Ferne Kotlyar

How do you move on after making a horrible mistake? How do you stop the guilt from taking over your life?  

In this episode of the Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Ferne and I explore a case about a man named Marlo, who was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. While driving, a man was pushed straight into Marlo’s moving car and Marlo didn’t have time to stop. The man died instantly.

Although it wasn’t directly his fault, Marlo’s guilt took over his life and he doesn’t know how to move on or how to allow himself to be happy after stealing the happiness from another man and his family.  

During this podcast, I explain that the story Marlo is telling says, “the reason all of this happened was because I (Marlo) was a bad person. I was the one who killed someone, and I deserve to be punished.” And this story prevents Marlo from being at peace and feeling any sense of joy.

I say that Marlo needs to retell his story. Him being hard on himself does not bring this man back, it doesn’t honor the person that passed away, and it doesn’t serve anyone around him.  

Have you ever felt like guilt is drowning you? Do you have a case you’d like to talk about? Share your story! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, please reach out to us:



Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. This is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where we typically invite leaders from all over the world to get coached live and in person right on the show.

Today, we have a special episode. Again, it's with my daughter Ferne Kotlyar and she comes to us live for Montreal.

Ferne, welcome.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:26]
Hi, thank you so much!

Kim Ades: [00:00:29]
So you have a case for me today?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:31]
Yes ma'am. Are you ready for it?

Kim Ades: [00:00:33]
Yes, ma'am yourself.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:35]

Kim Ades: [00:00:35]
What do you have?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:37]
All right. So today we have a case about a guy named Marlo. So Marlo was driving, he was the designated driver for a group of friends, driving home from a party. And, you know, he didn't drink, but he had a few sips of beer here and there. He drove his friends home and on the way, there were two people fighting in the street.

These two people were fighting and one guy pushed the other guy into the street onto his car and Marlo couldn't slow down in time, so he ended up killing the guy. Now it wasn't at all Marlo's fault. He didn't get any sort of criminal punishment, anything, but Marlo had a very, very hard time living with the guilt.

He completely quit drinking, smoking, anything that inhibited any sort of cognition, mental cognition... he stopped driving, completely sold his car, got rid of it. And after he realized how short life could be, he decided to basically scrap everything he was doing and really go big.

He started this huge tech company, did really well in life, you know, really successful. And five years later, he... although he's super successful, he really cannot bring himself to be happy. He doesn't feel as though he deserves to be happy because there's this guy who didn't even get to live and yet he's here.

And so Marlo feels, you know, guilty all the time. Anytime there's any sort of remote joy in his life, he feels guilty. He has nightmares five years later. And he just is having a lot of trouble living with his guilt, but also living with himself. He feels that he's a horrible person and you know, really just doesn't deserve to have an amazing life.

But he's starting to slowly change his perspective. He just doesn't know how to get rid of all these horrible feelings, all these nightmares, and all this guilt that is constantly with him.

Kim Ades: [00:02:32]
Okay. Is he hurting himself?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:02:35]

Kim Ades: [00:02:36]
Is he hurting anybody else? Like, does he have any violent tendencies?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:02:41]
No. No, not at all.

Kim Ades: [00:02:42]
No, no, no. Okay. So he's not in danger. He's not like at risk of suicide or anything like that.

Okay. And has he... you think he's depressed or does he, like, does he have depression or do you think he's just-- he has this guilt that's eating him up?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:03:00]
I think he just has this guilt that's eating him up.

Kim Ades: [00:03:03]
Okay. So the reason I asked this is because in a case like this, it's very important for us to assess whether or not coaching is really the right move or whether or not he needs something more of a professional intervention that is medically involved, right?

So we need to figure that out because we're not doctors, and if someone is suicidal, if someone is risking their lives or hurting somebody else, we need a different kind of intervention. Coaching isn't appropriate at this point.

But if there's somebody who's experiencing a tremendous amount of guilt and that guilt is really preventing them from living a joyful, wholesome, full life then really what we want to do is we want to explore the guilt.

We want to go back and actually... I mean, not that this was a pleasant moment, but actually tell the story of his experience and tell the story of why he thinks things unfolded as they did.
Why was he selected to be the designated driver? Why did he sign up for that role? What else could have happened in that situation? Could things have been even worse than they were? Right? So one life was lost. Could it have been more than one life?

We want to go back and have him tell the story of what happened because this story he's telling is there a story that's very skewed. It's a story from his perspective that... basically he has a stick in his hand and that stick continuously beats himself up.

And so right now, the story he's telling says, "the reason it happened is because I'm a bad person. Something happened in my life at some time and I was punished, but more than that, you know, I was the one who had to lose a life. Not my life, but I was the one who had to kill somebody else. And I'm the one who was destined to live with this guilt".

And so that story that he carries with him prevents him from engaging in relationships in a good manner, prevents him from being at peace, prevents him from feeling any sense of joy. And so it's very important for us to go back and retell that story with a different lens and help him understand why exactly that happened, what the purpose was and what he did, with it.

And what he needs to do with it from here on in, because what he's doing with it right now, sure, he grew a big company, he became very motivated, he became very dedicated, but with a very, very heavy heart.

