Existential Coaching

Another coaching model of interest is Existential Coaching – which, like all coaching paradigms, seeks to facilitate positive change. If (1) the popular sports-based models (T-GROW) focus on increased performance and (2)  narrative coaching focuses on crafting a new client story, then (3) Existential Coaching beats a unique path in between.

According to Ernesto Spinelli, the purpose of Existential Coaching is to help people to live more effectively. This is achieved by gaining clarity and renewed purpose. Obviously this may well lead to increased performance too – a bonus, if you will. Likewise, to be successful, it will necessitate crafting a new story, one in line with (newly discovered) highly personal values and beliefs.

images.pngNow, I’m not going to argue that these three coaching models do not overlap. But I will argue that their focus and approach are very different. Their philosophical underpinnings are different as well. For example, T-GROW works on the assumption that we are all wholly rational creatures who, with effort, can control the disparate parts of ourselves.

By contrast, Existential Coaching works on the assumption that there are so many varied (unconscious) ‘things’ going on inside us that complete conscious control is never possible. As there result, T-GROW focuses on problem-solving while Existential Coaching has no choice but to embrace  problems. For T-GROW, anxiety is a hindrance to performance and must be reduced/eliminated. But for existentialists, anxiety is something to be savoured = i.e. a manifestation of the existential truth that life is not perfect and neither are (nor ever will be) you.

Do you recall little Johnnie in my post about Narrative Coaching? The young man who was no longer good because he couldn’t study hard? How might these three coaching models work in his situation?

  1. T-GROW – might help little Johnnie to put in place a plan to study hard again – taking as a given this is requires enhancement for no other reason than because he says so. If successful, T-GROW gets him back up and running on par with a cultural norm.
  2. Narrative Coaching – might help Little Johnnie to reframe his story so that, for example, he might still be good even if unable to study hard. Quite what he does with this, remains up to him. Just as with any good novel, several different endings are possible and now Johnnie needs to pick one.
  3. Existential Coaching – might help little Johnnie to understand that good = studying hard is a culturally imposed standard and this is how others will judge him, full-stop. However, this does not mean that he has to define himself this way. Indeed, he ought not to do that if it does not align with his personal values and beliefs. He should also keep in mind that although he might once have bought 100% into good = studying hard, he no longer has to do. Everything in life changes and this includes his values and beliefs.

Clearly T-GROW will get the fastest results and they will measureable too; especially good if Johnnie’s (new or old) employer is paying the bill.  But although the result is culturally acceptable, it may not be personally appropriate and, in the long run, may not improve Johnnie’s life. Narrative coaching opens up possibilities for Johnnie in the sense that at least he now understands why he believes good = studying hard. But unless his new story is the result of some serious soul-searching, it will likely remain culturally determined without him even realising this is the case. In my view, Existential Coaching provides the best all-around solution but, to be honest, it might take a long time and let face it, the amount of ‘navel-gazing’ required may not be for everyone.

The moral of this seems to be, as I mentioned in my earlier post, that when it comes to coaching models, one size does not fit all.

 

Positive or Negative – or too hard to tell?

 

Each of us is a unique blend of both positive and negative personality traits, both of which help to satisfy our basic wants and needs.

Interestingly, we tend to focus not on our strengths but on our weaknesses because, let’s face it, it’s human nature to concentrate on what goes wrong. Although it is our strengths that support growth and prosperity and our weaknesses that hold us back, sometimes it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. This is especially the case where the result of our efforts yields results that are considered culturally desirable such as, for example, being self-focused enough to succeed in one’s career.2d449eb70c6b936f67f7a2ec90ab133f--negative-character-traits-positive-and-negative

Not surprisingly, however, because so much of our health and happiness comes down to the quality of our relationships (both personal and professional), it only makes sense it is those personality traits that seem damaging to our relationships are the ones upon which we should concentrate our efforts. But how much self-focus is good and how much is bad and which person in the relationship, if it is to survive, needs to change and how?

 

Consider the following:

Cathy is working hard to make this catering event perfect. It is set to lead to some high-profile referrals. As a perfectionist, she’s dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” for the nth time. Meanwhile, her best friend and new employee, Agnes, is in the kitchen polishing serving trays to enhance presentation. Unfortunately, Agnes is having trouble keeping her focus; she can’t stop thinking about her recent break up with her boyfriend and worrying about whether she’ll ever find the right guy.

