Widowhood is traumatic

As far as Modupe Wigwe, a widow and a trained life coach is concerned, Nigerian leaders need to do more in the area of finding succour for its citizens who are traumatised from time to time. The brain behind Peak Performance Coaching Academy in Victoria Island, Lagos, Wigwe spoke with YEMISI ADENIRAN on life as a widow and her choice of becoming a life coach. Excerpts:

What led you into becoming a life coach?

I was married and lost my husband after some time. His death affected me in many ways. It is not an easy thing for one to have lived with one’s man for many years and suddenly lose that man. Widowhood is traumatic, especially in a country like ours. I am saying this because I found out that there were no support structures that could help one get out of trauma in this country, and that is really bad. For instance, if one is going through a certain trauma, it can affect one’s productivity at work. It can even affect the people around one and at the end of the day, the nation as a whole. Consequently, I travelled out of the country, trying to find out ways of resolving some of these issues. That is how I chose to be a life coach so I could use that as a template to assist others.

What does it mean to be a life coach?

What a life coach does is to help a client in whatever area of his or her life that he or she has an issue with. So, he or she can be more effective. A life coach helps you to work through life again. A life coach holds up a mirror, so you can see what is happening to you and then he provides a guide for you. He doesn’t tell you what to do. Being a life coach is beyond being there for someone at a time of need. You need to understand why some people behave in a certain manner and what you could do to help.

Were you formally trained in this?

I was formerly into HR consulting but I later took time out to find out other areas of ensuring that the learning that people go through is beneficial to them. So, I started by trying to teach myself. After a while, I went abroad to do some further studies. I studied in the UK and I did cognitive behavioural therapy as well as Neuro-linguistic programming. Neuro talks about our nervous system or mind, while linguistic has to do with the language we use to communicate it; and programming is the set pattern of behaviours that runs like a programme, which shows all that is going on in our minds. I am a master practitioner. Also, I did professional stress management and emotional freedom technique, among others. All of these put together have made me what I am today.

Who are the people that your services are meant for?

It is actually for everybody. Though we are targeting women, we also deal with things that are under-achieving and dysfunctional. What we do is to build capability. It is easy for you and me to acquire knowledge. For instance, you could be an IT expert, but knowing it doesn’t mean you will get any result. So, it is how you apply that knowledge. What are the things that can affect your ability to apply the knowledge gained? Trauma can affect your ability to apply your knowledge in any area.

For instance, somebody who is shy may have all the knowledge, but may not be able to apply it until the shyness is dealt with. So, for us, it is building that capability and enabling people to be able to apply whatever knowledge they have such that they are effective and can get the result they desire. In this part of the world, a lot of stigma is attached to things like going for counselling or therapy but it should not necessarily be.

So, because I want to be more effective, I can decide to deal with anything that may stop me from being what I want to be. Imagine somebody who beats his wife or someone who is quick tempered; this sort of cases will limit the person’s ability to be effective. So, the best thing you can do is to find a way of addressing that. But in our society, we tend to think that that is the way the person is and you will even find people saying that people get angry easily in their families. But really, nobody is just that way.

When your options are limited, you tend to think that that is the only behaviour that is available to you. But if you have more information or knowledge that helps you to understand that there are options to this behaviour. Then, your life will change; the result you get will change and the experiences you get will also change. All of these things affect the work place, the home front, relationships and society at large. So, I feel it is time for us to start paying attention to those areas.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been doing it on and off, for about two years now. But we are just starting out with the running of the training. We want a non-threatening environment, where people can freely express themselves and exchange ideas without the fear of stigmatisation. You see, some would want to hide their pains and not allow people the opportunity to see that they are weak by talking about the issues in their lives. For instance, rape is on the increase in our society. And since I started, I mean when I was doing it on and off, I have had to coach and counsel people who had been through this kind of experience.

Can you recall any remarkable encounter you have had since you went into this practice?

