Spiritual Direction & Christian Spiritual Coaching

Spiritual Direction is a God Centered activity where two to four people prayerfully and intentionally come together to focus on a Directee's relationship with God. The directee discusses their historical and current experience with God, and the Director assists the directee in discerning issues of personal purification, Christ-like sanctification, and spiritual unification (emotional, relational, and lifestyle intimacy) with God.  The director's role tends to be prayerfully observant, supportive and socratic in order to discern limbic-right hemisphere  processes implicit memories that effect the directee's relational experience with God.  Spiritual direction focuses on the directee's prayer life and autobiographical narratives, and seeks the integration of left brain narrative with heart felt limbic-subcortical and right brain implicit memory as it effects their day to day life with God.

Christian Coaching can involve spiritual direction, but periods of coaching typically focuses on specific goals that the directee and director agree to place before God with the prayerful intention of assisting the directee in their adherence and progress in practicing Christian disciplines that promote brain-based cognitive behavioral transformation. Coaching is a collaborative process, and can focus on learning new cognitive behavioral skills associated with over coming barriers to Christian growth; and Christian coaching can be spaced between times of spiritual direction.

The  application of Cognitive -Behavioral observation and discernment to the Christ-like sanctification process is  best learned and practiced in relationship with a close trusted spiritual coach, friend or  director who can help the directee explore their unconscious/implicit thoughts, perceptions, memorys and reactions that affect their emotional relationship with God, others and themself. Our limbic-right brain processes of perception and emotional-behavioral reactions,  are 10 times faster than our left brain's conscious rational analysis of events and social interactions. In our relationship with God, the Spirit facilitates Christ-like cognitive -behavioral transformation that renews our minds from the world's dysfunctional programing (biopsychosocial-cultural neurocognitive programing) of our brain's emotional  and behavioral perceptions and reactions.

Brain based cognitive behavioral transformation focuses on learning and practicing Christian disciplines that enable the Spirit of God to actualize our potentials to transform the structure and functions of our brain systems, which leads to the formation of Christ-like character traits involving the Fruits of the Spirit. While Christian transformation is an act of grace from our Father in heaven, the process takes our full devotion, attention, and commitment to the practice of abiding in Christ moment to moment throughout our lives. Anyone who attempts this process will experience moments of frustration like the Apostle Paul did. As he states in Romans 7:15,  "for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." 

Brain Systems and Human Desire

PFC Intention and integration

PFC and Left Brain Narrative

Explicit Memory

Limbic Right-Brain

Implicit Memory



It's at these times of frustation that we abide in the grace of Christ (Christ's love for ourselves), and sit in God's loving presence and explore our desires, our emotions, and let the Spirit work in us. During coaching or direction we discuss our observations; delineate our distortions and dysfunctions. We then in faith intentionally re-experience our God-self narrative with desired emotional, behavioral and situational Christ-like outcomes. Some directees benefit from the exportation of the Enneagram in order to help them identify patterns of biopsychosocial-cultural motivation and dysfunction in our attempts to love God, self and others. Where two or more are gathered, Christ promises to be there to make the adjustments in our quest to know and abide in our Lord more maturely and functionally.  For those who have experienced trauma in childhood or adulthood, and/or who are experiencing emotional barriers to the experience of love, joy, and peace with God, self, and others, we recommend exploring Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMS). 

Early Maladaptive Schema (EMS), Barriers to Spiritual Growth

Here are Young’s (Reinventing Your Life, 1993) brief descriptions of  11 lifetraps. He derived his lifetraps and early maladaptive schemas apart from any knowledge of the Enneagram types. Lifetraps are non-verbal emotionally implicit memories and are similar to “automatic thinking” associated with the downside of certain Enneagram styles.  After the Lifetrap descriptions I have listed Jerome Wagner's Enneagram and EMS associations. EMS are Limbic-Right Brain implicit memories that bias our perceptions and experiences of God, self and others. We feel the emotional and behavioral consequences of  these "Lifetraps" (EMSs) more that we consciously "believe" them to be true. They are perceptual biases of our Limbic-Right Brain implicit memory system, and we are often unaware of their effects on our emotions, behaviors and relationships.


Two lifetraps relate to a lack of safety or security in your childhood family. These are Abandonment and Mistrust.

ABANDONMENT The Abandonment lifetrap is the feeling that the people you love will leave you, and you will end up emotionally isolated forever. Whether you feel people close to you will die, leave home forever, or abandon you because they prefer someone else, somehow you feel that you will be left alone. Because of this belief, you may cling to people close to you too much. Ironically, you end up pushing them away. You may get very upset or angry about even normal separations.

MISTRUST AND ABUSE The Mistrust and Abuse lifetrap is the expectation that people will hurt or abuse you in some way-that they will cheat, lie to, manipulate, humiliate, physically harm, or otherwise take advantage of you. If you have this lifetrap, you hide behind a wall of mistrust to protect yourself. You never let people get too close. You are suspicious of other people’s intentions, and tend to assume the worst. You expect that the people you love will betray you. Either you avoid relationships altogether, form superficial relationships in which you do not really open up to others, or you form relationships with people who treat you badly and then feel angry and vengeful toward them.

Two lifetraps relate to your ability to function independently in the world. These lifetraps are Dependence and Vulnerability.

DEPENDENCE If you are caught in the Dependence lifetrap, you feel unable to handle everyday life in a competent manner without considerable help from others. You depend on others to act as a crutch and need constant support. As a child you were made to feel incompetent when you tried to assert your independence. As an adult, you seek out strong figures upon whom to become dependent and allow them to rule your life. At work, you shrink from acting on your own. Needless to say, this holds you back.

