Monthly Archives: November, 2017

How to Choose a Life Coach

puzzle-1727997_1920Susan was disappointed with her complimentary coaching session. She was looking for someone to help her refine her goals and create action steps. All this person did was give her his goals for her and talk about himself. When she complained, he talked louder. I her and giving her bad advice. She did not return.

Mike wanted a coach to help him create a loving relationship with a partner. He lived an alternative lifestyle and needed someone to help him hear himself. He chose someone from the alternative lifestyle community designated as a mentor, but the mentor talked about sex all the time. Once he touched Mike inappropriately. He did not return.

Karen sought a coach to move forward from the robbery at her work. This coach demanded Karen sign contracts that locked her into many sessions before Karen knew if this would be right for her. Karen kept on searching for a coach.

You can find the coaching you want! It’s a puzzle you can solve.

After months of pondering their lives, people will feel an urgent urge to grow. Right now! So they turn to the first person who appears in their lives.

A little work and research will lead them to the help they seek. It’s a bit like solving a puzzle. The pieces don’t seem to fit togeher. If you work the puzzle, however, the puzzle itself gets clearer and clearer.

Finding the right coach for you might require effort. Coaching is not a licensed profession and anyone can SAY they are a coach. That doesn’t mean they are. One puzzle piece is: Look for a certified coach or a board certified coach.

There are different schools of coaching. Different approaches. And each coach is uniquely themselves with their very own personality. Some will be compatible with you. Some won’t. You’ll want to find the coach who fits with you.

Below I list some of the more important puzzle pieces.

These are some of the qualities that your coaching should provide.

Improvement: Coaching is supposed to help you reach goals designed by you.

Open Communication: Look for the encouragement to speak your mind.

Listening Actively: Expect to be heard and understood.

Believe in You: Your coach must be able to visualize you as successful.

Encouraging You: Coaching offers encouragement and space for you to try new behaviors.

Sharing The Power: Coaching is an equal relationship.

Limits: Know that your boundaries will not be violated.

Actions You Can Take

There are actions you can take to increase the success of your coaching experience.

• Get an idea of what you want to achieve with a coach.
• Choose someone you like, admire, and feel comfortable with.
• Ask your friends or relatives for the name of a coach they trust.
• Take your time to develop trust.·
• Keep setting goals for yourself.
• Check to see if you are meeting your goals in coaching.
• Let your coach know when you are not getting what you need.
• Trust your gut instincts instead of the coaches words.
• Be open to change.
• Ask questions you need to ask.

You can tell a lot about the coach by how they respond to your questions, comments, and requests. I list a checklist of questions to ask below. You may ask any of these questions. If you don’t understand the answers, ask again.

Questions You Can Ask

1. What is your educational background?
2. Are you certified?
3. Which certification do you have? And what are the requirements?
4. What experiences have you had with my type of problem?

Coaching Approaches
1. What is your specialty?
2. How does it work?
3. About how long will it take?
4. What should I do if I feel coaching isn’t working?

Support Groups
1. Do you work with people who go to support groups?
2. Do you refer people to support groups?
3. How does this work with your type of coaching?

1. How are appointments scheduled?
2. How long are sessions?
3. Do you allow contact between sessions?
4. Is there a fee for that?

1. What does it cost?
2. Do you require contracts?
3. What arrangements do you make for payment? How do I need to pay?
4. Do you bill clients?
5. How do you handle cancellations?
6. Do I need to pay for telephone calls or letters?

1. What kind of records do you keep & where do you keep them?
2. Who gets to see your records?
3. Do you tell people what we talk about?
4. How do you handle information when you work with children?
5. How do you handle information when you work with couples or families?

Sign up for a $10.00 Initial Consultation.

I allocate 30 minutes for this meeting. Our purpose is to explore possibilities and options for working together. I’ll want to know your goals and dreams. You’ll want to know if I’m the right coach for you.

Use the box below, email me, or call me on the telephone.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy


Speaking Your Truth: Bullying by Proxy


As an abused child, I couldn’t understand how my very large extended family reacted to me. I felt puzzled by them. They denied me food as they binged on junk food, saying I was too fat. They put me in situations where I could not succeed. Sports without the proper equipment, out of date ill-fitting clothing, and social events where I did not belong. That’s bullying by proxy.

If I spoke to anyone in my family from a place of personal self-esteem, they would not hear me. It’s not that they argued with me. It’s that I was invisible if I liked myself at that moment. The only way I could communicate with the people supposed to love me was if I didn’t love myself. That’s gaslighting.

