about them as if they are under a spell. Sometimes it is unclear what specific value they bring or if the followers integrate the teachings into their lives. People often fall in love with them and at some point, their illusions are shattered and they become very disillusioned. As much as they were in love with them is the degree to which they will now have disdain for them.

The benefit, of course, is the feelings of community and acceptance the student experiences with other followers and the shared experience. Until, of course, the inevitable descent into pathology or cult-like dynamics. Over 80% of them seem to engage in sexual misconduct at some point.

I have a theory that the larger a transformational community becomes, the more it tends toward pathology even if the leader is pure in intention, teaching, and their own personal ethics.

🔮The Scam Artist: This speaks for itself. Some of them just see a way to make money and do not even see themselves as scamming people, but are usually very entitled, charge above market rates for their services out of the gate with little experience, and may even encourage a “wish list” purchase, etc. (like a dominatrix or escort would), including tools for their business they could and should ethically purchase themselves. Often they do month-to-month agreements instead of extended offerings because they either do not have the energetic capacity to hold someone over several months, or are not competent enough to continue with a client beyond the quick sale of the 1-month agreement. Maybe it’s a side gig. One of many. They also get a dopamine hit from being in a position of authority in someone’s life, no matter how fleeting or temporary that may be - and they often come from that place, not from a place of serving their client in achieving their outcomes.

They don’t last long, thankfully.

🔮Professional Scam Artists: Megachurch preachers, Trump, et al. Grifters and con artists all of them. Praying on the old and the feeble-minded.

🔮The Hobbyist: “I give my friends advice all the time, I may as well get paid for it!”. Enough said.

✨There is also the therapist turned coach, which is always interesting - and of great value for some.

✨And on the other end of the spectrum, the young sex worker turned coach (but in a different context). The challenge there is they bring a lot of the dynamics from their previous offerings into the business of coaching and that does not translate well professionally or inter-personally. They essentially have to re-learn business.

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If you are interested in becoming a clean and skillful practitioner (or a synthesizer) attend my next practitioner certification training. Full details about that training are »here«. If you are curious about working with me one-on-one, schedule an initial conversation »here« to have a conversation and we will discover if we might be a fit or not.


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