The Art of Communication

Communication is an artform; it’s also a two-way street. 

But before you even open your mouth, do yourself a favour and pay attention to the person you’re about to address and gain some crucial insight into how he or she processes information. 

We can each process only 5-9 chunks or nuggets of information at a time and so we use ‘meta-programs’, or unconscious filters, to ‘select’ them from the shower of stimuli we constantly receive. These patterns run behind the scenes in our brains. They are so automatic that we usually don’t even realise they’re there. But they are there. So, if your favoured ‘meta-program’ differs from that of the person to whom you’re about to speak, you’ll want to adapt your communication style.

match your meta program to theirs for best results

Research suggests that there are six basic ‘meta- programs’ that most of us use to varying degrees. Here’s how best to approach them:

  • First decide your own patterns and preferences.
  • Next advance to the person with whom you are desirous to communicate and test them out.
  •  If you meet with enthusiastic nods, you’re on the right path but if you get a stern-faced response or anxious questions, try something else. 
  • This approach works equally well at work, at home, and with friends/neighbours/acquaintances.
  • The focus is always on having whatever it is that you wish to convey enjoying a good reception and being understood.

The Six Metaprograms

  1. General/Specific– this pattern controls how much information should be given and how best to be deliver it.
    • People running with a ‘general’ program, are likely to respond well to a conceptual overview but people running with ‘specific’, need lots of details so they can build their own view up step-by-step.
    • Research shows that about 60% of people are ‘general’ whilst only 15% are ‘specific’. This leaves about 25% responding equally to both.
    • To discern which you’re dealing with, ask the person about a  project or hobby with which he’s currently engaged. A response with lots of detail (he said/she said, I feel, they did), provided in specific steps with plenty of adverbs and adjectives tossed in, suggests he/she operates on the ‘specific’ program. Alternatively, someone operating on the ‘general’ program will probably give you a brief, comprehensive overview and/or summary often presented in short sentences delivered in random order.
    • Beware that context matters. Even someone usually operating on the ‘general’ pattern will, from time to time, need details.
    • Equally, you can tell much from someone’s written communication – emails, for example. If their usual style is to keep it short and sweet, then match it and do the same. If not, adjust your own electronic missives accordingly.
  2. Proactive/ Reactive– this pattern deals with how best to channel energy during the communication.
    • Some people are more inclined to initiate things than others – and so when you’re dealing with a ‘proactive person’, you need to always be pushing forward. These folks do not like delays and want to get started at once.
    • By comparison, a ‘reactive’ person wants to consider all the options/implications of situation presented to him/her before doing anything. These folks are great at research/analysis as well as fire-fighting and problem-solving.
    • 60-65% of people have a mix.
    • Spot the ‘reactive’ person by his or her ability to sit for long periods of time. Also, he or she will tend to use long, incomplete, and convoluted sentences. They will use passive verbs and conditional words like should/could/would/might.
    • Give the ‘reactive person’ plenty of time to think – if you push, they will not respond well. Use the alternative strategy for the ‘proactive’ types who are ready to get started right away. 
  3. Toward/Away-From– this pattern is key when trying to motivate someone to do something.
    • People take action primarily for one of two reasons – they want to move ‘toward’ something (like a target or goal) or they want to move ‘away from’ something (escape).
    • The ‘away-from’ folks are problem solvers – they look for potential problems and thus can avert crises.
    • The ‘toward people’ tend to be self-starters – give then a goal and they’re on it.
    • Each of these polarities tends to judge the other poorly – ‘away-from’ people think that ‘toward’ people are naïve or sloppy because they don’t see potential problems and the ‘toward’ people think their opposite is negative or cynical.
    • A few questions will help you to tell the difference – when asked what is important to them and why, they’ll reveal their type in their answers – do they want to succeed or not to fail.
    • About 40% of people are ‘toward’ and 40% are ‘away-from’. This leaves a grey area of about 20% in between.
    • To motivate the ‘toward’ people, use words like – get – attain – achieve – accomplish – advantage – obtain.
    • For the ‘away-from’ people, use words like – fix – avoid – prevent – wrong – solution – remove
  4. Sameness/ Differencethis pattern is key when it comes to selling change especially in a fast-paced environment.
    • Those with pure ‘sameness’ (5%) feel comfortable in a highly stable and unchanging environment – consistency their mantra.
    • The ‘difference’ folks (about 20%) thrive on change and love to switch jobs frequently as well as reinventing and reorganising their environment/organisation.
    • About 65% of people are ‘sameness’ with allowance for some minor changes/improvement that are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Some of these folks (10%) can tolerate even more difference as long a major change doesn’t happen too frequently – every 3-4 years is good for them.
    • To tell where someone sits on this spectrum, ask them what is the relationship between something important (for example, their job) between last year and this year and then listen carefully:
      • the ‘sameness’ person will tend to focus on things that haven’t changed – although he may toss in a few difference and make comparisons like more – less – improved – better – fewer.
      • The ‘difference’ person will point out all that is new and different and may even be surprised you asked the question.
      • Other people will mix and match the differences and those things unchanged – listen to their emphasis and their assessment of both sides of the equation.
    • When explaining to people about ‘change’ – adapt your weighting of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ according to their preferences.
    • Choose words ranging from – as usual – similar – better – identical – improved – revolutionized – upgraded – more – fewer
  5. Options/ Proceduresthis is about how one tackles his/her work – do they rely on the tried and tested approach or look for new, improved alternatives.
    • ‘Options’ folks (40%) like choice and variety – and are great for deciding how something should be done but not necessarily doing it themselves. New projects are started with zest but following through to finish is less predictable.
    • ‘Procedures’ folks  (40%)  believe there is a ‘right’ way to do something – start with point A and move through these procedures to get to point B. Too many choices are not helpful. 
    • About 20% of people are a mix.
    • The ‘options’ folks says things like  I can or I could whilst the procedures folk say I must or I should.
    • To influence the ‘options’ folks use words like – possibilities – choice  – play it by ear – options  – break the rules – variety.
    • To influence the ‘procedures’ folk, use words like – right – tried and tested – first, second, and then (this or that).
  6. Internal/ Eternalthis is about giving/receiving feedback  – there is an optimum approach and amount.
    • ‘Internal’ folks tend to believe they’ve done a good job regardless of what others think. Their own judgement of their work (measured against their own standards) is what matters most.
    • Give these folks much space as possible to make their own decisions and when that is not possible, negotiate the standards to be used for measuring in advance. Generally, these folks don’t want feedback and when they get it, they tend to ignore it.
    • For ‘internal’ folks, a set of advance instructions is informational only.  Use words like – you may wish to consider – only you can decide – here’s a suggestion – up to you – what do you think?  
    • By contrast, ‘external’ folks love lots of feedback – they need to know on a fairly consistent basis ‘how they are doing’. Use words like – I’ve noticed – word in the street is – statistics show – opinion is

