Jungian Approaches in Coaching

Ram Ramanathan  •  May 27, 2018  •  5 min read

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Jungian Approaches in Coaching

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Carl Jung

Though we refer to Jungian approach in general, we use several aspects of psychoanalytical and psychodynamic approaches developed by Freud, Jung, Adler and others in coaching. These approaches have in common the belief that a large part of our behavior is through unconscious stored memories that interact with our conscious mind.

Conditioning

Whether Freud or Jung, both emphasized the effect of conditioning on our beliefs, values, attitudes and behavior. Whatever we experience is stored as memories by our mind. I use the word mind because neurobiological research does show that memories are stored at the cellular level in every part of our body. This cellular intelligence, I refer to as mind as different from memories stored in specific parts of the brain such as the reptilian complex or hippocampus or hypothalamus.

Memories can be short term or long term, somewhat similar to flash memories and stored memories in a computer, and these too are stored in different locations. Based on Freudian and Jungian approach, older these memories and stronger in emotional content, deeper they are stored in the mind. From this arose the differentiation of conscious, unconscious and subconscious minds, and later the collective unconscious defined by Jung.

All memories have emotional content. Stronger the emotional content deeper they go and longer they last. A simple not necessarily accurate analogy I use is that emotion-laden memories are like video files, large in content.  As in a computer too many of these emotional memories tend to make the mind hang. Most psychological approaches work towards reliving these emotional memories in one way or another to relieve them. This reduces then to cognitive content, less in size as in text files, allowing more free space in your brain computer. Purpose of this analogy is to make psycho fanatics shudder!

All coaching is Reframing!

Reframing approach is used in many interventions to relieve memories by reliving them to change our mindmap.  We can then look at events from a perspective different from what we held under the influence of strong memories. Some take the client back to when they experienced these memories; some do it in the present moment. Some do it deeply emotionally or somatically or energetically, while some do it cognitively through an auditing process. Those who have practiced multiple approaches do realize that cognitive approaches are less reliable. Thoughts can lie; emotions and somatic feelings don’t.

All coaching is reframing. Clients approach the coach with the specific purpose or contract of being able to achieve an outcome they have challenges in reaching on their own. They are disempowered and seek to be empowered. Had the clients being challenged with external barriers the probability of their recognizing and overcoming such barriers either on their own or with the help of friend, family and mentors through their experience and expertise is high.  It is only when these barriers are internal and stored deeper in their unconscious that they become unable to deal with them on their own and seek help.

The coach agrees with the client on end objectives and the client in turn trusts the coach to unburden behavior patterns. These when explored using different processes create an awareness of interferences that block the client from reaching desired objectives. This awareness in turn leads to action.

Approaches

Transference, Counter Transference, Projective Identification and Parallel Process are some of the concepts used in approaches to uncover limiting beliefs. These help bring in impressions of past experiences and memories in interactions of the present.

A client may see something in the coach relating to memories of a past interaction as transference. Client may see in the coach a parent, teacher of boss and slip into that behavior. The coach calling out this behavior inquiring into where it is coming from can help client understand their inner space. This in turn helps identify limiting behavior patterns.

The coach may observe something within the self because of the behavior of the client and relate to the client in a specific manner. This would be counter transference. Calling this out to the client may help. Both transference and counter transference can be thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. They can be inquired into the levels at which they arise.

Projective Identification is the unconscious non-verbal transfer of one’s emotional experiences to another. This can be through facial expressions, body language, change in tone and voice patterns that express what is not expressed in words. Clients may perceive the coach as an authority figure based on anxieties within themselves. At other levels, clients may idealize the coach leading to dependency, or a competitor based on perceived superiority of the coach.

Parallel Process is what the client has experienced with another person that is being played out with the coach. Bringing to open this pattern creates awareness in the client of an unconscious behavior.

All these concepts need to be used with careful sensitivity with a deeper understanding of psychology than what we cover here or in most coach training. Jung’s concepts of symbols, archetypes and personalities that arise from the collective conscious are further sources of exploration. These are often used in metaphorical representations of client situation by experienced coaches and allow making the unconscious conscious to the client.

Ram Ramanathan

Ram

Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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