When a good-looking waiter invites her outside for a quick smoke, Agnes doesn’t think twice. As the result, the appetizers go out to the guests on stained trays and Cathy is furious. Although Cathy realises her friend has been distraught about men as late, she can’t understand why Agnes couldn’t have tried harder just this one time when the stakes were so high for Cathy. Agnes can’t see what is the fuss; Cathy has always been too fussy and after all, Agnes is trying her best to be a good friend.

  • If you were Cathy’s life coach, what might you ask her to consider?
  • If, on the other hand, you were Agnes’ life coach, what might you suggest she consider?

Hidden Dangers of The Hero’s (mythological) Journey

This weekend, I was privileged to participate in an academic conference, The Talking Sky, hosted by the University of Wales and The Sophia Centre. The purpose of the conference was to explore the cultural aspects of diverse myths inspired by the heavens.

Whilst many important points were made, one surfaced time and time again – i.e. although we are fascinated with the sun (ever-popular Celtic fire festivals come to mind), we also fear it and for good reason. Although a source of life, the sun is also deadly dangerous. Myths such as that of Phaethon, son of the Greek solar deity, Helios, who was killed when he foolishly drove his chariot too close to the sun, illustrate this.

** Equally dangerous, perhaps, is our cultural preoccupation with empowerment of the (solar) self? **

320px-Heroesjourney.svgConsider the work of Joseph Campbell and his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which explores the culturally recurring mythical motif of the hero’s journey. Not only was this motif popularised by films like Star Wars, but it also forms much of the basis of Jungian psychology, the centre-piece of which is ‘individuation’, or the transformational process whereby the (lunar) unconscious is melded into the (solar) consciousness to achieve an integrated personality and (alchemical) psychological growth.images

As Liz Greene acknowledges (The Luminaries), the hero’s journey is a solar process wherein the individual actively and  consciously  drives to develop his worldly goals. Having studied with Liz, I’ve never questioned the value of using this motif in my astrological work; it ticks all the boxes necessary for survival in western culture. But apparently, the well-respected psychologist, James Hillman, has questioned this and, it would seem, with good reason.

Hillman argues that not only is (1) Jungian ‘individuation’ a ‘developmental fantasy’ but also that (2) the solar focus of the hero’s journey is dangerously reductionist. In his book, The Soul’s Code, Hillman promotes what he considers to be the healthier, more holistic (pluralistic) ‘soul-making’ to be our psychological aim. Not only is this in keeping with the cosmology of the ancient Greeks, who saw numen, or the divine, in everything, but also in line with Platonic ideals (Myth of Er), which still underlie so much of western culture.

Arguably, as the speaker at the conference pointed out, contemporary natal (psychological) astrology does not look solely at solar functions. We leave that to the popular Sun Sign columns in magazines and newspapers, which, as another speaker at the conference has suggested, have become a myth in their own right.

images-2Whilst I agree that responsible astrologers do honour the entire natal chart (along with its multitude of inherent mythologies), I acknowledge that Hillman makes valid points which ought not to be ignored. As I’m about to embark on a new career as a ‘coach’ (utilizing astrology), I worry about the stated goal of contemporary coaching – i.e. empowerment of the individual. If, as a coach, what I will be empowering is solely the client’s solar self (or ego), then if Hillman is right I will be doing him or her a huge (reductionist) disservice. However, since that is what it would seem that most coaching clients want, how do I dare to offer them otherwise?

Once I’ve commenced my coaching studies at the University of Cambridge in this autumn, I hope to be in a better position to address these concerns. Watch this space, I suppose.

Time for Ms K to consolidate Saturn

Transiting Pluto (19 Capricorn) continues to hammer Ms K’s natal Mars (18 Cancer).

Worse, her natal Saturn (14 Capricorn) is involved. It’s through Saturn that Ms K will find the strength and wisdom to get through life and with her strong Saturn (in ruler-ship and plugged into the angles) that should be fairly easy. But even the strongest Saturn will struggle with a transit from Pluto, astrologically the biggest bully on the block. Transiting Pluto conjunct natal Saturn is a once-and-a lifetime experience (not even everyone will have it) – a frustrating period of creative destruction making way for new beginnings.

