Who am I?
This question came up for me continuously throughout my learning journey with the ICCS. It was not enough for me to have a fancy title or a well-targeted niche and the more I asked myself this question, the clearer it became that I wanted to know, “Who am I, as my authentic self?”
There were times I felt like an imposter. If I didn’t know who I was, then how could I be a coach and build a credible business, let alone call myself a supervisor?
I had a burning desire to feel free, to be authentically and unapologetically me. Interestingly, there were many moments in my day-to-day life where I would feel connected to my authentic self, I would feel passionate and purposeful and alive. I noticed this was occurring whilst I was in one-to-one supervision sessions and I noticed there were times as a coach and a trainer I felt this liberation. When I stepped into a state of surrender and trusting my higher self , I was able to show up and serve the client in front of me powerfully.
So what is the connection to supervision here?
A big part of me felt that I was just trying to be spiritual and that connecting to the state of surrender and my “higher self” did not belong in the supervision space. I noticed I attached some shame around this and felt the “intuitive” space was reserved for those that acted or looked the part. At times I felt like a spiritual imposter.
But I also felt there was something here for me to explore, question and, hopefully, resolve. The inquiry took me on a journey of exploring transpersonal psychology and the work of Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis as well as other thinkers who tried to make sense of the greater calling, or higher self.
The Four Ways of Being
For me, this journey all began with a simple framework that helped me to understand the process of when I felt that I was most connected to my higher self.
I first discovered the four ways of being on a Mindvalley class led by Michael Beckwith – a spiritual thought minister and author.
He lays out these four ways:
- Life happens to me – Victim consciousness
- Life happens by me – Consciously creating
- Life happens through me – Centre of consciousness (surrender and letting go)
- Life happens as me – One consciousness
I felt I was my “Authentic Self” when I was at stage 3 – Life Happens Through Me. When I show up to sessions in a state of surrender and trust, using tools and techniques was secondary to the state of surrender.
However, as I reflected on my self-awareness further, on occasions I would surrender to an outer force. I wasn’t just “letting go” I was putting my trust into something wider than me – almost like I had taken a seat in a vehicle, which I would steer, but trusted the power was external to me. I did not need to question my thoughts, feelings, or even the outcome of the session. I trusted the entire process before the client had entered the room. I felt I was working with more than just my intuition.
At this stage I didn’t have much more to hang my exploration on but then I discovered transpersonal psychology.
Psychodynamic Theory in Supervision
During the third module of the ICCS’s Diploma in Coaching Supervision, we explored psychodynamic theory in supervision. The fundamental proposition was that “Emotional disturbance is the result of intrapsychic forces that pit unconscious desires and emotions, with personal and social construction, specifically as they relate to childhood experience.”
We explored Freud’s three-part structure of the mind
- Id – Truest form – Individual needs
- Ego – Identity – How am I presenting myself to the world
- Superego – Ethical Norms – How I “should” be
What really piqued my interest was the concept of transpersonal psychology and the work of Roberto Assagioli in particular. For Assagioli, the Superego exists outside of ourselves and within our “higher selves”.
In an interview in which Assagioli was asked about his views on the Freudian Superego he said:
The Self is different from the superego or “conscience.” To begin with, it is structurally and ontologically different. The superego, unlike the Self, cannot be considered to be an “entity.” It is a composite, made up of different elements having diverse origins. Freud describes the superego as being formed by the sum of introjections and commands and inhibitions and feelings of guilt and condemnation, all derived from the words and actions of parents and from the “moral” attitudes of a particular culture.
At this point, I found an idea that spoke to my search for transcending my own sense of ego and I knew my personal research project for my supervision qualification would be a fantastic opportunity to dive into this further; there was a desire to understand what I now know to be psychosynthesis.
What is psychosynthesis and who is Roberto Assagioli?
Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) worked as a doctor, psychotherapist and teacher. In 1909 he was introduced to Sigmund Freud and just a year later he began to move away from Freud’s psychoanalytic approach and towards what he called psychosynthesis. In the development of his psychology, he agreed with Freud that healing childhood trauma and developing a healthy ego were necessary aims of psychotherapy, but held the stance that human growth could not be limited to this alone.
Psychosynthesis acknowledges our individual uniqueness and our connection to the whole.
Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator, which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sunbathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of personality. That means Psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behaviour modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs.
Dr Roberto Assagioli
Self or “Soul” Awareness
The diagram shows energies flow between our individual and collective consciousness and outside of us is the collective unconscious – from here, we can access the ideas and experiences of humanity as a whole.
