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The Scientific Ground of Coaching: Understanding the Connections between the Subjective Experience of the Mind and the Objective Functioning of the Brain, Using These Insights towards Improving the Fields of Coaching and Neuropsychology.
Name: Moses Silbiger Course # IPP 5032 / Neuropsychology Instructor: Mark Forman John F. Kennedy June 13, 2007
new fields and professions spontaneously emerged in order to cover the growing gaps left by existent areas of knowledge and expertise. Most professionals … function with a set of basic skills and concepts that they use repeatedly throughout their careers. p. Due to gradual changes in culture and society that are sometimes quite unpredictable.Neuropsychology and Coaching Introduction The emergence of two fields in the dawn of the 21st century “Very few professions have been born in a change-dominated world. Throughout the history of human culture and society. 1999. the rise of the coaching field could be related to the first example in the paragraph above. few of them end up shrinking or disappearing. emerged as a field that. as its central function. In my view. I consider the coaching profession to fill an ever increasing demand for true integration between our subjective experience and development – . 1999.1). facilitates change and development” (Hudson. “The mind emerges from the activity of the brain. whose structure and function are directly shaped by interpersonal experience [italics added]… recent findings from the study of human development and neurobiology can bring us to a new understanding of the developing mind (Siegel. p. some of them end up splitting and fragmenting into more specialized fields. and others end up blending into new and more encompassing areas that become much complex and specialized than the sum of their parts. 2 Coaching [italics added]. some of these areas turn out to be not as appropriate and efficient as they were before to fulfill the demands and pressures of novel times and their unfolding transformations. As time goes by. as an instance of a field that emerged to cover a gradual gap left by different but related areas related to human growth and development. however. some of these existent areas end up developing and expanding their scope in order to cover the new demands.3).
It is not my intention here to bring neuroscientific technical terms and dig into the anatomical details of these findings. as well as some basic emotions. scientific and biologically-related way. This is especially true in regards to the role of different regions of the brain (and body) and their relation to certain motor. but instead make an overall reference of its core insights. as well as the deeper interior areas of human knowledge related to religion and spirituality .and the objective aspects of 3 our mind. biology. psychiatry and even psychotherapy (when putting into practice its concepts). the emergent field of neuropsychology could be considered to be a blend or cross-disciplinary intersection between the fields of neuroscience. Connecting the two emerging fields In this paper. among others. teaching and learning. mentoring. leadership. Although still holding many open inquiries and controversial questions in regards to the nature and functioning of the brain and its connections to our subjective nature and dynamics. On the other hand. as well as the externally and more pragmatically oriented areas of consulting. which are mostly concerned with understanding and improving our external development and functionality in the world – aspects partially covered by the fields of psychology (especially behaviorism) and psychiatry. As far as complex subjective skills and “states” of being. management. a rich scientific mix of which the result is a field holistically bigger than the sum of its constituent parts. Due to the fact . cognitive and mental skills. psychology. the road is still wide open for the advent of new discoveries and insights.Neuropsychology and Coaching aspects already covered by the fields of psychology and psychotherapy. human resources. learning and grounding their knowledge and experience in a more objective. I’ll briefly explore how the present body of knowledge and continual discoveries coming from the new field of neuropsychology can support coaches in referencing. neuropsychology has already today a great body of empirical knowledge supporting and proving many of its claims.
both in the personal and the institutional worlds. This can be done through means of neuropsychological insights. (2) consciousness and unconsciousness. gains and palpable results brought by the coaching process. diagnosis and tracking by brain tests and biofeedback. I consider that one of the potential contributions offered by the field of coaching to the discipline of neuropsychology is related to the potential and efficacy that skillful and strategic interpersonal dynamics used by coaches can facilitate in a large degree the methodical study of the process of change and development of the mind and the brain. especially today. efficacy and scientific ground of the coaching field in relation to the general population. interpersonal dynamics. In my view. importance.Neuropsychology and Coaching that both fields have certainly big areas of intersection. broader and deeper understanding of the possible advantages. I’ll provide a brief introductory summary on how the neuropsychology field objectively views our subjective and inter-subjective experience in relation to a couple of interesting topics: (1) the mind-brain-body connection. by anchoring some of coaching’s insights. On one hand. Coaching can also support neuropsychological researchers to systematically track the constructive behaviors and actions that clients start to manifest in their lives and the world as a result from that. 4 processes and methodologies into the most physical and objective dimensions of the client’s life. (3) the role of emotions and the significance of healthy and proactive interpersonal dynamics. I believe it is important to trace these connections because each of them may have a lot to contribute to each other. The structure of this paper In the next section. From the other hand. These topics were chosen among a variety of other interesting subjects explored in several neuropsychological and . this cross-disciplinary integration can facilitate an unfolding and expansion of the sense of credibility. the field of neuropsychology can bring to our scientifically-oriented culture and society a clearer.