It was about a certain lady who was working in a corporate environment, but who had been raped by a gang of armed robbers. One day, she went home from work and later in the evening, some armed robbers broke into the house and raped her. She decided to keep the experience to herself without discussing it with anyone. I met her a few years after the incidence. I found out that it had really affected her life, her productivity and her work was suffering.

According to her, her appraisal showed that she was rather aggressive and insubordinate. Her relationship had suffered a lot. When she finally opened up to me, she said the only reason she spoke with me about it was because I am a woman. She also said that she could talk to me going by some of the things I had discussed in the class earlier that day. What struck me was that her HR was not aware of the challenges she was going through and how it was affecting her work.

Also, there was no way the HR could help her because she didn’t even feel that HR was confidential enough. Besides, she didn’t want to be stigmatised. So, my concern then stemmed from how inadequate our system was becoming.

In other words, even if the HR is not equipped to handle it, it knows where to take this issue to, it will be of help. But in a situation where none is existent, it means there is no intervention available for that person; so, the person has to live with that experience. Therefore, our courses give people the opportunities to work through whatever their issues are and learn how to deal with them.

How affordable are your services, especially when you consider the socioeconomic situations of the country?

When we talk about this, I think it is very relative. If I had lived with a certain kind of trauma and it has affected my life, I don’t think I would be able to quantify that. So, I would say it depends on the individual client. There are some people who would rather live with their traumas. So, if a particular training is N100, 000 for three days, they would rather buy some pieces of clothes for the same amount than come for the training. It depends on the individual’s priority. What we have done is to structure the training in such a way that people can get good discounts for booking in advance.

They can also make a learning plan. For somebody who is trying to resolve a past trauma; the sort of training we will recommend will cut across; it won’t just be a oneoff thing. We have one that deals with resolving past traumas and another that deals with our internal dialogue. How do I master my internal dialogue? We converse with ourselves a lot. So, if you can master your internal dialogue, you will be more effective speaking with people.

The first breakdown comes from our internal dialogue. If I see somebody and my internal dialogue goes like, “I wonder what this person is thinking of me; look at the way he is staring at me.” By the time I speak, I am coming out of all the things I had been saying to myself. So, for someone who is going through trauma, we will also recommend that he or she masters his or her internal dialogue. If I hadn’t gone through some of the things I had gone through, I doubt that I would have this vision. It has been a long journey getting here in the sense that all sorts of things had happened to me. I have had experiences that I consider strange or cruel.

How encouraging has the patronage been?

I would say the response has been absolutely fantastic. I believe we will gradually get there. Do you think our society is really ripe for this kind of training to thrive? I believe absolutely that we are. If you have been following issues in this nation, you would have discovered that Nigerians have been really traumatised in a lot of ways. Or what would you say of Boko Haram, the issues with the naira and dollar, and other security issues? If you hear a loud bang now, you will jump up. But we were not like this. What about incest? What about defilement? What about suicides and divorce cases? These were things that were unthinkable some years ago.

How would you describe women in the corporate world in Nigeria?

I think there are lots of opportunities untapped. And if we are going to tap into these opportunities, we need to learn how to manage ourselves. It is possible to tell yourself that the only way to get ahead would be to compromise certain standards, which is not supposed to be so. In essence, we need to learn to be able to manage ourselves to be able to get into the right positions or else, as a woman, you might find yourself compromising certain standards. I think that women have a lot to offer in Nigeria.

I believe that a lot of the changes that we are going to see are going to come from women. I think women in Nigeria have not yet positioned themselves properly. We have more work to do. But when this work is done, the rewards would be immense. I also believe that any woman in any position of authority should endeavour to provide maximum result as this would encourage other women to climb up the corporate ladder.

How has life been as a widow?

The initial stage was really tough on me. It was really difficult snapping out of it, but somehow, I did and went abroad to do the courses I did. They helped me see life from another perspective entirely and I thank God for His mercies so far.

What do you miss about your husband?

I miss everything about him. He was a caring man and he did all he could to make his family happy but God knows best.

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