The Daemon of Carl Jung

In Plato’s Republic(The Myth of Ur), souls cue up to choose their next life and are assigned a daemon – an overseer for that life. In classic astrology, daemon could be determined using one’s natal chart and as the result, it was incumbent upon the individual to establish contact with (or invoke) his or her daemon. In many respects, this was exactly what Jung was doing whilst writing and illustrating the Red Book, which he considered to the ‘prima materia’ for his life’s work.

Daemon can be understood as fate – but not fate in the sense that it comes from outside us. Instead, daemon is our personal unconscious pushing through the creative impulse to encourage us to accomplish that which we are meant to do. Naturally, you may choose to reject or ignore Daemon (or your fate) but there is a price to be paid. Equally, following Daemon (either eagerly or begrudgingly) does not guarantee you an easy ride.

Carl Jung had Aquarius rising. This means that Saturn, the ruler of Aquarius was his daemon, or at least it was in his eyes although not all astrologers (classical or modern) might agree.

When it comes to daemon, it isn’t so much that Saturn the planet was running the show but instead the symbolism surrounding Saturn. According to the 3rd century Neo-Platonist, Iamblichus, symbols are the footprints of the gods, wondrous tokens sent down from above. In this sense, a symbol can never be a man-made design. Symbols pre-exist and hence carry energy that exerts power over us not unlike Jung’s archetypes.

Jung

Jung believed it was vital that he understand his daemon – no, more than that – he was determined to establish a personal relationship with his daemon and it is highly likely this was accomplished through magical ritual.

To that end, the Red Book, Jung communicates with several different Saturnian figures (Elijah, The Old Scholar, The Anchorite, The Librarian, and the Professor) that culminate with Philemon (whose name, Jung always wrote in Greek, most probably for magical reasons).

Several key points are of significant interest regarding these Saturnian figures and as ought to be expected in many respects they are all deeply paradoxical.

  • The Saturnian figures in Red Book are all associated with rocks and stones – imperishable – belonging to and of the earth – present in the beginning of time on earth and presumably present at the end. It is not surprising that this stone/rock motif comes up often in Jung’s writings. He had been fascinated with them since youth.
  • Jung’s Saturnian images are all old men – SENEX – they are also thinkers –seekers of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge). Philosophers. They are magicians, too. This is in keeping with the writings of Marsilio Ficino, a 15thcentury Italian scholar who appears to have heavily influenced Jung’s work.
  • All Jung’s Saturnian images are recluses and sad. These are in keeping with traditional associations with Saturn.
  • Several of Jung’s Saturnian images are associated with religion and more specifically, religious experience. Not all of them are complimentary or supportive of religion. Indeed, Philemon is always shown as lame and this might well be suggesting a connection with the devil. Philemon, after all, did always have a serpent hanging around.
  • Philemon was also connected with Mercury, the hermetic figure and the philosopher stone. Hermes Trismegistus, who controlled both the sun and the moon was semi-divine and he is, in essential ways, very much like Philemon (who was also a magician – possessing his own grimoire). This highlights the importance of the ancient art of alchemy. Saturn is lead, the metal of transformation and redemption.

In The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus, Dr Liz Greene suggests that because Philemon drew together Saturnian ideas and images from a number of ancient disciplines and cosmologies, he allowed Jung to build a workable bridge between the pagan and Christian aspects of his own world view.

Those  of us who are interested in similarly understanding the complexity of our own daemon, or chosen ‘fate’, might be well-advised to perform similar invocations and explorations. Dr Greene reminds us that during that difficult period in Jung’s life, his work with Philemon and predecessors gave Jung a connecting thread of meaning that helped him to understand his situation. Likewise, we may also turn to our daemons for help when things get tough.

Never forget, however, that working with daemons is not for the faint of heart. Jung’s daughter reported that things ‘went bump in the dark’ in the house when Jung was working with Philemon – things that we might well call supernatural.

The Benefits of Magical Thinking

21 million Americans suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobia or fear of Friday the 13th. Yet, according to a 2008 Dutch study, Friday the 13th is statistically safer than other Fridays because people either choose to stay at home or those that do venture out, take more care than usual.     

