” No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” [John Donne (1572-1631), Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII]
I do not subscribe to the idea of core, essential and separate selves. I am a proponent of a more “dialogical” understanding of self that decentralizes who and where we are. We are because we know others. We are because significant voices, collective voices and myriad social relations create the space for us to be. We are, in a sense, an embodied form of dialog.
Our ability to recreate and imagine conversations means the voices echo constantly giving us the sense (illusion) that there is something essential “inside” talking to us. Further, our everyday conversations with others uses cultural vocabularies of “me” and “you” that enables us to experience being separate individuals. This confuses us into thinking the voices in our head are the quintessential me, something philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein calls one of our most far-reaching grammatical mistakes.
We are not but are always becoming. And this becoming depends on our sociality. Therefore, while it is possible to engage in productive self-coaching, the power of self-coaching is limited by the number, quality and flexibility of conversations we have incorporated in the past. Breakthrough outside-the-box coaching requires dialogs that can recast those past conversations into expanded contexts. In this way, sudden interpretive shifts can occur and new personal storylines become possible. That is the power of client-coach dialog.
Though there are non-dialogical means to breakthrough insights, such as thought watching, thought stopping, and mindfulness meditation, concentrated solution-focused conversation is a powerful, time-efficient and culturally familiar alternative.
Rodney L. Merrill, MPH, PhD
“A Coach Approach to Accelerated Personal & Professional Development”