Earlier, I posted about the Gateways of the Soul – the Seven Seals or Planets – insights gained at a fabulous astrology retreat in Glastonbury. Bottom line, while there are seven seals or chakras to attain most of us remain stuck in either Saturn, Jupiter, or Mars. From what I understand of her situation, it’s likely that Ms K is currently working to consolidate Saturn.

Those living primarily in the Saturn chakra are easy to spot because they have not yet found a career that works for them; at some level they still struggle with money and earning a decent living. This is not to say that Ms K hasn’t accomplished anything of value to date; she’s been a successful wife and mother. But Ms K is the first to admit that she’s now come to a place where she feels she needs to make choices for HER future – and with her North Node in Virgo, this will have something to do with being ‘in service’ to others which in turn requires honing a skill by which she can gain a strong sense of self and appreciation.images

As yet, Ms K has not honed in on that skill – that career path that will work for her. Indeed, at the moment, she has little ,if any, idea of what this might entail. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to enlist the help of Jupiter – the key to consolidating and moving past Saturn.

Jupiter asks Ms K to develop a personal philosophy –  i.e. gain insight and understanding as to how she creates success in her life – I recommend that she finds a good counsellor or coach – someone who will help her identify what it is that she most desires to achieve in her career and then to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses in this respect.

UnknownAstrologically, we know that Ms K’s Jupiter in Capricorn gives her excellent organisational skills. She will attract fortune (Jupiter) into her life when she takes a disciplined, committed approach. Ms K will be at her best when she is self-reliant. She will be most confident when taking honest authority over others. She might choose to develop counselling and/or management skills in an area than requires structure and respects tradition. She might become  a PA (Personal Assistant) to an business executive or political leader. She might even consider a teaching career; Jupiter loves to share knowledge and experience. With both Jupiter and Saturn in her 2nd house, Ms K might also consider a career in finance – perhaps counselling others on how to restructure their mortgages and/or personal debt.

Luckily, transiting Pluto eases off her natal Mars/Saturn in the autumn of 2018. Then, at least, she’ll be able to get past her current anger and frustration. Also lucky is that in early 2018, transiting Saturn will conjunct her natal Jupiter. This will open up new opportunities – not the least because she will finally be ready to receive them. It is during 2018 that Ms K will have a chance to find a suitable outlet through which to channel her newly found ambition and because both her Saturn and Jupiter are in her 2nd house , this should allow her to both develop a strong sense of personal worth as well as making a good living.

Gateways of the Soul – The Seven Seals or Planets

Incarnation is a lifetime process during which my soul travels downwards through the chakras from the Sun to Saturn and back up again:

  • Down: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
  • Up: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Sun.

I engage (or not) with this process with every thought, decision, and action that I take.

Whilst it is a given that I will arrive at Saturn ( first Saturn return = aged 29.5 years), it is less certain how far I’ll go on my return journey. Indeed, the round-trip may take several lifetimes; there’s little doubt that I’ll get stuck along the way.

The Saturn Chakra represents the material world. Here I’m tested as to whether I can manage life at its most basic level. Those stuck here have not yet managed to make enough of a living by which to get by.

images-1To consolidate Saturn, I look to Jupiter –  a chosen career and/or life path. Jupiter is the place of  philosophy, the guru and/or the guide. Jupiter is also place of the lawyer – i.e. one who masters the laws of Saturn; many lawyers (like me) get stuck in the Jupiter chakra, so pleased are we with such mastery.

To consolidate Jupiter, I determine what brings meaning to my life and then master the skills by which to achieve it. Sadly, book learning is never enough. Instead I must resist thinking too much and instead get in touch with my feelings. Never fear, however, because by the time I’m working on Jupiter I’ll have a few Jupiter returns (i.e. 12-year cycle) under my belt.

For help with Jupiter, I look to Mars – the planet of engagement and commitment. Now I must tie the knot; devote myself to my chosen life path and /or settle down to (a happy) marriage. Sounds easy – but in reality it’s a huge jump from intellectual Jupiter to the intuitive nature of Mars. Worse, even though I’ve committed to both my life path and spouse, I must relate to both with a clear, open mind –a complete acceptance of my chosen situation. I assure you that this is difficult. For help, I look to the next chakra, Earth.53e

The purpose of incarnation is what is known in esoteric circles, as to ‘gain the earth’ – i.e. to master the external world; the buck stops here, so to speak. This is not accomplished with arrogance and egoism  but instead with confidence and contentment. The Earth chakra = the heart of spiritual meaning and balance = the best that I can hope to achieve during incarnation. I assure you that I have not achieved this – I may have glimpsed it through spiritual teachers, but I have not managed grasp it for myself. Luckily I’m in good company. Most of us will remain stuck in either Saturn, Jupiter, or Mars.