13Yesterday, I was privileged to attend a lecture at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum entitled The Natural Origins of Supernatural Thinking given by Professor Bruce Hood (Bristol University). Hood provided curious anecdotes such as that cited above in a very matter of fact way. As an experimental psychologist specialising in developmental cognitive neuroscience, his major research interests include discovering the cognitive processes behind adult magical thinking.

According to Hood, we humans are pretty much hard-wired to develop beliefs as a way to make sense of our world and these beliefs carry with them manifest consequences. We’re also hard-wired to impose structure and order in our lives by developing certain rituals around those beliefs (touch on wood) and one of the most intriguing involves what Hood calls sympathetic magic – or the belief in naturally occurring correspondences (or sympathies) between things such as food, colours, animals, gem stones, fabrics, plants, and days of the week. Imagine two violins. Sympathetic vibration occurs when two strings are tune to the same pitch. When one is plucked, the other sings out ‘in sympathy’.

The implications of Hood’s work for coaching are two-fold:

1.    When someone believes that she cannot do XYZ, then at least until she changes her belief, she probably can’t do. Likewise, if she believes that she can do ABC, then, it’s a pretty good bet that she will. One of the primary goals of coaching is to eliminate (or strengthen) such beliefs as needed and this is why a good coach focuses less on asking ‘why’ than ‘what’. For example, if I ask my client ‘why’ she feels so terrible, then in answering, she is only reinforcing her negative beliefs about herself. But in answering the question ‘what’ situations make her feel terrible and what do they share in common, she has a genuine opportunity to examine the origin and triggers of her beliefs.

2.    Let’s face it, change is hard work. If it weren’t then New Year resolutions would stand a better chance of success. But if my client creates a ritual or talisman that can rely upon in times of stress to remind her of the changes she’s chosen to make, she’s in a stronger position. Even better, if her chosen rituals and talismans are in line with long-accepted sympathies, she might accomplish even more. For example, if she has an important meeting or interview set for Thursday, she might tap into the ‘luck’ traditionally associated with Jupiter, the planetary ruler of Thursday. Choosing to wear a royal blue dress or suit or maybe a piece of lapis lazuli, turquoise, or amethyst jewellery reminds her of this ‘luck and who knows but that this might give her little extra boost.

Certainly Professor Hood would not be surprised if it did.

In his book Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief, Professor Hood reminds us that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister’s Questions and that John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of the tennis court between points. He also reminds us that President Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary and continued the ‘tradition’ the day of every following primary.

Let’s face it, most are us are more into magical thinking than we might like to admit and according to both Hood and those Dutch researchers, this is probably not such a bad thing.

When’s your Mid Life Crisis?

Astrologically, the timing of your mid-life crisis is about as predictable as it gets. After all, they’re generational transits and you’ll share them with many others.

But how each of you choose to handle this time differs widely. Some view it as a profound opportunity while others see it as a terrible loss and some, well they don’t know what to make of it at all.

There are three different (although possibly overlapping) transits involved during this period and each of them lasts approximately 2-3 years.

For most of us, the (1) Pluto square Pluto comes first followed by the (2) Neptune square Neptune. That saves the most potentially exciting one, (3) Uranus opposition Uranus, to come last.

Opposite woman on her back on a wall
This is where coaching comes in.

Here’s how it boils down for calendar years 2018-2020:

BORN in YEARS TRANSIT DESCRIPTION

Prior to 1974

Finished

Congratulations – other transits will come along to challenge the progress you’ve made to date but you’ve got some valuable experience under your belt.

1974 -1977

Uranus Opposition Uranus

If you’re up for change this could be a very good time. Expect the unexpected. You might go on a short holiday to some exotic, foreign land and end up staying forever. Opportunities abound. They come out of the blue and unless you’ve got other things going on in your chart, the advice is that if it sounds good, grab it!

If you’re not so keen on change this may prove to be a challenging period. You still should expect the unexpected but it might feel more like a crisis than a blessing.  You also still may end up in a place other than you’d expected but the road getting there may be rather bumpy.

Any way that you choose to look at it, this transit forces you to evaluate (or re-evaluate) the choices you’ve made to date.

 

1975 – 1980

Neptune Square Neptune

This is the ‘oh my God, I’m so unhappy’ transit – everything is one big soppy mess. Confusion reigns. Deceit is rife (yours as well as others). What you see is definitely not what you’ll get.

This is the dark night of the soul. Fantasies and day dreams abound but don’t be surprised when they fail to materialise.

If during this period, it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably is. Face up to it –  that ‘perfect’ job, lover, house, or whatever – does not and will never exist.

Look deeper, inward, to find personal meaning.

1979 – 1981

Pluto Square Pluto

This is the ‘past its sell-by date‘ transit. Whatever is no longer serving you will  disappear from your life  – be it a marriage or a job or even a beloved pet.  It’s hard to understand why this is happening to you – especially now – yet why is the most important question that you could ask.

Your choice is whether or not to gracefully let go but I can say from personal experience that if you choose to hang on for dear life (which so many of us do) then you might make yourself very ill.

This transit brings to the fore that which is grumbling inside you,  especially when you’ve not consciously acknowledged it. You’re frustrated and unhappy with the status quo and something must – and will –  go.

This is deep, dark, primal stuff seeping out through the cracks and so don’t be surprised when you get a glimpse of the more unpleasant sides of yourself and/or others.

This transit will not last forever. Hold on. Eventually, you’ll see there’s light at the end of this tunnel.

 

After 1981

You’ve got something for which to look forward.

You may want to consider advance strategies to handle these transits. You might save yourself a good deal of grief if you do. Being caught off guard leaves you on the proverbial back foot, not a pleasant place to be under such circumstances.