They treated me in this manner as a defense. They had organized a horrific abuse against me. Today I believe they wanted to make certain no one, no where would listen to my story. My speaking out. They made sure no one considered me a believable person.

These are examples of gaslighting and bullying by proxy. On the Internet, it’s called cyberbullying by proxy. Gaslighting and bullying by proxy are an inevitable part of abuse/rape/sexual harassment.

You can see it clearly if you know what you are looking for. On the Internet. In the media. And in the workplace. 
This is a skilled and talented form of management and control.

Gaslighters maneuver people to believe a harmful idea about another or group of others. The bullying includes malicious lies. Manipulating them into situations where they cannot cope. And setting the victim up to respond to some outrageousness. This, then, makes the victim look bad to others. Thus, proving the gaslighters point.

An example I used with my clients was that of a woman out on a date. It’s a lovely restaurant. Beautiful tablecloth down to the floor, fine china, and crystal glasses. He violently kicks her under the table. She hollers loudly. You can now hear a pin drop. Everyone looks at her. He acts like an innocent party. He kicks her again. She reacts again. All the people in the restaurant think something is wrong with her. Management asks her to leave the restaurant.

You see this today in the round of women and men speaking out about their abuse/sexual harassment experiences. Powerful figures don’t want to lose their status and power, so they trash the victim. Then they often set up scenarios designed to cause their target to react seeming to prove their point.

It’s easy to view on the Internet. Troll “A” comments on a post inappropriately. Or tweets something hurtful even when it’s untrue. It’s a natural impulse to react, and the game is on.

The success of bullying by proxy depends on the personal qualities of people in the community. How willing they or you or I are to believe a lie about someone we don’t know. How willing we all are to believe lies about circumstances we did not witness. How much we like gossip and innuendo true or not.

According to Gordon Allport (The Nature of Prejudice,1949), prejudice is a pre-judgment. A pre-judgment is a decision to dislike, hate or disbelieve made ahead of time about a person or group of people. He was referring to race, religion, and class. His ideas are classic and used today in psychology and sociology.

I think his ideas also refer to truth tellers. For truth-tellers, the pre-judgment would be a decision made ahead of time to not believe people who speak out about their sexual abuse. It goes further. Smearing them as liars, politically motivated, and people in a class or grouping that is not believable. That’s the gaslighting.

The bullying by proxy and cyberbullying by proxy begins when anyone predisposed to believe the lies attacks the victim. Demands evidence. Tweets at them. Follows them. Crank phone calls them. And all the other nasties available in our society today.

Allport listed motives for people who do this. These are common human failing motives: envy, hate, and a feeling of being mistreated. This morphs into a sense of entitlement and fear of being found out.

Once the bullying hits the cybersphere, the motives are more convoluted. According to the newest psychology research, people who troll others like to harm others for fun.

So, we can call this behavior gaslighting, bullying by proxy, cyberbullying by proxy and Internet trolling. The motives for this are things like envy, feelings of entitlement, hate, fear of others and a desire to hurt others for fun.

This is what happens to people who speak out about their abuse. I’d say it takes real courage to speak out. It’s difficult and, even in today’s climate, very costly.

I wish I had a magic wand to wave over everyone and anyone who is being maligned by their community. It’s a painful, devastating experience. I remember it all too well.

I vote instead for personal growth. One way I took my power back was to use whatever people did as an opportunity to learn some new skill, ability or understanding. No matter what they did.

I wrote about that here. How to Handle Being Gaslighted or When People Say or Write Mean Words About You

I wish you the best of all possible overcomings.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy


Gaslighting 101: Changing the Subject

rock-cliff-high-tableau-mountain-731140I sometimes become haunted by news stories. Usually stories of injustice and abuse. Of course, I do. They’re close to my home. They touch my heart and remind me of what I clawed my way out of.

It’s not good for me to focus so strongly on negativity. I’d be better off becoming obsessed with meditation. Maybe I should be re-reading a book from my treasure trove of positive thinking books. Yet here I am, with more fodder for my writing. Obsession leaves no room for any other actions.

At any rate, I am consumed by the news detailing the latest public figure accused of sexual harassment/sexual abuse/child molestation. My intense scrutiny comes at the reactions to the people speaking out and telling their stories. I see gaslighting in the reporting and I saw gaslighting in response to my most recent posting, Telling Your Story: Gaslighting and Mystified Oppression.

Gaslighting takes many forms. One is to re-frame the subject. Re-framing is simply a fancy word for changing the subject. In this case, many are attempting to change the discussion from one of abuse into one of politics.