VULNERABILITY With Vulnerability, you live in fear that disaster is about to strike whether natural, criminal, medical, or financial. You do not feel safe in the world. If you have this lifetrap, as a child you were made to feel that the world is a dangerous place. You were probably overprotected by your parents, who worried too much about your safety. Your fears are excessive and unrealistic, yet you let them control your life, and pour your energy into making sure that you are safe. Your fears may revolve around illness: having an anxiety attack, getting AIDS, or going crazy. They may be focused around financial vulnerability: going broke and ending up on the streets. Your vulnerability may revolve around other phobic situations, such as a fear of flying, being mugged, or earthquakes.  

Two lifetraps relate to the strength of your emotional connections to others: Emotional Deprivation and Social Exclusion.

EMOTIONAL DEPRIVATION Emotional Deprivation is the belief that your need for love will never be met adequately by other people. You feel that no one truly cares for you or understands how you feel. You find yourself attracted to cold and ungiving people, or you are cold and ungiving yourself, leading you to form relationships that inevitably prove unsatisfying. You feel cheated, and you alternate between being angry about it and feeling hurt and alone. Ironically, your anger just drives people further away, ensuring your continued deprivation.

SOCIAL EXCLUSION Social Exclusion involves your connection to friends and groups. It has to do with feeling isolated from the rest of the world, with feeling different. If you have this lifetrap, as a child you felt excluded by peers. You did not belong to a group of friends. Perhaps you had some unusual characteristic that made you feel different in some way. As an adult you maintain your lifetrap mainly through avoidance. You avoid socializing in groups and making friends. You may have felt excluded because there was something about you that other children rejected. Hence you felt socially undesirable. As an adult you may feel that you are ugly, sexually undesirable, low in status, poor in conversational skills, boring, or otherwise deficient. You reenact your childhood rejection-you feel and act inferior in social situations. It is not always apparent that someone has a Social Exclusion lifetrap. Many people with this lifetrap are quite comfortable in intimate settings and are quite socially skilled. Their lifetrap may not show in one-to-one relationships. It sometimes surprises us to realize how anxious and aloof they may feel at parties, in classes, at meetings, or at work. They have a restless quality, a quality of looking for a place to belong.

The two lifetraps that relate to your self-esteem are Defectiveness and Failure.

DEFECTIVENESS With Defectiveness, you feel inwardly flawed and defective. You believe that you would be fundamentally unlovable to anyone who got close enough to really know you. Your defectiveness would be exposed. As a child, you did not feel respected for who you were in your family. Instead, you were criticized for your “flaws.” You blamed yourself–you felt unworthy of love. As an adult, you are afraid of love. You find it difficult to believe that people close to you value you, so you expect rejection.

FAILURE Failure is the belief that you are inadequate in areas of achievement, such as school, work, and sports. You believe you have failed relative to your peers. As a child, you were made to feel inferior in terms of achievement. You may have had a learning disability, or you may never have learned enough discipline to master important skills, such as reading. Other children were always better than you. You were called “stupid,” “untalented,” or “lazy.” As an adult, you maintain your lifetrap by exaggerating the degree of your failure and by acting in ways that ensure your continued failure.

Two lifetraps deal with Self-Expression–your ability to express what you want and get your true needs met: Subugation and Unrelenting Standards.

SUBJUGA TION With Subjugation, you sacrifice your own needs and desires for the sake of pleasing others or meeting their needs. You allow others to control you. You do this either out of guilt–that you hurt other people by putting yourself first–or fear that you will be punished or abandoned if you disobey. As a child, someone close to you, probably a parent, subjugated you. As an adult, you repeatedly enter relationships with dominant, controlling people and subjugate yourself to them or you enter relationships with needy people who are too damaged to give back to you in return.

UNRELENTING STANDARDS If you are in the Unrelenting Standards lifetrap, you strive relentlessly to meet extremely high expectations of yourself . You place excessive emphasis on status, money, achievement, beauty, order, or recognition at the expense of happiness, pleasure, health, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfying relationships. You probably apply your rigid standards to other people as well, and are very judgmental. When you were a child, you were expected to be the best, and you were taught that anything else was failure. You learned that nothing you did was quite good enough.

ENTITLEMENT The final lifetrap, Entitlement, is associated with the ability to accept realistic limits in life. People who have this lifetrap feel special. They insist that they be able to do, say, or have whatever they want immediately. They disregard what others consider reasonable, what is actually feasible, the time or patience usually required, and the cost to others. They have difficulty with self-discipline. Many of the people with this lifetrap were spoiled as children. They were not required to show self-control or to accept the restrictions placed on other children. As adults, they still get very angry when they do not get what they want.

Jerome Wagner's Enneagram and EMS associations.

Abandonment: 2, 4, downside 6

Mistrust and Abuse: downside 1, 2, 4

Emotional Deprivation: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 (negative correlation 9)

Social Exclusion: 4, 5, 6 (negative correlation 3 and 7)

Dependence: 2, 4, (anti­) 5, 6, 9 (negative correlation 3 and 8)

Vulnerability: 2, 4, 6

Defectiveness: 1, 4, 6 (negative correlation 7 and 9)

Failure: 6 (negative correlation 3 and 8)

Subjugation: 2, 6, 9 (negative correlation 8)

Unrealistic Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 (negative correlation 9)

Entitlement: 2, 3, 4, 7 (negative correlation 5 and 9)

Renewing the Mind

The above Model for Christian Coaching  depicts our  approach to training the follower of  Christ in the process of purification, illumination and unification towards a lifestyle of Christ-like Mindfulness and Abiding Practice. 

Myers-Briggs Personality Types and Enneagram

Enneagram and Christian Growth

Enneagram Self Assessment Test

Model for Christian Coaching/Spiritual Direction