 

Why is making constructive change in your life so hard?

Backstory – six months ago, as the result of some coaching, you’d identified some unprofitable behaviours you’d concluded needed to be changed.

To be honest, you’d not really thought much about this kind of thing before but some people’ (including your best friend, your spouse, and your boss) had been increasingly complaining that when things didn’’t go your way, you got angry and  aggressive. Now, as the result of coaching, you understand that this behaviour is down to ‘attachment strategies’ formed during infancy.

OK, it’s time to move on!  After all, who wants baggage from childhood holding them back?

In real time – yet by the end of six months, you are not best pleased to discover that not only are you still not calm in moments of stress but actually you’ve gotten worse. The road rage incident this morning in which you were involved during your commute really scared you.

Epiphany– if you don’t change soon you might kill someone – or worse, get killed yourself.

Environment – You resolve to work harder on on this stuff this time  – you bring some of the techniques you learned in coaching out of the proverbial mothballs –  but just when you’d started your meditation – out of the blue – your boss storms into your office (or cubicle) and accuses you of doing something you did not do  – that’s it – you’ve had it – you quit.

Regret – on your drive home  – after have hung around in a coffee bar working out a story to tell your spouse about what happened – you hear something on the radio about a book named Triggers (available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle) by a guy called Goldsmith – could this really be you?
Unknown

The 15 ‘Belief’ Triggers that stop change in its tracks:

  1. Confusion– just because you realised that you needed to change (along with the reasons why and the benefits to be expected) never meant that you would do it.
  2. Overconfidence– just because you’re convinced that you have the necessary willpower to do what’s needed (you did quit smoking, after all) doesn’t mean that you won’t give in to temptation when it sneaks up on you from behind like your boss did today. Who could have expected that?
  3. Indulgent inconsistency– and on your birthday too – well, he (your boss) deserved it and will regret having been so horrible to you – you’d not have reacted the way that you did if it hadn’t been your special day  – and your boss ought to have known that.
  4. Immunity – well, it may not have gone well with the boss but it could have been worse – a couple of years ago something similar happened when some guy named Jim  (an ex pro-boxer) broke your boss’s nose during an argument – quitting is much better than dismissal with cause – at least you had more sense than to get yourself into the same mess as Jim.
  5. Exceptionalism– that coach did mention that you needed to practice those calming techniques every day but hey, that’s for other people, not you, right?
  6. Depletion– you were tired – if you’d been sleeping better, that wouldn’t have happened – but with the new baby and all…God, life is difficult.
  7. Procrastination– OK, to be honest, you’d been putting off practicing those calming techniques – and maybe things would have turned out better if you had – but there’s always tomorrow – yea, that’s it – you’ll start practicing those techniques tomorrow.
  8. Unrealistic expectations – no one in their right might could have predicted that your boss would behave so badly today and right after you’d had that road rage close call on the morning commute too – when it rains, it pours, right?
  9. Epiphany – so unfortunate that you’d just had your epiphany this morning – before you’d had a chance to get back on track.
  10. False sense of permanence – if only the changes you’d put into place six months ago had lasted – they should have done – but they didn’t – it seems acutely unfair that you would have to continue to work at them.
  11. Future challenges – just when you’d got that new promotion as the result of having implemented those changes six months ago, it all went wrong – how could you possibly have known that the new job would be more demanding than the old one especially with the new baby at home…
  12. Resentment – your boss really should have been more appreciative of the changes you’d already implemented six months ago – at the time he’d seemed pleased enough but then he just kept demanding more and more – it’s not fair.
  13. Isolation– you were just sitting quietly in your own office (cubicle) minding your own business and privately nursing the wounds inflicted by your earlier road rage epiphany – and then your boss jumped you.
  14. It’s just the way that I am – to be honest, you’ve always been a little hot-headed – and what’s wrong with that? At least it has kept others from imposing themselves on you – in fact if you’d not done that coaching and tried to be something that you’re not (i.e. calm and collected) this wouldn’t have happened.
  15. Objectivity – by the way, who were all those people (best friend, your spouse, and your boss) who said that you needed to change anyway – aren’t you the best judge of your behaviour? Of course, you are and besides, you aren’t angry as often as are least 75% of the people in your office – no, if you were to be honest, you’re calmer and more collected than 90% of the people you (used to) work with. It’s the office environment caused by hot-headed bosses like yours (or at least the boss that you used to have until this morning).

 

 

Jung’s Astrological Moon

Whilst discussing Jung’s Red Book (Liber Novus), Liz Greene reminds us that when interpreting the Moon in an astrological chart, we should keep in mind Jung’s vision of the Moon as a fluid, living principle, always in flux.

HecateTo assume the astrological Moon corresponds solely to Jung’s Anima is a mistake. Equally, it is a mistake to assume that she is solely the nurturing mother. Indeed, Jung saw the astrological Moon as both deeply complex and ambivalent – the archetypal core of which equates to the triple-bodied lunar goddess of antiquity, Hecate.

