Introduction to the Spectrums of Being
The field of ontological coaching and leadership is set on a simple premise: there is a fundamental nature or way of being that each individual brings with them into the universe. Your way of being is essentially your own. It is present from the moment you are born until the moment you die.
Our tendency is to put our attention on what we do, as a way of seeing our fundamental nature, but this is like trying to look at the shadows cast on a wall in order to determine the look, shape and feel of a light source. Our doing is simply a reflection of this deeper self.
My training as a coach involved learning first to see my own essential nature, and then that of others, and finally, to be able to distinguish their essential nature from the stuff they had learned to do as survival strategies. You know the survival strategies I’m talking about — the things you do to stay safe, to stay dangerous, to stay hidden, to stay seen, to be loved, to not need love, etc.
The Spectrums of Being is three things:
First, it’s a philosophy about how people are in life. A simple model (NB: not the model — just a model) for getting to the root of people’s humanity, and working with their, and our own, power.
Second, it’s a tool and a reference guide. You can use the Spectrums as an aid to notice how someone is showing up and tracing that back to who they really are (and then working with THAT version of the person). You can use it to see the common ways people get stuck in their own lives, including yourself, and understand why what we think will work, does not.
Finally, it’s a compilation or compendium, capturing a number of the most common ways of being that people tend to exhibit.
Human expression is infinite. No finite resource will ever be able to capture the sheer vastness of the human potential for expression. Think of it like the symbol we use to denote Pi (π). Pi is an irrational number, and as such, has an infinite number of digits. As far as we know, we could spend the rest of the duration of the universe’s lifespan computing digits of Pi, and never get them all. Instead, we represent all of that using the symbol π.
Your Spectrums of Being are a little bit like π. There will always be more nuance to your expression than can be captured by a single set of words — but these give us a short-hand, which is convenient and helpful. Like π, It gives us something we can work with, instead of getting caught up trying to solve it first.
How they work
The way the Spectrums work is thus:
- We come on to this planet with our own beautiful unique essential nature. The easiest way to think of this is as our own unique ways of being. This aspect of yourself is represented as “The Gift”. This is a description of the nature of this particular way of being, how it shows up in the world, what your impact is, etc.
- People typically struggle with this insisting that it’s overly optimistic or lacking in critical judgment. This is fine, but it’s missing the point. We cover the shadow sides to your gift further down below. Your gift is exactly that: a gift.
- People also distance themselves from truly owning their gift because we are trained that owning your strengths is arrogant or sets you up to be torn down. These are simply reasons to dim your light, which is a fine choice to make, but will not work as a leader. Remember: how the leader is being is how the team is being. Leaders who repeatedly dim their light create teams that do the same.
- This section represents what is predictable for someone with this particular gift. What is predictable is determined by the way people tend to react to these gifts, and the common approaches people with this particular gift tend to take to mitigate with those external responses and the rest of the burden that comes with that gift. Remember: every gift is a curse, and every curse is a gift. Even though the gift may sound awesome when you read it, it also brings with it its own unique flavour of heartbreak, devastation, hurt, sorrow, etc.
- Possibility represents what is possible when someone with this particular gift does the work alongside a trusted coach or mentor. There will always be some of the possibility reflected in wherever you currently are in life — and, there is a reason we have a predictable section. What is possible is not what is predictable (that’s why they’re different sections!) Possibility is usually a function of doing the uncomfortable and unpleasant work of opening and unfolding in the face of your resistance, and is often counter-intuitive and nearly impossible to create on your own. The path in this direction lies too much in your blindspots to be achieved by your self alone.
Common Experience Coming of Age
- Every particular trait has its own unique experience coming of age. You will probably resonate with a number of these common experiences. These don’t represent a universal truth, and there may be nuance to your particular experience. Nevertheless, each gift tends to have a particular way in which the world around it responds, which is also a formative experience. For example, people with a great deal of presence or radiance will tend to receive a lot of comments like “You’re too much” and “Stop showing off” growing up. It’s not wrong, it’s simply part of the tapestry that led to where you are today.
Consequences of Owning Your Gifts
- When you really own your gifts instead of hiding, over-emphasizing or apologizing for them, the world around you will predictably have a reaction (you’ve been managing these parts of yourself for this long, it would be weird if you were the only for which a shift creates an impact). Some of the common reactions are described in this section.
Common Shadow Sides
- Every gift brings with it a curse. The way we learn to adapt, compensate for and mitigate this curse shows up as our shadow side. Typically there are two shadow sides, one representing the under-expression of a gift, and the other the over-expression. Our shadow sides are not bad — they simply are. They’re a part of us, just like our gifts are. Our shadow sides support us in surviving and thriving in the world today, and also tend to be what gets in the way of actualizing our possibility on this planet. People tend to find themselves in careers where the expression of their shadows is valued.
The over-expressed shadow is a product of experiencing situations where we may not feel seen, recognized and acknowledged for our gifts. It’s possible you experienced a lack of your gifts in the a given situation (such as someone experiencing a distinct lack of Love in situations where someone has done something wrong), and learned to over-compensate when presented with those same experiences as you grew up.
The under-expression is a product of learning that our gift is unsafe, dangerous, or unwanted. If a child is trained by the world around him that the natural expression of their love and acceptance leads to betrayal and heartbreak, they will predictably respond by pulling that love away. They will stifle and withdraw its expression, leading to certain, patterned ways of being around anything that resembles the original training.
Obvious Fixes for Shadows
- The obvious fixes are the solutions that we tend to reach for when confronted with the bankruptcy of our shadow sides. Our shadow sides serve us and enable us to survive and thrive, but they are also limited in their applications and approaches. Over time, they will lead us to a predictable life, as described earlier in the section. There is an obvious fix provided for each shadow side, as well as a description for how these fixes ultimately tend to lead us back to the other side of the shadow, continuing the pendulum swing back and forth, and keeping us ever caught in the loop.
- It’s important to note that the obvious fixes, while ultimately self-defeating and self-perpetuating, will feel good when they are first undertaken. They will typically be experienced with a sense of change and relief. “Finally, I’m taking on something new!” There’s nothing wrong with this feeling, other than recognizing that it is one more aspect of what keeps the cycle of fixing our shadows going.
- The obvious fixes are intuitive, in that they make sense as the solution when we are on the ground without any altitude (that’s a great description for every single human being in their own lives). The intuitive nature of these fixes is part of what keeps us stuck.
Typical Path Towards Breakthrough
- This represents a typical path that people with this particular gift move along en route to their breakthrough. The breakthrough path is challenging to walk along on your own, as the obvious fixes will regularly look like the breakthrough you are aiming towards. The breakthrough path is not that. It is not a fix for who you are, or what you are not. It is not away from some kind of pain, but rather, towards some kind of possibility. (Hint: “Towards the possibility of never feeling X again” is actually just moving away from “the pain of feeling X”).
- The breakthrough path is what will tend to lead to you creating what you really want, and is often counter-intuitive