The “I “that sits in the middle is our self-awareness or “the observer” where we gather all our psychological resources into an independent identity. Assagioli believes that the “I” is not our thoughts, feelings, or senses, but a centre of pure consciousness and will. It has a field of consciousness where we become self-aware and can observe our thoughts and feelings. It is connected to the star at the top of the chart, which represents the soul, or the “Transpersonal Self”.
The soul is our innermost essence, the spiritual core with which we are connected to life. The soul contains our inherent goodness, truth, and beauty. It is the source of our need to make a difference in the world, the silent voice of our conscience.
Many people have had the experience of the “Self” and have given testimony to it in various spiritual or religious ways. Auguste Gratry, a 19th-century theologian, described his contact with it as follows:
I felt as if it were an interior form, full of strength, beauty and joy, a form of light and flame, which sustained all my being: a steadfast, unchanging form, always the same, which I recovered again and again during the course of my life; yet I lost sight of it and forgot it at intervals, but always recognized it with joy and the exclamation: “Here is my real being”
The stages of psychosynthesis
Assagioli outlined a dynamic process within psychosynthesis that broadly divides into four stages.
- Gaining deep and clear knowledge of one’s personality.
- Developing self-control of one’s personality.
- The realisation of one’s true Self and the creation of a unifying whole.
- Psychosynthesis as the reconstruction of the personality around a new centre.
Psychosynthesis is about integrating these elements in order to live a creative and meaningful life.
Whilst exploring psychosynthesis, however, I began to notice clear parallels with more humanistic schools of thought. In particular, I was surprised to find Maslow reflecting some of these ideas, though in a more secular manner, in his concept of metamotivation.
Maslow and Metamotivation
Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) is best known for creating his now well-known hierarchy of needs. He was an atheist and found it difficult to accept religious experience as valid. However, whilst he rejected organised religion and its beliefs, he wrote extensively on the human being’s need for the sacred and spoke of God in terms of beauty, truth and goodness.
Maslow used the term metamotivation to describe self-actualized people who are driven by innate forces beyond their basic needs, so that they may explore and reach their full human potential. Maslow’s theory of motivation gave insight on individuals having the ability to be motivated by a calling, mission or life purpose.
Whilst Maslow isn’t referring to a direct connection with the higher self, his reference to innate forces motivated by purpose is how I experience a connection to the higher self or soul.
Love, Fear and Self in Supervision: An interview with Robin Sohet
The missing piece of the puzzle for me was how my Higher Self could be part of my supervision without it being about me.
Here, the word of Robin Sohet, author of many supervision books including “In love with Supervision”, in an interview with Nick Bolton, founder of Animas and the ICCS, resonated with me.
Sohet talks about the power of our presence and describes the authority we have through this quality no matter what role we have in the room.
When exploring a question around his use of eye 6 – the use of the self in supervision, Shohet said:
It’s absurd to think that you can extricate yourself because even in extrication you are still putting your “self” in in the way you extricate. So it’s absolutely absurd, and I will say it as strongly as that, to think you can extricate yourself. It is like the psychoanalyst thinking of themselves as a blank screen. People are impacting on each other all the time. We are always impacting on each other. We connect through our feelings. By focusing on yourself and trusting it, we are actually connecting with each other. I can let go and be me. If you solely focus on the other, there is no one at home. I can be at home with myself and share with you.
Whilst I feel I am still dipping my toe into the ocean of transpersonal psychology, psychosynthesis and beyond, I can say my question of “Who am I at my most authentic level” is my superconscious self. It does not need a fancy description; in this moment I am open to what is.
I feel a strong sense of trust in the journey I am taking. The more I move forward in my professional career as a coach, trainer and, now, supervisor, the more I feel I am stepping into my higher purpose and accessing my Higher Self.
Since exploring this theory further, I have felt a stronger connection to who I am as a supervisor. In a recent supervision session, I felt that my client was feeling disempowered and we uncovered that she too was actually on a journey to discover of her “authentic voice”. Yet, until then, she hadn’t known she was. In that moment, I knew that it was my purpose and passion to keep mastering my craft as a supervisor so that I can support coaches to connect with their authentic selves and feel empowered to create a purposeful living.
Whilst I personally believe in the value of holding the position of my Higher Self in supervision, I also feel that it’s a deeply personal journey for each one of us. Yet, whilst working with the “Higher Self” may not be the right fit for all supervisors, I truly believe there is certainly value in exploring the concept of the superconscious or self at a deeper level in order to amplify the work we do.
ICCS Session – Psychodynamics In Supervision
The 15 commitments of conscious leadership – Jim Dethmer
Kenneth Sorensen – The Rebirth of the Soul – Interview with Roberto Assagioli
Kenneth Sorensen – Psychosynthesis
Love, Fear and Self in Supervision: An interview with Robin Sohet and the ICCS
Abraham Maslow – Wikipedia