What is Embodiment in Coaching?

Embodiment is a way to heal the mind-body divide we experience within ourselves and, more systemically, within Western cultures. To do so we need to understand the self as a body. Our body and our personhood are so intimately connected that they can never be separated. We are not just a mind, or brain, carried around by a meat-puppet of flesh and bones. Embodiment is a kind of re-remembering of who we really are, because what we picked up along the way was disembodiment. But disembodiment is not how we come into the world. It can be unlearned, while embodiment, our birthright, can be remembered. So embodiment is a coming home, a remembering of our wholeness, and a reunion with the fullness of ourselves.

Hillary L. McBride, The Wisdom of Your Body

It could be said that a coach’s main task is to support the client to achieve their goals and aspirations by helping them to think more creatively, and then to take the type of actions around their insights and learning which helps them to develop and evolve.

To do so, coaches spend a lot of time honing their conversational skills of listening deeply and asking great Socratic-type questions alongside many others such as facilitating assessments in order to help clients clarify, evaluate and leverage their strengths, values and understand their personality type.

While the notion of body language as a way to understand and reveal the underlying meaning and intentions of others is quite mainstream these days, what is less conventionally accepted are the considerably vaster possibilities on offer for we coaches if we are to think much bigger about the body, its language and its critical role in cognition (ie. thinking), decision-making, creativity, insight and behavioral change.

Most coaches have become habituated to viewing the coaching conversation to be a discursive oral process, with coach and client filtering their inner conceptual worlds through an exchange of words. Yet such a view overlooks some key facts about human communication and cognition …

1. Most of our communication is non-verbal. As statisticians and scientists duke it out on the details with many saying that somewhere between 70-90% is non-verbal, while some of that is certainly related to areas such as prosody (meaning intonation etc.), the body (gestures, motion, posture etc.) appears to have a larger role in communicating meaning and intent than the words we speak do.

2. Cognitive science (a multidisciplinary field aiming to understand how humans think, make decisions and achieve goals) has evolved the subset of Embodied Cognition which has shown that not only is the body critical to our conventional ‘thinking’ processes, it is also capable of solving complex scenarios without any recourse to internal representations and concept manipulation — you know, the way we conventionally think we solve all our problems and make decisions. [1]

3. Cognitive scientists also believe that “unconscious thought is 95% of all thought” and that it astonishingly “shapes and structures all conscious thought”.[2] The primary way to be able to interact with this enormous unconscious (often also called implicit) process is via the body itself.

Whichever way we want to slice it, the body has an inescapable role is how we humans think, act, feel, behave and exist, yet we’ve long entertained the idea that thinking and intellectual processes are some kind of higher mental function more encumbered by our physicality than part of it—that somehow the mind and body are more like inconvenient roommates forced to share a common mortal space when the unavoidable reality is that our mind is body, and as you can discover in the ebook below, it’s way more than that as well!

What is clearly needed, is a re-assessment of what we consider to be thinking and the mind itself within the framework of our role as coaches, whose core task is to help clients think in bigger and newer ways.

As so much more needs to be said on this incredible topic, I’ve created a really comprehensive free ebook to accomplish some of that at least. It’s packed with references, ideas, quotes and exercises all aimed to speak more to the phenomenal range of possibilities on offer regarding embodiment in coaching.

To download it simply click the button below and you be taken to a page where you’ll be able to download it.

If this gets your attention then you might also be interested in our 2-day intensive Embodiment in Coaching Workshop where we introduce many of the skills outlined in the ebook.

 

References:

1. Wilson, A, Golonka S ; Embodied Cognition Is Not What You Think It Is; Front. Psychol., 11 February 2013; Sec. Cognitive Science; Volume 4 – 2013 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00058

2. Lakoff, G., Johnson, M; Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought;  (pub. 1999) Penguin ISBN-10 0-465-05674-1 

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