Words Can Lie, But The Body Never Does

Nov 19, 2019

The 101 lie detector test in Kinesiology works like this. You hold one arm stiff, the tester asks you if you are your ‘real name’ and pushes your arm down. It does not go down. The tester then asks if you are, let us say, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and pushes your arm down. The arm buckles down.

David Hawkins and many others popularized this and added multiple expanded theories. Many of these tests have failed under scientific rigor, with no difference being seen between a lie and truth under controlled conditions.

Somatic practices are another field that encompasses everything from Yoga, Alexander, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Chiropractic and several other practices, which raises scientific hackles when believers sing their praises. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between.

For several years, NLP practitioners lived by differentiating truth and lies based on how eye movements are interpreted. NLP masters have moved away from this as unreliable. Even professional lie testers using sophisticated equipment can fail.

In a coaching conversation, we accept that there is no ‘one’ truth. Truth is our perception of what is happening. The Vedas say that there are multiple pathways to the ultimate truth, none better the other, and that the ultimate truth is formless, intangible and can only be experienced, not expressed or verified.

A coach’s need is for the clients to understand the truth of what they perceive, and when negative, help reframe that perspective positively, that’s all. There needs to be no effort to establish truth or lie in what clients say. It is important to connect the dots, bring out discrepancies, if observed, non-judgmentally and inquire curiously of all that is said adds together.

When clients express themselves in words, cognitively, analytically and rationally, they come from the conscious mind. Following the NLP meta-model, they generalize, delete and distort, simply because the conscious mind holds a mere fraction of what we sense, and the conscious fraction is filtered through the conditioned memories of our ego.

Body sensations on the other hand and deep emotions as well arise from the unconscious. More often than not they are not filtered. A coach has a much better chance of helping the client realize what ‘really’ happened in a situation by questioning what sensations arise in the body and create those sensations. Further questions of what they think may be more in line with ‘reality’ than the superficial judgmental impressions of reality. This, however, is an art, not a science and therefore would need to be verified through multiple modes of inquiry.

However, if the objective is to help the client reframe, and the reframed perspective allows the client to grow and move forward to a desired objective, the coaching conversation would have met its objective. There may be some who may question the ethics, the right, and wrong, of what I say from their superego perspective, and that is their issue to resolve.

A more pertinent query has been raised by senior corporate leaders when I trained them as coaches. ‘Companies don’t care about emotional issues. Their concern is the bottom line. Why should I bother about sensations and emotions when I am coaching an executive to manage time better or delegate better?’

Great question. My answer has been, ‘An executive may be constrained in excelling with time management as they have additional roles, possibly of a caregiver to a partner, parents or children. I am not sure how you would cut that executive into work and life halves without destroying that person, and with no contribution to the organization. Inquiry into the emotional mind state of the client may help in creating a solution.’ Or ‘A leader hesitant to delegate may have limiting beliefs that may arise from insecurity and invalidation, amongst other factors. These beliefs are not rational; they are emotional. They need to be inquired into for the client to understand, accept and reframe these beliefs before the past habit of not delegating changes.’

I still recall this case. A single woman, a professional, was referred by a physician friend to me to talk to her about an ache she had, which the physician determined had no physiological origin. The client said she had no issues at all and was happy. Something she said at some point triggered in me a sense of self-invalidation. I offered her a piece of paper and a pen and asked her if she was ok to write down ‘I love….” with her name. Without hesitation, she took the paper and pen and bent down to write. Her finger was poised over the paper for the next fifteen minutes frozen. I brought in a glass of water and looked at her inquiringly. She burst out crying saying, ‘I just can’t.’

Unfortunately, I cannot claim any success in this case of helping the client resolve her issue. All I could say was that when she can write and say to herself that she loved herself, she would be pain-free. I am not sure if that was true. It seemed the right unconditionally positive, empathetic, generative thing to do congruently at that time. All I know also is that a year later she still had that pain.

What I do know is that the body does not lie when it is disturbed; mind and words can. A coach needs to make efforts to explore sensations and emotions to establish congruence in thoughts and behavior.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


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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