Integrating What Is Broken in Us

We are all broken.

In some circles, this is a radical thing to say (“Hey, some of us are doing just fine, thank you!”); for others, it’s a downer (“That’s a pretty negative view of people”).

But for me, this is an uplifting truth and a fundamental tenant for coaching.

For most of my youth, I experienced life as something that unfolded for me just the way I wanted it to—all according to plan. Sure, I had some romantic heartbreak and some disappointments, but overall things were good. I had two loving parents, a stable, middle-class upbringing, and went to a great high school and four-year college. I got a great job out of college and moved to NYC to live that big life I’d always dreamed of. I moved up the ladder within my chosen profession and eventually moved to San Francisco, where I met and married my husband and we had a child.

Then everything fell apart. When my son was born, I experienced crushing post-partum depression. I was brutal with myself about it, sure that I was a terrible mother who couldn’t love her son. When he was a year old, my reproductive system shut down and I discovered I couldn’t have more children. I struggled with motherhood and my crazy work hours and felt I wasn’t doing either one well, so I stepped down and took a new job with no big title or compensation package.   Eventually, my husband and I separated and divorced.


During this time, I felt all these experiences as “failures.” I felt sadness and loss and pain. Eventually, I came to see that my old life and my old self were actually dying, and I was grieving the loss. I had constructed a life based on what I thought I was supposed to do and want—what was supposed to make me and others happy. I had constructed a sense of self that was based on ideas of achieving and succeeding and getting everything just right. The truth is that, even before my post-partum depression, I was really pretty miserable. My work didn’t have much meaning and I didn’t have much time for relationships or much ability to really be present with others.

Loving what’s broken

Many of these realizations began when I entered the Professional Coaching Course at New Ventures West. I came into the class hoping to learn “how to be a coach” so that I could make a career transition. What I learned is that coaching is really not about helping people solve their problems or get their next promotion. In fact, coaching is incredibly powerful because both coach and client can learn to face and love what’s broken in all of us. Without judgment or shame. We can see how we might be living in ways that have us close off parts of ourselves—that have us deny truths or constrict our hearts or bodies. Loving our broken parts helps us to breathe more life into our selves, our endeavors and our relationships.

At this time in our history, it’s quite easy to allow and even to nurture feelings of rage and horror, grief and despair about the state of the world. But what helps me right now is to return to this teaching. There is much brokenness on display in the world. Can we love it and love those who show it to us? Can we look at our culture, our leaders and our decaying systems without judgment or shame? When we do this, can we see the truth of how we are living and face our own contributions to this reality? Most importantly, can we see opportunities to bring our own unique gifts in support of healing?
To me, this is the invitation—no, the promise—of integral coaching. Join us on the path.

Melinda is an Integral Coach and owns the coaching and consulting firm Impact Leadership.