To achieve/stabilise the Earth, I would look to Venus, which is the first of the ‘inner’ chakras. There is no way to materially grasp what Venus represents – it is an inner reality –  nothing less than being able to love everything and everybody, regardless. From what I’ve read, (Astrology of the HeartAstro-Shamanism by Michael Erlewine), I can aspire to Venus through Mercury, i.e. cosmic consciousness.

The Sun, centre of all, is more than a planet or chakra. It is the source of all creation – as it says in the Prologue to the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

Post Truth = Propaganda

 

unknownPost truth = the OED word of the year = objective facts less important to forming public opinion than appeals to emotions and personal belief.

According to OED, post-truth has come about as the result of ‘truth’ having become devalued – life as we have known it is finished, or is it?

Let’s take a closer look at this newly devalued currency of ‘truth’ might really be.

It takes little or no time to discover there is and never has been a consensus on what is ‘truth’. There are, however, a morass of questions and critical theories: ‘coherence’ theory, ‘correspondence’ theory, ‘pragmatist’ theory, ‘semantic’ theory, and ‘redundancy’ theory – just to name a few.

You may know little or nothing about any of this stuff and you don’t have to do either. The takeaway point is that ‘truth’ has always been relative – impossible to define much less to determine. It’s probably good news that ‘truth’ no longer matters and this ought not to come as a surprise – at least not after World War I – during which so many governments and agencies (British, American, German, et al) took on the business of ‘opinion management’ on a mass scale – otherwise known as propaganda. So if you are shocked to hear that public opinion in the 21st century is formed (and/or maintained) by appeals to emotions and personal beliefs, don’t be.

The truth is – nothing really has changed.

You only need to look to what every good propagandist (that is or ever has been) knows – ‘opinion management’ works by (1) sharpening existing beliefs and opinions and (2) appealing to simple, strong, emotions (love/hate) – the moreimages ‘black and white’ those emotions, the better.

Post Truth = Propaganda

 

 

Praying

These days, there seems to be a good deal of praying going on.

imagesI have no problem with that – we need people of faith to counterbalance those of too little (or no) faith.

However, I’d just like to point out that there are a good many people who could use some help in the here and now – they are to be found in such places as hospices, nursing homes, prisons, and soup kitchens.

If  ye of good faith have not lately volunteered to help out those less fortunate than yourselves, then I might suggest that you get off your knees – stand up on your feet – and for a couple of hours each week stop praying and start doing.

The Decline of Democracy

Put ‘decline of democracy’ into a Google search.

I got 63,100,000 results in 0.47 seconds.

Scary?

Yes.

Alternatives?

  • Chinese meritocracy,
  • Russian neo-czarism,
  • Arab monarchy,
  • Islamic theocracy.

Um, No?

Generically, a democracy is a two-way process or set or processes, in which citizens with equal political rights and obligations have a reliable means to ensure that their government operates in keeping with their choices. This presumes that their choices have enough common ground to allow this; it should come as no surprise that a government cannot be all things to all people.

For the United States of America, this common ground arguably should be in line with the founding fathers’ clearly stated objectives – i.e. the ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.

Life and liberty would seem to speak for themselves – even at the time these were viewed as basic entitlements to all free men. But what might have been meant by ‘pursuit of happiness’?

UnknownAs you probably know, this was a spin-off from the British philosopher, John Locke’s, famous trinity – ‘life, liberty, and property’. Unfortunately, our founding fathers did not define what they meant by the term ‘pursuit of happiness’ nor did they specify why they’d chosen to make the substitution. But since Locke was to remain a loyal to the British king and our forefathers were not, it only makes sense that this was done to support that purpose.