And so to some degree, you know, it's interesting because a few episodes ago you asked me about a girl who was in a toxic relationship and her therapist recommended she write a letter to her boyfriend, her ex boyfriend, who was very abusive to her. And my recommendation was that no, she should not write a letter to her ex-boyfriend.

She should move past her ex-boyfriend and focus on herself and actually write a letter to herself, understanding who she was at the time, forgiving herself for being in this relationship for such a long period of time, enabling her to move on.

Well in this situation, interestingly enough, it would have great value for him, Marlo, to write two letters: one to this young man who died and the other to himself.

So in the letter to the young men who died, he might want to express regret, sorrow, sadness, all the things that he feels. Talk to him, have a relationship with him in your letter, but then after that, put it aside.

You might want to take that letter and share it with his family, right? That could be a healing moment. But beyond that, it's time for him to write a letter to himself, to let himself off the hook, to give himself a similar apology for being so hard on himself for all these years.

Because him being hard on himself does not bring anyone back to life. Him being hard on himself doesn't honor a person who passed away. Him being hard on himself does not give the people around him, who are still living, any type of connection or joy.

So what he's done is, in effect, killed two people at the same time. And we want him to bring one back to life. We want him to bring one back to life for himself, but in honor of this young man who died.

We want to give him a sense that this death had reason, had purpose, had meaning, and that it's his job to create meaning out of this experience, because right now the meaning he's creating out of this experience is that he's a terrible, horrible, awful person. And that's not an accurate meaning and that meaning doesn't serve anybody. Not the young men who died, not his family, not him and not anybody around him.

We need to turn the tide and we need to allow him and enable him to put the stick down and to give himself an apology. Let himself out. Accept himself so that he can continue with his life, continue to grow the company, but start to be at peace with his past, understand that he's probably eternally connected with this man, but now do all the right things to bring him honor.
Does that make sense?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:09:36]
Yeah, very much so. So you said something interesting. You mentioned that you should rewrite this story, tell it differently.

And so now we know he thinks "I could have done something better, you know? Like, maybe if I didn't have those few sips of beer, I could have swerved. Or if I wasn't talking to my friends, I could have slowed down and maybe not killed him or I could have, I could've. I could have".
So how do you retell that story? What do you say about the story in order to change that?

Kim Ades: [00:10:03]
Yeah. So there are lots of things that we tell about the story to change that.

Thing number one is someone else could have been driving. Somebody else could have been the designated driver and that someone could have killed everybody in the car, including this young man.

Right? So things could have been worse. But the story that I want him to tell is ultimately that this was a fateful evening, right? So things happened beyond his control. For a reason. And what I'm encouraging him to do is create meaning out of this experience. So write it as though this event was very much on purpose, not an accident.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:10:51]
Why would it be on purpose?

Kim Ades: [00:10:55]
It was designed to help him be a much, much greater human being.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:11:01]
At the sacrifice of somebody else?

Kim Ades: [00:11:04]
Yes. And so the question becomes is he being that greater person? And to many, in many ways, he is by working hard and focusing, except he cannot be his greatest self as he is beating himself up because you can't be great when you're hurting. You can't be great when you feel terrible about youself. It's impossible.

So this event, right? Could have gone many, many ways. He could have just sunk down. He could have become, you know, a drunk. He could have gotten involved in drugs. He chose to clean himself up completely. Not that he was-- he needed cleaning up, but he chose to go on the straight and narrow. He chose to build his business. Great.

But his journey's not over. And now it's time to forgive himself for what happened in the past. And it's time for him to really be the great man that he is and live his life with love, loving others, but loving himself as well. And that's what this experience is calling him to do. And it's important for him to write that story.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:27]
Interesting. So if you were to give this man one more piece of advice, what would you say?

Kim Ades: [00:12:32]
I would say that honestly, like, this is not an easy journey to do on your own. And I've experienced actually quite recently, several clients who have had similar experiences, not exactly that, but close to it.

And I know that for years and years and years they've been holding a stick designed to beat themselves up. And no human being can live their lives, joyfully with wholeness, carrying a stick. And what happens is when you carry a stick, you're not only beating yourself up, you tend to thrash about and start beating up people around you.

And so my real big piece of advice is find someone who can help you, find someone who can walk this path with you, who will be with you the whole entire time to go through the process of forgiving yourself. It could be a coach, maybe it's a therapist, but don't do this alone. It's not easy to put your stick down. Go find some help.

That's really my biggest piece of advice for someone like this. And journal, of course.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:13:52]
Of course.

Kim Ades: [00:13:53]
Of course. Are you satisfied?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:13:58]
Satisfied. Thank you!

Kim Ades: [00:14:00]
Wow! You're giving me harder and harder and harder cases.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:14:04]

Kim Ades: [00:14:05]
Thank you for being on the show with me. Thank you for challenging me. As I've mentioned in the past, I never know what Ferne's going to throw my way. Here's a new case. That was the tough one.

If any of you have a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

If you have a challenge that you're not so willing to share on the podcast, but you do want to speak about privately. Again, reach out to me.

My email again is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

And for those of you who have been listening and sending in comments and feedback, continue, we love it. I'm losing my voice.

Thank you for being on the show. Until we see you next time.

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