Buddhist philosophy tells us that the idea of ‘self’ is illusionary and shifting, with no immovable core. Bodkari (2008) likens it to a pile of leaves. From afar it looks like a solid mass but get closer and you see the leaves blown around by the wind, the top ones caught by a gust and carried away, the bottom ones slowly rotting and decaying. And so aspects of our ‘self’ are ever shifting, it is essential to hold the perception of self lightly with, not only the capacity for, but rather the expectation of change, minor and transformational. Through development of our sense of our own shifting self we are able to identify the aspects we wish to change or modify to adapt to our current circumstance.
We all have unchartered areas of our own minds that lead us to behave in certain ways and expect and usually receive the same outcomes. In transactional analysis Berne (1949) calls these ways of behaving, ‘games’ or enactments, we play out situations according to our past and our expectation of certain outcomes, we make decisions based on our perception of self and how we will be treated. Freud goes further to say that the experiences we have from aged 0-5 shape our us forever and without raising awareness we simply replay these actions again and again perpetually. It can take an objective eye to see and allow us to see how these repeated patterns may be holding us back and stopping us achieving the thing we desire most. Exploration, recognition and naming the ‘games’ we play into our awareness. To begin to change the script patterns of these games requires; hindsight, mindsight and foresight (Pertruska Clarkson, 1981). We can begin this work of awareness by looking at a repeated pattern of interaction with a colleague, friend or relation and answering the following questions
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then?
- How does it end?
- How do I feel?
- How do I think X feels?
(John James, 1973)
We can begin to locate the moments where we may have, out of awareness, replayed unconscious expectations of actions and responses, supposing ulterior messages where there were none to fit with our own ingrained patterns. When we acknowledge the role our subconscious plays in our daily interactions we can identify the ways in which it acts against our best interests and how we can behave more authentically and productively in the future.
Gestalt theory of therapy and coaching rests on the principle that the ‘self’ does not exist in isolation, we are who we are only in relation to others. We are made up of all aspects of our being, mind, body, soul, emotions, sensations, movements and how these interact, respond and initiate relationships with others. We are constantly receiving information about ourselves from others, this is what helps build our sense of self-esteem. The greater the discrepancy between our sense of ideal self, ought self, and actual self, the lower our self- esteem, through coaching one can identify the source of the perception we have of ideal and ought self and decide how applicable and useful they are to our actual self. We often carry around the vestiges of old ideas we have inherited from our families and society at large about the role we ‘should’ play and the type of person we ‘should’ be. As we enter into adulthood these ideas can be detrimental to our ability to get on and achieve what we really want to in relationships and our careers. When we begin to have increased self-awareness, we have the power to choose the impact we wish to have and to achieve our desired outcomes consistently.