Like Locke, our forefathers believed that government should respect the rights of its citizens. Unlike Locke, they were not interested in constraining an existing government (i.e. the king). Instead, they were creating a whole new government– not ‘for the people  –  but ‘by’ and ‘of’ the people – meaning that the sovereign powers of government must not just serve the people (as was the case with Locke) but must flow from and with the people; the people must make the choices to form and shape their government as well as to ensure that it continues to operate in accord with their common objectives.images

This does not mean that ‘property’ is not every bit as important as was ‘life’ and ’liberty’. What it does mean is that an American citizen must be empowered beyond that of an ordinary citizen because he has a bigger and more important job to do. In this respect ‘happiness’ must be intrinsically linked with the role of self-governance – i.e. the wealth (and with it health and education) – that which will allow citizens not only to choose wisely, but to exercise proper oversight over the government they’ve chosen.

I would hazard to guess that today, many people have lost sight of this. Perhaps like Locke, they figure that the government is not ‘by’ and ‘of them, but rather is there ‘for’ them? As for the common ground? In light of the escapades involved in the current US presidential election, I fear that at least for America, such commonality may no longer exist.

If Democracy is to survive in America then ‘we’ the people need to get back to basics. Democracy is a two-way process – it conveys both  (1) rights to decide on common ground, the objectives of which the government is expected to meet and (2) obligations to ensure those objectives are met. There is no king to take up the slack. Neither is this the job of the president – for those in doubt on this point, please read the transcripts of our forefather’s debates on the Executive Power.

As for the ‘pursuit of happiness’?

Difficult to achieve when only 1% of the nation controls than 50% of the nation’s wealth necessary to secure health and education?

maxresdefaultI suggest that it’s now time for all US citizens to rethink that common ground and make sensible choices in keeping with it. Don’t leave this up to your neighbour, your congressman, or your president.

 

 

 

 

 

Death of Democracy spells rise of Fascism

Democracy requires three basic things:

  1. A defined geo-political territory,
  2. A set of legitimate laws that everyone must follow (and a strong enough police power to enforce them),
  3. Democratically enforced accountability for the provision of consistent high-quality governmental services to meet the needs of the entire electorate.

Cause_Effect_FascismWhen economic prosperity fails, so does the continued provision of these services and the legitimate needs of the entire electorate are no longer met. This leads to a perceived weakening of democracy as a fruitful form of government and into the vacuum comes something else.

Consider the interwar years: by 1920, the number of world democracies had doubled in the aftermath of the First World War – yet soon enough – in the wake of the Great Depression – like dominoes, they began to fall: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Japan.Unknown

In troubled times, Fascism appears more capable of providing basic reassurance than does Democracy and let’s face it,  people do need reassurance. Problems are inevitable, however, when those people fail to fully appreciate the price that they will pay for that reassurance.

 

 

 

Death of a Nation-State?

What is a nation-state?

Post 18th century, the key factors cited are (1) common language, (2) common economic market, and (3) common culture.9780192840981

But when commonality of language, markets, and culture daily spill across geo-political boundaries, are these factors enough?

Moving back in time, we identify more primal factors – i.e. that special  ‘something’, which distinguishes us from them – usually viewed in terms of tribal ethnicity and /or religious affiliation.

UnknownAs the recent rhetoric of American presidential candidates demonstrates, the importance of this distinction between us and them should not be underestimated – but then again, in a nation-state where the demographics (legal or illegal) are so fast-changing, then surely it is not ethnicity alone holding together groups as diverse as Latinos, European whites, and African-Americans. Even religious affinity doesn’t seem to count much anymore – and in a nation-state where church and state are supposed to remain separate, it probably ought not to count at all.

Moving farther back in time, we identify something potentially more useful – the underlying myth (i.e. a belief with no empirical foundation) justifying the establishment of a unique territory in which persons sharing the same belief can be contained and sustained. For example, in ancient Israel the myth of the ‘chosen people’ justifies a separate homeland for all those identifying themselves with that group. Such national myths (intensified and expanded upon throughout national history) are called upon to formulate and format future national goals.

In the case of the USA, the national myth undoubtedly has something to do the constitutionally guaranteed pursuit of happiness and its Lockean counterpart, the pursuit of property. One of the reasons given for the current anger erupting on USA political scene is that middle class white families no longer feel enfranchised by the ‘American Dream’ – i.e. happiness (economic success) can be achieved by anyone willing to work long and hard enough.

So what happens when the ‘dream’ is gone?images

The answer depends, I suppose, on how one defines a nation-state.