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Coach’s Diary: Personal Pressure


Stress at home and at work are exacerbating Olivia Stephanino's client sleepwalking problems.

Alison, a qualified accountant and business strategist, had been a sleepwalker since her childhood days. However, in the last six months the problem had become noticeably worse – and now she was tense, tired and irritable.

Sitting in my office nursing a much-needed cup of coffee, Alison admitted that she was going through a busy time both at home and at work. As well as planning for her wedding in six months time, Alison had also received a promotion – and although both events were welcome, the changes involved were still stressful.

While stress can be a cause of sleep walking, it became clear during our conversation that there were others issues troubling her.

Alison admitted that she was finding her job a strain – not because of the work involved but as a result of having to prove herself constantly to her male colleagues. The only female partner in the practice, Alison felt that she was not taken seriously and was becoming disheartened by the daily grind.

I asked Alison to name the work attributes that she had that her male colleagues lacked. Firstly, she agreed that her ideas for marketing and customer service were more adventurous – and that time had proved that her ideas were effective too.

Secondly, Alison admitted that she was very intuitive – and that time and time again her instincts about clients and projects had been proven correct. She was also able to put her intuition to good use when it came to recruiting new staff.

Chatting the matter through with me, Alison and I began to reframe her situation. Recognising that she didn’t need to compete with her male colleagues was an important break-through for Alison – as was her discovery that there were several areas in which her feminine strengths were definitely an asset.

She admitted that the practice’s senior partner had told her that she was being brought into the top team because she had unique gifts that would give the firm a competitive edge. With a smile, she realised that the person who had been giving her a hard time had, in fact, been herself.

Alison also admitted that while she loved her fiance, Simon, she was concerned that when they got married at the end of the year she would lose some of her freedom. Previously, she had been in a relationship with a very controlling partner and she had suffered a very unhappy couple of years. While Alison knew intellectually that Simon was a completely different type of man, emotionally she was still unsure.

I suggested that Alison undergo a psycho-dynamic exercise, in which she would have a much needed conversation with her previous boyfriend in her mind’s eye. I explained to Alison that the sub-conscious mind does not distinguish between very vivid imagination and reality – which would make the experience completely valid for her.

After Alison had expressed her anger, she then went on – in her imagination – to forgive her previous boyfriend, knowing that by forgiving him she wasn’t condoning his actions but was untying herself from the negative energy of the past. Finally, she asked him to leave – knowing that when he did so, she would be free to enter into a truly happy marriage.

Three weeks later, Alison was on the phone – delightedly reporting that she was enjoying better rest – with no sleep walking activity – that she had for years.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet 128 ways to harness your personal power at


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