Gaslighting is often fascinating when I can get some distance from the exchange. You can look to logical fallacies as one explanation of gaslighting. Logical fallacies are errors in logic and thinking.

As I go back through the list of logical fallacies, there are so many in the reactions to my writing. And when someone is illogical, there is no discussion. All of these are attempts to change the subject and throw a lot of dust around the issue.

Several men wrote hostile responses in regard to my previous blog post on this subject. They resembled political commentary. Raging about politics, attempting to turn the speak outs from people speaking their truth into leftist politics versus right-wing politics. I explained my position in my return response.

Frankly, this caused some degree of rage in response. Rage is a common comeback to you when you don’t give in to gaslighting. It’s interesting. When one technique didn’t work, was a second and third. Attacking my logic, my politics and then my character. This is what is known as an ad hominem logical fallacy.

People are not communicating. They might respond from something deep inside them. Or they might be attempting to derail you from your side of the conversation. At any rate, they are not responding to reality.

None of which applies to the fact (The FACT) that women and men are speaking out about the wrong done to them by people with some power over them.

Just in case you wondered, speaking out is not political. It’s personal.

Okay, there are some who say the personal is political. If so, this is not red versus blue. One group of people want to keep the world safe for predators to roam. We can call them, the pro-abuse party. And the other side wants to make the world unsafe for predators to roam. We can call them, the anti-abuse party.

And right smack dab in the middle are those who want the space to speak out and tell their truth. Not your truth. Not my truth. Not the truth of the news media. Their personal truth.

All right, I’m being too literal. There are gaslighters who want to protect themselves from the consequences of their behavior. Others want to protect some idea, some prestige, some power or something. Your truth threatens to take something they value away from them. That’s not political, it’s personal.

The second gaslighting response was a legalistic one. It’s still an attempt to re-frame the discussion. Change the subject. “If he did it.” “All claims of harassment/abuse should be investigated.” “And whoever did wrong should be punished.”

There is a threat implicit in this. Here is the threat. If you speak your truth, you will be investigated. And if we can find any fault in your story, you will be punished.

Just so you know, if anyone investigates you long and hard enough, they will find something wrong. None of us are perfect. You might yell at your spouse or fart in the living room. Whatever. Public scrutiny is terrifying.

When I responded to this man’s thoughts, he behaved much like the first man. He became enraged and attacked me. He threw in concepts like “personal responsibility” without context.

Whose responsibility? The victim or the perpetrator. Then he attacked my logic, my motives, my character, my whatevers. Ad hominem. If you have no argument, attack the person. Or create confusion.

People are telling truths that happened years, even decades ago. There is no legal remedy here. No one is going to be arrested, charged, tried and sent to jail. That labels this a bogus argument, meant to derail the conversation.

How can a victim be the responsible party? This too is gaslighting. Blandly talking about abuse as if there is equal blame to excuse the actions of the guilty party. This is called a false equivalence because these two behaviors are not in any way equal.

I’m reminded of another recent news story that I think demonstrates personal responsibility. It’s the story of the air force and the church shooter. The air force failed somehow when the reports on the Texas killer never made it to the federal database. This database might have prevented that gunman from buying a gun. We won’t ever know since people seem to be able to get guns when they really want to.

Instead of gaslighting, excuse-making, or defensive posturing, an air force spokesperson took ownership of this. Admitted a mistake and vowed to find out how it happened. I’ve noticed this topic disappeared from the news. Taking responsibility. The Air Force, in this situation, shows how it’s done.

There are public figures responding in a variety of ways. One deflection is to mention going to treatment. What treatment? For what? Sexual addiction? Alcohol? Drugs? That’s not remorse, that’s cover your ass. It’s not even appropriate to the circumstance. Some admit it and disappear from the story. Many are facing real consequences after years of criminal behavior.

That’s a good thing, even for those public figures I liked. Real consequences maybe mean that fewer people might think it’s okay to act like that.

I hope no one manages to stop the tsunami of people telling their truths. Hearing them gives me a sense of rightness and hope. That there might be fewer new victims if these speak outs continue. And are not shut down, put away, or stopped by gaslighting.

Gaslighting fails here.

Your feedback is important! Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this writing.

Just scroll a little further down the page and use the “Leave a Reply” box to add your opinions. Make your suggestions and let me know what your needs are.

If you wish to say more, e-mail me at or by using the contact me box below.

If you like my writing and are interested in applying some of these ideas, subscribe to my newsletter.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy


Telling Your Story: Gaslighting and Mystified Oppression

girl-brave-bravery-independence-843076As usual, I listened to the news this morning. I am delighted at the outpouring of people finally feeling free enough to tell their stories. Stories of violation by powerful men.