It is Wilber's theory that only an integral account – or AQAL . Finally. AQAL stands for all (1) Quadrants (realms of existence and action). self-regulation. 1999).Neuropsychology and Coaching neuroscience studies. the main aspects of emotions and interpersonal dynamics (item 3 above) will be briefly explored in relation to its connections to the processes and dynamics of coaching. research and integration of the neuropsychology field. attachment and integration (Siegel. the “apparent substantiality of matter…are really [italics by author] nothing other than 1 AQAL (pronounced aqual) is the essence of the work of Ken Wilber. LL for Lower Left Quadrant (collective & subjective). and representations. gender. dreams. and the idealist (UL) view (only mind exists. all (3) Lines (developmental skills in various areas). beliefs and spirituality (Newberg & Waldman. two of the main pioneers in the process of emergence. also known as the mind-body problem. This view is called the dual-aspect monism perspective. and basically integrates previous dualistic distinctions and insights about the nature of the connection between the mind and the brain. Similarly. and LR for Lower Right Quadrant (collective and objective). Insights into Neuropsychology The mind-brain-body connection In order to start covering the relationship or link between the subjective mind and the objective brain.would be as inclusive and balanced to be considered a fair account of the complexity of the world and the universe at large. Throughout this exploration. personality. fantasies. all (4) States (states of consciousness or bodies) and all (5) Types (gender. etc. I’d like to introduce a fundamental and cutting-edge perspective shared by Mark Solms and Oliver Turnbull. In this neuropsychological introduction. . 2 UR is an abbreviation that stands for Upper Right Quadrant (individual & objective). language. or in this case mind is reducible the brain). one of the 4 quadrants corresponding to the 5 main aspects of AQAL. such as memory. 2006). Siegel. among others. I’ll also make brief references to some concepts related to Wilber’s AQAL1 model.). It also integrates the two core distinctions made by opposing philosophical approaches: The materialist (UR) 2 view (everything is reducible to matter. I’ll comment on how to use these insights towards improving the coaching field and practice as well as supporting neuropsychological studies and research. all (2) Levels (stages of development). 2002. 1999). genetic and 5 environmental influences (Solms & Turnbull. in order to ground this presentation in a more integral framework. UL stands for Upper Left Quadrant (individual & subjective).
As for the nature of this “essence”. mostly associated with Descartes. the “distinction between body and mind is [just] … an artifact of perception” (p. however. but it also suggests that this stuff is perceived in two different ways (hence.56). The impossibility of direct observation may be due to the fact that some essential aspects are transcendent in relation to our human nature and relatively limited (dualistic) instruments of perception. both from related to our natural senses and scientific instruments of . as I understand. like water in solid (ice) and gaseous (vapor) states. the monist view argues that matter (brain) and mind are made of the same substance. From one side. only its manifestations and effects can actually be perceived. the answer for this question lies in spiritual and transcendental grounds. By saying that. this essence or “one type of stuff” may never be able to be observed directly. argues that we are fundamentally divided in our essential nature in two kinds of substance: matter and mind. In the words of Solms and Turnbull (2002): “Dual-aspect monism accepts that we are made of only one type of stuff (that is why it is a monist position). this approach states that our fundamental nature is neither made of a mental nor a material “essence”. or body and soul. Hence. Although scientifically proved. dual-aspect monism) (p.56). In my view. according to these scientists. and it “appears” mental when perceived from the interior (AQAL’s UL). magnetism and even the “quarks” of quantum physics. either subjectively or objectively. it “appears” material when observed from the exterior (AQAL’s UR). this is one of the mysteries science has yet to solve.Neuropsychology and Coaching 6 products of our mental processes” (p. the dualist approach. but in different states. In fact. Therefore. On the other hand. as it is also the case for the force of gravity. a perception which is naturally limited by our human senses.50). the dual-aspect monism perspective comes to integrate these seemingly contradictory views into a higher and more encompassing truth. Instead.
