Existential Coaching with Yannick Jacob (Lab Report #52)

Yannick’s Coaching Lab features guest coaches from a broad variety of approaches, who showcase how they work as part of a live 45min coaching session, followed by reflections and Q&A with the audience.
Curious to know what this session was like? Have a peek at the Lab Report below or consider VIP membership to access the full recording of this and many more exciting sessions.

Yannick’s Coaching Lab #52 — Yannick Jacob
Lab Report by Natalie Fraser

Session Summary

Yannick and his client had met in 2021 as part of his Introduction to Existential Coaching training and spent the weekend together. She was also a student on another course he taught at. She is an existential coach herself and has noticed a number of existential themes consistently surfacing in life. Since childhood she’s been struggling with themes around belonging and ‘existential isolation’, and reflected that throughout her life she has been seeking meaning. She lost her husband 10 years ago, and last year lost 5 friends unexpectedly. A recent epiphany got her to consider that perhaps there is no meaning in life, which felt oddly peaceful and liberating, but at the same time threatened her sense of identity as a meaning-seeker. What she wanted to explore in this session is whether she is tired of searching for meaning, or whether she is in a peaceful acceptance of meaninglessness. Yannick’s client valued shifting her perspectives of meaning and meaninglessness, letting go of the need to search for a universal meaning and giving herself permission to be more in the present.

Key Moments

Contracting – Yannick spent time “leveling the playing field” and meeting his client at eye level to re-balance any student-teacher dynamics that may have built up over the years.

Existential Thematic Summary – Yannick summarized his client’s introductory dialogue, allowing them to feel heard by accurately paraphrasing the existential themes they raised whilst extending this by recognizing these themes with their tension counterparts (e.g. isolation/belonging)

“Do you know where that story came from?” – Yannick picked up on the story that ‘life should have meaning’ which has been at the center of his client’s life, and gave her space to explore where this narrative began and why it has been such a strong force in how she navigates her life.

“I sense you’ve already done that work?” – Yannick picked up on his client’s cue that she was starting to explore something that she had already explored, and would prefer to use the space to discuss something else.

“Correct me if I’m wrong” – The client’s dialogue was often a spontaneous unfolding. Yannick made gentle interventions to check in with his client to be certain that they were on the same page.

“It’s all quite conceptual” – Yannick recognized that his client is often ‘in her head’ and speaking in theoretical and conceptual terms. He invited her to bring the abstraction into a more personal reality throughout the session, and questioned when his client had a tendency to try and fit her narrative into a wider framework of meaning.

Opening-up the Paradoxes – Yannick captured “what are the parts of meaning that are meaningless?” as a way to sensitively open the client’s exploration of the paradox between meaning and meaninglessness

What if – Yannick recognized that the client might be struggling to find a universal shared meaning, and asked “what if?” this didn’t exist, bringing her sense of peacefulness and liberation into the present moment, so that the client was able to consider ‘ending the game’ of finding a universal, shared meaning OF life.

You’re starting to intellectualize again – As the client moved from lived experience back to philosophy, Yannick gently interrupted her and pointed this out, inviting her to bring it back to herself and her reality.

‘The Matrix’ & Camus – Yannick picked up on references to existential film, music, and literature to invite deeper exploration of the existential confusion that his client was sitting in. Yannick shared that this is not necessarily something he always does in his approach to existential coaching, but felt it appropriate in this context.

“It’s meaningless because you can’t answer it, conquer it” – was a helpful intervention that summarized the confusion that his client is sitting in. This led to Yannick questioning, “what do you need to let that go then?” which led to the client discovering that peacefulness came when she stopped trying to make sense of something that is ungraspable such as a universal objective meaning.

How do we end this? – The client naturally began to share her key take-aways, and Yannick invited her to express how she would appreciate bringing the session to a close.

Insights & Take-Aways

Thank you for indulging – The client valued having an exploration to contemplate without a judgement of ‘overthinking’

With philosophical discussions taking up a lot of the conversation, Yannick made an effort to bracket his philosophical position and consider the extent to which it was aligned with the client’s philosophical position

There is a lot of power in normalizing and validating a client’s experience.

The coach and client meeting at eye-level became a valuable post-session discussion, especially in the context of a client having pre-conceptions about the coach and their work

Being aware of what you as a coach are interested in and curious about, and questioning whether this is helpful for the client in the context of what they’re here for is an important difference between existential coaching and an existential conversation.

When introducing resources (film, literature, music) it is important to consider if the client has engaged with it already and how they related to the resource.

Within the limiting temporal context of this session, it did not feel appropriate for Yannick to explore the theme of death at depth despite it being a core existential theme which was brought into the space.

A list of all available recordings can be found at https://bit.ly/LabRecordings

This Lab Report was authored by Natalie Fraser 

Natalie is an existential Counselling Psychologist, specialising in trauma and transformation, and curious about coaching. Interested in exploring life’s Big Questions? Find out more at: www.existentialofferings.com