Talking heads are considering this upside-down and inside-out. Taking as many and varied points of view as it seems they need to to keep the story interesting.

One idea that is absolutely not true is that our world is different now. That any disgusting backlash is new behavior. It’s not.

What is new behavior is the courage of women and men standing tall and speaking out. Denial and blaming the victim are not new at all.

I first encountered the treatment of sexual violation and abuse in 1968. I worked in the Neglect and Abuse Unit of a local juvenile court. I had a five file drawer cabinet full of cases of neglect and abuse. That was one city. Naturally, those files included no new cases. Five drawers. I think all the file cabinets of sexual predation everywhere could fill the Grand Canyon.

Over my time at that job I read every single file. Sexual violation is NOT new.

I began my psychology graduate training in 1977 with a fascinating woman’s study class named “Women and Mental Illness.” There I learned concepts such as gaslighting and mystified oppression. Gaslighting as a concept is now a broadly used idea, but I hear little about mystified oppression.

Gaslighting is a way of convincing people they are crazy by distorting their reality. The idea originally comes from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer film, Gaslight. In it, a man marries a wealthy woman and slowly attempts to drive her crazy by changing the realities of the gaslights in her home along with other diabolical techniques. The driving force is his greed. A desire to possess something that does not belong to him. He is attempting to incapacitate her to meet his own needs. Sound familiar?

Mystified oppression is when the person being harmed inadvertently cooperates with their victimization. People believe the lies they are told. Perpetrators deceive their victims about the harm that will come to them if they resist. They are mystified and confused by the ‘gaslighting’ that tells them who they are and how the world works. One such egregious belief is that no one will believe them.

Unfortunately, in powerful places or positions, sometimes it’s not gaslighting. It’s also real oppression. Society, as we see in the news today, can and often will attack the truth teller. Loss of life lost of position, loss of job and many other punitive actions await people who speak out. Public humiliation. Rejection. And on and on.

This morning’s talking head was bemoaning the state of our culture. That some public officials are saying, “Innocent until proven guilty.” And others are responding with defiance, “We don’t care. We will support/encourage/watch your media/vote for him, anyway.”

The television personality seemed to think supporting the perpetrator was new social behavior. It’s not. Sexual violation is as old as time itself. And protecting the perpetrator is just as old.

What’s new is the way we are thinking about it now.

When I worked on my graduate thesis, I chose to study Adults Abused as Children. I went into the academic research literature and grabbed any article I could find. I wanted a historical view and ideas for therapeutic treatment.

I read journal articles as far back as the 1930’s.

I found much of what I read disgusting. Like creepy disgusting.

Male psychiatrists and psychologists saying things like the little 3-year-old girl was provocative and seduced her perpetrator. Other professionals saying, “Well, it happened, but it’s not so bad.”

Children victimized have troubles concentrating, sleeping, thinking, and functioning. Today we know the extent of the damage. The ACES study conducted by the CDC and Kaiser-Permanente has proven that.

Adults victimized in their adult lives have many of the same struggles.

I read too many academic journal articles describing the results of such victimization as if these results made the victim someone a person to ignore and disregard. Discard. Throwaway children, first victims of abuse. Then victims of the aftermath and the people who were supposed to help them.

There is some great professional work, like the study above by CDC and Kaiser, in the public eye these days. It’s a dramatic change.

Later, in my work as a therapist, I learned from clients that the key to the extent of damage to a child was emotional support and resilience in the family. If a parent believed them, they had fewer problems. If an adult had a terrific set of loving and giving friends following a trauma, they had fewer PTSD symptoms. If they had the support around them to walk through their natural process, their damage was less.

My point is this. Denial of sexual violation is not new. Coming out and openly telling your story is. It’s brave and admirable. Sexual predators facing consequences. That’s new.

More recently, I’ve learned that if a physician asked their patients about their childhoods, their physical health improved as much as 35%.

I hope this current speak-out is part of a cultural change that will free women and young men from victimization. If more powerful people publicly pay consequences for their actions, more potential victims could be safer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for predators to be punished and victims listened to. They might just heal. Our society might just heal. It’s my fantasy that we could live in a world where there is absolutely no room for sexual predators.

Your feedback is important! Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this writing.

Just scroll a little further down the page and use the “Leave a Reply” box to add your opinions. Make your suggestions and let me know what your needs are.

If you wish to say more, e-mail me at or by using the contact me box below.

If you like my writing and are interested in applying some of these ideas, subscribe to my newsletter.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791


Credentials verified by Psychology Today

©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy