Monday, 23 July 2012

From Inner Game to Neuroscience

Earlier this year, the association for coaching asked me if I would be up for doing a workshop at a conference in Edinburgh, the title of which was From Inner Game to Neuroscience.

Now unfortunately, I was running trainings on the days in question, so it just didn’t arise and I therefore said I would love to but on this occasion I can’t. But I did congratulate them on the title of the conference, because it was a way of summing up the journey that has really characterised coaching over the past, say, decade or more; from that Inner Game model, which is absolutely relevant, to more the talk of what the neurosciences can contribute to our understanding now. I actually think there’s a danger of assuming that one is somehow surpassing the other, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Because, in fact, of course, all that neuroscience does is help us have a more profound understanding of our consciousness, which is the essence of the Inner Game anyway.

And I think, part of what is now so potentially rewarding in terms of the work that is being done, and certainly that I’ve been aware of and involved in with colleagues, is that we’re actually able to begin a synthesizing of the Inner Game approach, which is essentially based on paying attention to oneself, turning the attention from being outer-directed and taking an in the world out there, to being more self-reflexive, that is to say turning attention back on oneself, and paying more attention to, well, ‘just how do I do what I do?’ ‘Just what is going on?’ ‘How do I, on occasion, get in my own way, trip myself up?’ and ‘How do I move into an easy flow state?’ And one of the things which I think that neuroscience is being to help us understand is, not only what’s going on in your brain that makes the best times such experiences of flow states, but also, what can we do to stack the cards in our favour.

You know, there are certain ways of engaging with ourselves, which will help more than others, and certainly some of the work that I’ve been recently involved in doing with Patricia Riddell, who is a professor of applied neuroscience, is coming to an understanding in new ways of how certain processes actually relate to what goes on in our brain.

And I’ll give you an example, that I found absolutely fascinating, which is, upper section of time. Now, you know, time is something which is kind of fundamental, and being able to differentiate between what happened yesterday and what happened twenty years ago is sort of useful. And the question sometimes arises, well how do we do that? And indeed, do we get into a muddle sometimes about the order in which something occurred and how does the brain do that?

Well it’s an interesting phenomenon, certainly that NLP’s been exploring for years, and I think devising very helpful techniques in so doing. You’ll see them in timeline work, for instance and Practitioner training.

The understanding that has arisen is that the way the brain codes time has a lot to do with how it organises things spatially. And so you have this fundamental distinction between looking at time going forward and putting the past behind you.

Notice how these are descriptions of place, spatial organising. The forward, looking forward, past behind you. And actually, what we know from neuroscience is that people are not that good at gaging spatial differences when they look directly ahead. But they are much better at gaging differences when they’re able to look from left to right. And what we find is in timelines, people that organise their timelines from left to right are very good at determining what goes where and finding a place for everything and having everything in its place.

And people that tend to organise time in a linear fashion, going out from right where they are in front of them , day by day and into the future, they have a much tougher time organising themselves sometimes. And we can actually learn more about what works and how to do it better. We can teach these skills and what we’re doing is coming to an understanding of ‘what do I do inside and what does my brain do? And hey, how about us getting together and doing this better?’

Until the next time……..

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