Consider four of the Red Book’s female personages:

  1. UnknownSalome – the daughter of Elijah, the wise old prophet who presides of the ‘temple of the sun’. Salome, with long black hair and dressed in red, is never pictured without her father. She is associated both with (1) the darkened skies of the ‘blood Moon’ (reportedly visible at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion) and (2) the blood-thirsty seductive temptress, the daughter of Herodias, who demanded the severed head of John the Baptist from her besotted lover. In this regard, Salome is associated with the tarot card, The Hanged Man, who although still possesses his head, is unable to use it (i.e. it is no longer above, but below) symbolising loss of the rational intellect when confronted with realm of the unconscious. Salome is associated with the dark moon. She is bloodthirsty and dangerous.
  2. Unknown-1Old Scholar’s Daughter – imprisoned by her father in an old stone castle in midst of a forest, this pale and ghostly girl is shown with the crescent moon. Like the Greek goddess, Persephone, she is prevented by her parent from developing into a fully-grown woman. Although Jung considers her to thus be unworldly, she informs him that she knows more about ‘real life’ than does he. At the end of their brief chat, Jung has fallen in love with her and she disappears into a shaft of moon light, leaving behind a bunch of red roses. The roses, Liz suggests, links her to Venus, the erotic goddess of the ancient Greeks, who interestingly does not otherwise figure in the Red Book. But unlike with the dangerous eroticism of Salome, Jung had little to fear from this pretty young girl; indeed, she offered him much to learn. Associated with the tarot card, The Moon, the Old Scholar’s Daughter offers a doorway to the unconscious, a scary place in which wisdom resides. It is tempting to equate her solely with the crescent moon, but she shares this ‘honour’ with the Anima.
  3. The Cook – along with the Old Scholar’s Daughter, the Cook is associated with the tarot card, The Moon, but the Cook takes this proverbial walk on the dark side to a completely new and different level. Large and fat and always pushing food, The Cook seems simple enough, the traditional house-frau. But in reality, she is unashamedly two-faced. After eating the food (nourishment) she provides, Jung falls asleep and wakes up in the underworld (‘the realm of mothers’). In this regard, The Cook is more dangerous than even Salome because what you see with her is never what you get. The Cook is associated with the full moon, also a gateway to the unconscious, but under no circumstances is she to be trusted.
  4. The Anima – although Jung never meets with the Anima, he does depict her dressed in blue and kneeling in prayer. She is at once the celestial mother, the chalice or Holy Grail (drink of her and attain immortality), the spiritual bride and mother, as well as the daughter of the stars. In his tarot deck, Waite shows her as The High Priestess, the guardian of hidden wisdom and spiritual mediator between the worlds, above and below. Notice that the High Priestess sits with the crescent moon at her feet.Unknown-2

In summary, astrologers ought not to consider the astrological Moon as either this or that, but instead as a fluidity that morphs over time. The imagery of the classical triple-bodied lunar goddess, Hecate, is in keeping  with Jung’s complicated (and often contradictory) lunar journeys. In the Red Book, the astrological Moon represents the entire spectrum of the lunar myth and cycle, from the dark of the new moon and back again. Unlike classical astrology that divides the planets into either malefic or benefic, Jung’s astrological Moon at once both and neither. She can be dangerous – even treacherous. Equally, however, she offers the opportunity to plumb the depths for the wisdom that resides in the unconscious- the wisdom each of us must someday tap if we are to further ourselves on that all important path to individuation.

____________________

Greene, L. (2018). The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus; Daimons, Gods, and the Planetary Journey. Abingdon: Routledge.

Greene, L. (2018). Jung’s Studies in Astrology: Prophecy, Magic and the Qualities of Time. Abingdon: Routledge.

Transference & Countertransference for Coaches

The psychological realty is that both coaches and their clients come into a session with personal agendas that will feed into the session for better or worse.

One aspect of this is what is known by therapists and psychologists as transference/countertransference, something they are trained to spot as well as to deal with it. Usually, however, coaches do not benefit from such training and hence may mistake transference/countertransference for any number of things.

De Haan reminds us that unspotted transference/countertransference can lead to serious client/coach misunderstandings, mistakes, the gradual deterioration of the coaching relationship, as well as unconscious collusion and/or abuse of power. The thing to keep in mind is that transference/countertransference is perfectly normal as well as, for the most part, completely unconscious. The best that a coach who is not trained to deal with this can do is to spot it when it’s happening and seek appropriate help and/or supervision.

 Jung was convinced that it was not only personal material that could be the subject but also archetypal (Main, 2004, p. 24) This opens the way for astrology, which reflects the archetypal patterns at work both for a single individual or between two persons. As Liz Greene (1997, p. 172) reminds is, projection often has to do with unresolved parental issues (mother and father) on both sides and chances are pretty good that these will show up in both the client’s and coach’s separate and joint horoscopes.

According to Greene (1997, p 177) when a client looks to his coach as mother figure, he wants the coach to make him feel wanted and protected for who and what he really  is – i.e. the client needs the coach to validate for him that it is OK for him to be alive. Astrologically, this generally invokes the Moon and/or Venus Although complexes of the kind that are ripe for projection/transference/countertransference are often shown by hard aspects (squares, oppositions, and sometimes, conjunctions), in reality any aspect (or even a single planet) can form such a complex.Unknown

Father complexes usually involve the Sun and/or Saturn but of course could involve any number of potentialities including difficultly aspected (or otherwise ‘afflicted’) planets in the 10th/4th houses. Also, remember that any/all planets in the 7th house are ripe for projection – being farthest away from the 1st house (essential sense of self).

Also, don’t forget that synastry (planetary aspects between coaches and their clients) will also play an important part in all this, especially in regards to how the coach responds to his client (Greene, 1997, 9. 179). The point is that powerful, unconscious, cross aspects with the client can be played out in any number of covert ways; the client may refuse to look the coach in the eye, ‘accidently’ spill coffee over the carpet, or ‘forget’ to pay at the end of the session. Liz reminds us (1997, p. 181) that whenever coaches find themselves reacting ‘blindly’ to a client, it’s probably an instance of countertransference. Something the client said or did triggered some unresolved complex in the coach/astrologer’s own chart

The following is based on some typical patterns of transference highlighted by Early (2013) as well as a brief suggestion of some the of usual astrological suspects that might underpin them.

For those coaches without astrological experience, consider gaining some. Carl Jung said that all therapists should be astrologers because if they aren’t they are missing important clues although many coaches aren’t therapists, in many respect their relationship with their client’s parallels that of therapists in many, many ways.

Please do suggest any that you think I’ve missed or forgotten!

Pattern Transference

Countertransference

Some Potential Astrological Significators

Dependency

Client sees coach as either a mother/father figure and becomes overly dependent upon coach if he is seen by the client as meeting his needs, he may become too dependent upon coach but if you’re seen as failing to meet his needs, he will feel angry or hurt.

Either coach becomes overly involved with caring for his client (perhaps because of coach’s own dependency needs) or coach become angry and disturbed with the client because of his excessive needs.

Moon/Saturn

Moon/Pluto

Moon/Uranus

Sun/Saturn

Sun/Neptune

Over emphasis of water element (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) in the chart especially when there is little air to counterbalance all this raw emotion.

Libra also has a tendency toward co-dependency.

 

 

 

Care-taking

Client tries to take care of the coach, picking up on clues about coach’s personal issues, struggles, and insecurities.

Either coach allows the client to take care of him more than is appropriate or he takes so much care of the client in return that the client loses interest in (or is unable to) take care of himself.

Emphasis of either: Leo,Cancer, or Pisces

Neptune aspects to Sun, Moon, or angles.

Rebel

Client refuses to cooperate in sessions and/or picks fights and criticizes coach’s approach.

 

Either coach feels ineffective/incompetent and/or hurt by client’s behaviour. Coach may also become frustrated with the client and engages in arguments and/or power struggles with him.

 

Mars/Uranus

Mars/Neptune

Mars/Pluto

Emphasis of Aquarius or Aries in the chart

Mercury/Mars

Moon/Mars

Saturn/Uranus

Emphasis of fire element in the chart especially if accompanied primarily by air (air fans the flames of fire).

Passive-Aggressive

Client experiences coach as pressuring them to do something. The client expresses desire to change but fails to do so over and over and over again. This is his way of expressing anger as well as to defeat the coach’s efforts to control him.

Either the coach feels frustrated with the client for failing to progress or else feels ineffective/incompetent. Anger or frustration might be overly or covertly expressed, for example by being late for sessions, double-booking, or otherwise failing to remain attentive to the client.

Mars/Neptune

Mars in Libra

Mars/Saturn

Venus in Aries

Mars in Scorpio

Mars or Mercury in Pisces

Combination of Aries/Libra planets

Saturn in Aries

Moon in Libra

Mars in Cancer

Victim

Client complains about his miserably impossible situation (poor me, the world is against me, why do I always have such bad luck) attempting to offload the responsibility for finding solutions on the coach rather than taking personal responsibility. Equally, client may blame the coach for his problems and/or inability to undertake effective change.

Either the coach fails to see what’s going on and constantly tries to reassure client all will be fin or he becomes angry/frustrated with the client for not taking responsibility for undertaking necessary change. The coach may also  fail to take responsibility for his own mistakes when challenged by the client, instead choosing to blame the client for being difficult.

Emphasis of planets in Pisces

Pisces rising

Sun/Neptune

Moon/Neptune

Mars/Neptune

Neptune tight with any of four chart angles.

Mars/Pluto

Saturn/Pluto

Mars in Cancer or Libra

Venus/Neptune

Venus/Pluto

Full 7th house

Full 6th house

Full 12th house

Distancing

Client avoids emotional/personal relationship with coach or denies that this is happening.

Either the coach allows client to remain distant even if it impedes progress or he pushes too hard to force a connection resulting in the client back off even further. Equally, the coach may feel that client relationships ought not to have any personal connection and remains aloof from the client.

 

Emphasis of planets in Aquarius or Virgo – standoffish.

Sun/Saturn

Moon/Saturn

Moon/Uranus

Sun/Uranus

Lack of water in the chart makes connecting with emotions difficult.

Cancer rising can be shy.

Emphasis of planets in Gemini can be flighty.

Emphasis of air in the chart (stays in their heads).

 

Self-effacing

Client feels coach is critical and judgemental or otherwise doesn’t like them.

Either the coach becomes too involved in making the client feel liked or he is completely turned off by the client’s insecurities. Equally, the coach may constantly seek reassurance the client likes him or just enjoys the client’s concerns because it boosts his ego.

Moon/Saturn

Mercury/Saturn

Saturn in Fire (Aries, Leo, Cancer, or Sagittarius)

Emphasis of planets in Virgo, Libra, or Pisces.

Moon/Mars

Sun/Saturn

Sun/Neptune

 

Controlling

Client insists upon being in control of the therapy.

Either the coach gets into a power struggle with the client or otherwise stamps out the client’s attempts to deviate from his instructions/suggestions.

 

Sun/Pluto

Sun/Saturn

Emphasis of planets in Scorpio, Capricorn, or Taurus especially Moon, Mars, and Mercury.

Saturn in Capricorn or Aquarius.

Pluto in tight aspect to any of the angles.

Scorpio rising.

Saturn/Pluto

Saturn/Neptune

Saturn/Uranus

Remember that for transference to occur, it only takes the client (and his own natal chart) but if the entire pattern of  transference/countertransference plays out, it takes two to tango so look at the synastry between the client/coach (astrologer) as well as the composite chart (mapping the nature of their relationship as a separate entity).

Finally, don’t automatically assume that transference/countertransference is negative or unproductive, however. Main (2004, p. 81) reminds us that Jung believed that transference/countertransference could be synchronistic, in the sense that it is a ‘meaningful coincidence’ that bears further investigation.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burke, J and Greene, L ((1997). The Astrologer, the Counsellor and the Priest. Chippenham: Antony Rowe Ltd.

De Haan, E. (2011). ‘Back to basics How the discovery of transference is relevant for coaches and consultants today’, International Coaching Psychology Review,6(2). Pp. 180-193.

Earley, J. (2013). The Pattern System: A Periodic Table for Psychology. Larkspur, Pattern System Books.

Main, R (2004). The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture. Hove: Brunner-Routledge.

Raising Client Awareness through coaching – why and how?

Under the Association for Coaching (AC) Guidelines (Rev. June 2012), raising awareness in clients is one of twelve key competencies for coaching. So, what might constitute awareness, why is it important, and how might it be achieved?

According to the OED (n), awareness brings one into a state of consciousness (OED, n, b) which in turn requires obtaining facts and information regarding something about or internal to oneself.

awareness1Eurich (2018), organisational psychology and executive coach, suggests that self-awareness can be defined in many ways but basically, it boils down to either 1) internal awareness – or your own values, passions, strengths and weaknesses or (2) external awareness – or how others view you. Surprisingly, these two levels of awareness share nothing in common and unless you actively work to balance the two, it is likely that you will be deficient in one even if proficient in the other.

Consider Jeremiah, who, after coaching, was in touch with his own values, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses (Eurich,2018). As the result, he left a good career in accounting to pursue his passion for marketing only to discover that, unfortunately, his new employer did not view him as he viewed himself. For Jeremiah, things did not improve until he brought these two viewpoints in line.

For Eurich (2018), this demonstrates that internal awareness is only one possible truth and based on her research, coaches should focus (1) less on asking ‘why’ (the most popular coaching question) and (2) more on asking ‘what’. The reason being that while answering ‘why’, the client will likely reinforce his fears and insecurities (i.e. why wasn’t I able to turn things around?). But in answering ‘what’ (i.e. what do I need to do to move forward), he keeps his focus on finding future-oriented solutions (Eurich, 2018). Interestingly, this meets another AC coaching competency, that of maintaining forward momentum as well as an outcome-focused approach with clients.

Gourguechon (2017) suggests that self-awareness it is not a ‘clutch of soft skills like authenticity and compassion’, which can be achieved by meditation, journaling, or contemplation. Instead, self-awareness, or at least valuable self-awareness, is a ‘data-gathering and processing skill’ that can be taught and learned.

Hougaard, Carter, and Afton (2018) suggest that attaining self-awareness is worth the effort. It produces better results for executives than gaining an MBA.  A study comparing the organizational performance of 440 top-flight CEO’s showed that performance-wise, MBA’s fared significantly worse than those without the degree. The proffered explanation was that hard skills such as taught in MBA programs will only get an executive so far.

The obvious question is what takes them that extra mile?

Consider the case of Vince who was convinced that he had done a great job as CEO because numbers-wise, he had turned the company around (Hougaard, Carter, and Afton, 2018). Vince was shocked however, when, during the 360-degree review process, he learned that the majority of employees, including his leadership team, believed him to be the source of significant corporate dissatisfaction. Vince learned that hard way that whatever his past accomplishments, he could not further his success until he developed enough awareness to understand why people no longer wished to work with him.  Apparently, Vince is not the only one ripe for such realisations. One study showed that of those who believe they are self-aware, only 10-15% actually fit the criteria (Eurich, 2018).  Interestingly, the more senior and experienced the leader, the more likely he or she is to overestimate his or her skills and abilities. There are many potential reasons for this, but the implications for coaches would seem to be better initial contracting to ensure the client knows the score. Research indicates the easier the client believes awareness is to achieve, the less likely he is to achieve it (Eurich, 2018).

Gourguechon (2017) further suggests that self-awareness only becomes useful when it transforms to self-knowledge, which in turn requires an honest evaluation of gathered facts and information. For example, identify certain recurring patterns which predictably provoke certain troublesome behaviours like losing your temper.  Back-up – consider what happened and what you were feeling just before you blew your top – What might you do to reframe/reprogram your response to such situations/feelings in the future more in line with your conscious wishes?

Interestingly, research suggests that not all insights are of equal value (Longhurst (2006). To achieve transformational change, clients need more than understanding or even realisation. Instead they must experience an elusive ‘Aha’, or life-changing ‘road to Damascus’ moment. Because such experience is felt simultaneously on so many levels (somatic, emotional, as well as cognitive), it is almost akin to a religious experience. This research suggests that awareness gained by problem-solving is one thing, but that awareness gained by a more holistic illumination, is of a different order.

In summary, awareness for coaching clients requires obtaining and honestly analysing facts and information allowing him or her not only to become conscious of his own values, passions, strengths and weaknesses but also of how others view him. Awareness is important not the least because it has been shown to foster and support real and measurable success, especially for executives. Finally, although awareness may be achieved through a variety of approaches, it requires more than just polishing up traditional soft-skills.  Instead achieving useful awareness requires (1) developing data gathering and processing skills that may unearth some potentially difficult to digest feedback as well as (2) even some more holistically inspired moments of life-changing realisation.

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References

Eurich, T. (2018). “What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)’, Harvard Business Review Digital Article, 1/04/2018, pp. 1-11.

Gourguechon, P. (2017) ‘The Unexamined Mind Doesn’t Think well: Why Self-Awareness Is A Fundamental Leadership Capacity’. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/prudygourguechon/2017/09/19/the-unexamined-mind-doesnt-think-well-why-self-awareness-is-a-fundamental-leadership-capacity/#1689b32c455c, (Accessed: 16 March 2018).

Hougaard, R., Carter, J. and Afton, M. (2018) ‘Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can’, Harvard Business Review Digital Article, 1/12/2018, pp. 2-5.

Longhurst, L. (2006). ‘The Aha Moment in Co-Active Coaching and its Effects on Belief and Behavioural Changes’. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 4(2), pp. 61 – 73.

Psychological projections – uncomfortable gifts for a more authentic you

It’s only natural to assume that the world is as we see it and that people are as we imagine them to be. But the reality is a bit more complicated than that and part of the reason is because of the psychological phenomena known as ‘projection’.

According to psychology folks, projection is an automatic process whereby the contents of your own unconscious are perceived to be in others. According to astrology folks, projection is down to a particular planet (or group of planets) in one’s natal chart that is, in effect, disowned and attributed to others. According to counsellors and coaches, perception is projection and vice versa because it is only then we can become conscious of our projections that we can deal with them and implement desired change.

hqdefault.jpgFor example, if I’m angry at someone but because of variety of reasons I can’t express it, I might ‘project’ my anger (or astrological Mars) onto that other person and then be surprised that I’m a victim of his or her  aggression. Once I understand what is happening, I can work with my coach or counsellor to stop blaming others for my own anger and find a better, more profitable way of expressing it.

Being able to hone in quickly on to people’s most likely projections will benefit (among others) psychologists, therapists, counsellors, and coaches.

Typical places in the  natal chart to look for potential planets or energies ripe for projection are as follows:

  • 7th house – because these planets are the furthest away from your essential self (i.e. 1st house) they are often ripe for projection – for example, consider the client with Venus in the 7th. Because Venus = values, it’s not unexpected to hear her say that she leaves decisions to her husband because she doesn’t really know what she wants.
  • 10th house – this is a perfect place for projections onto role models and authorities both good and bad. If, for example, your Pluto is in your 10th house and you do NOT see yourself as being particularly ambitious, it would not be unexpected to hear you talk about having experience relationships with bosses, teachers, or even public officials (authority figures) with whom you always lose.
  • 4th house –this is the place you’re more likely to project onto family – past, present, and future. For example, one client with her Moon conjunct Saturn in Virgo in the 4th has always found her mother to be bitter and critical. It wasn’t until she had a daughter of her own that she began to realize that she could be as bitter and critical as had been her mother and this was not a welcome realization.
  • 9th house – in this house your look for faith and meaning as well as your own ‘highest good’. If Pluto is in your 9th, you might believe that teachers and professors and priests care nothing about anyone but themselves. By contrast, if your Sun is in the 9th, you might find the perfect guru – one who seems to be everything you’d like to be and more.
  • 6th house – this house is associated with servants, employees, animals and other ‘inferiors’ and so planets in the 6th house may well become part of a power dynamic making us behave in cruel ways to those considered inferior to ourselves (in status). We might also project onto ‘inferior’ parts of ourselves. For example, consider the client with a strong Mars in 6th house – a Mars that she seems reluctant to use for her own benefit. It’s little wonder that she finds herself the proverbial whipping boy of for her employers.

Although these are some typical candidates for projection, we can project anything that doesn’t feel comfortable with the rest of our charts and/or which we have been forbidden to do (i.e. like display anger).

The telltale signs of projections include strong and often uncomfortable (or fearful) reactions to someone or something  – an extra emotional charge that is out of keeping with our usual proclivities. Such reactions may have a luminous – amorphous quality – i.e they don’t make sense – rather like ‘falling in love’ (which is apparently, itself, a projection).

As counselors and coaches, we should resist the temptation to jump in and ‘make it all better’ for the client. Likewise, don’t rush to name or explain. Let clients sit with their the results of their projections with it for a while – because it is through them that they’ll find lost parts of themselves.

 

Today and Tomorrow are ‘serious play’ days. YEAH!

With the Sun in Pisces (oneness with life & nature) and the Moon in Gemini (student/child) today is a ‘serious play’ day.

th.jpegIn the Joie de Vivre tarot deck, we find Bliss and her mer-bunny friends, Charity and Innocence, swimming side by side. Oh, what fun! A lovely day spent with best friends playing in the sea.

Naturally Bliss and her friends are enjoying themselves. Why wouldn’t they? But I’m betting that they also have some method to their ‘madness’ and for want of a better term, I’ll call that ‘serious play’.

In a nutshell, this means play done for a specific reason and when we’re working with the Six of Cups, that reason has to do with recapturing memories.

In the world of narrative coaching, play is a construct that allows clients the freedom to be both curious and to experiment – let down their hair – try out how might feel to partake in their wildest dreams.

The idea is that play was how, as kids, we sussed out the world and learned to fit into society. Naturally, when we were born, we had certain traits and proclivities – which, as we advanced into toddler stage, we acted out with abandon. But after that, little by little, we were forced to suppress those  traits and proclivities that were branded anti-social by grown-ups and/or didn’t quite get us what we wanted.

Fast forward to adulthood –  when we discover that a genuine part of our selves has been ‘squashed’ (or otherwise laid aside) in favour of more responsible and socially adept behaviours.

In narrative coaching, we help clients recapture key parts of their lost selves – parts that (for a variety of reasons) would benefit them again in the now.

So on a ‘serious play’ day, you might try the same  – and invite yourself to revisit what probably ought not any longer to be a by-gone era.