Neuropsychology and Coaching observation. In this case. coaching could be considered above (and below) all. .which I also personally agree . which is perceived either from the interior or the exterior aspects of our human perception. this “essence” or spiritual nature would be a holon situated in a higher (deeper) level in relation to the sub-holons of mind and body. Coming back to some basic neuropsychological insights. to be part of an underlining transformative spiritual process. Instead. the other fundamental aspect to be considered in addition to the above is related to a reconciliatory view integrating the localizationist and equipotentionalist perspectives.there are actually no such thing as a “connection” between mind and brain to start. A holon transcends and include its predecessor(s) in an interconnected system that tends to bring more complexity (depth) and less span (quantity) in proportion to its higher (or deeper) altitude in a developmental/evolutionary scale. From my perspective. one could say that we are actually spiritual beings manifested in physical and mental “bodies” (AQAL’s State/Body holarchical levels). In fact. the importance of understanding this dual-aspect monist perspective and the concept of a spiritual nature or “essence” brings a fundamental significance to the current exploration towards understanding the connections between the subjective experience of the mind and the objective functioning of the brain. In this way. this “essence” would be situated in a higher holarchical3 (Wilber. In other words (based on the previous concept). based on this view . concerning where the manifestation of that “essential” stuff (spirit) is observed in the brain (body) 3 Holarchy is a developmental/evolutionary concept described by Wilber where a higher stage or level of development is compared to a “holon” (a whole that is simultaneously part of other wholes). 2000) 7 plane or level (hence spiritual) in relation to its manifestations. Extending this idea to the concept and role of interpersonal relationships especially to skilful ones such as the present subject of coaching – one could also say that what essentially happens during a coaching process is not only the result of mental or physiological dynamics. concerning the physical location of various mental functions and qualities in relation to the brain (and body). therefore transcending and including both dualistic forms of mind or matter (brain) that can be perceived our human apparatus. because both mind and brain are part of the same “essential” manifestation (spirit). In this way. but this would be a rich subject for another paper.
2002. “many bodily functions are the products. but. etc. p. Luria integrates the localizationist view (which stated that the mind as a whole was a result of a network of interconnected centers in the brain assembled like a mosaic pattern. This pivotal integrative perspective was already explored by Freud in early observations and was later 8 reformulated and improved by a famous Russian neurologist named Luria – author of a pivotal book called Higher Cortical Functions in Man (1966). a view accepted until this day. an interaction between a number of different tissues (Solms and Turnbull. with the impossibility to relate mental functions to specific parts of the brain. and worthy of a new paper in itself. respiratory. Extending this concept to the mind-brain subject.). but from the systemic resonance and integration of many of its different parts (but not necessarily all). As Luria’s functional systems view states. But the main aspect it highlights for our . where each center was associated with a specific function of the mind). this means that the main mental functions are not only a result from the work of specific and unique parts of the brain. visceral. Consciousness and Unconsciousness This systemic body integration explored by Damasio (2000) is a very “hot” area of scientific exploration nowadays. not of one particular tissue. rather. and the equipotentialist view (which stated that mental functions were a result of the whole brain working together in unison. this integrated functional system includes not only different parts of the brain.Neuropsychology and Coaching as it shows up in form of mental faculties and qualities and related actions and behaviors. In addition to that. In his concept of functional systems. as the most recent neurological explorations and discoveries are starting to show. Luria was also the first scientist to divide the brain in 3 main regions. but actually the whole body and its various interconnected systems (emotional.63). This view is particularly explored by the pioneering and ground-breaking studies of a contemporary neurologist named Antonio Damasio (2000).
etc. 2002) Adding to that. . In a way. he means that the part of the brain involved in the modulation and regulation of the most physical and basic visceral states (hence “unconscious” in terms of “mental” activities) such as temperature. One of the fundamental contributions of Freud to the field of psychology (and recently to neuropsychology) was the discovery and distinction between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the mind. the functions of the mind extended way beyond being only conscious of something: The argument that mind and consciousness are identical is precisely the viewpoint that Freud opposed so strongly a hundred years ago. Damasio (2000) confirms in a deeper and broader way what both Freud and Luria were previously exploring in their studies. symbols.is resultant from the activities of another specific region (or system) of the brain. feeling.is attached to a specific region (or system) of the brain responsible to monitor the external world. a fact already discovered by earlier neurological observations. depth. language. According to him. when he first introduced the idea of an unconscious mind…clinical observations show that consciousness is merely a (variable and superficial) property of the mind. thoughts. representations. clarity. (Solms and Turnbull. responsible for monitoring the internal milieu of our body. metabolism. blood sugar. On the other hand.to different functions and qualities of the brain (and mind). like visceral “gut” feelings .quality. the “content” of our consciousness . According to him. and therefore of our minds. seen as a systemic whole. etc. has a fundamental role in shaping the different qualitative “states” of our consciousness.. mood.images. the “state” (AQAL’s States) of our consciousness . This also includes related changes in the functioning and activity of various . .Neuropsychology and Coaching present area of concern is the connection between various bodily phenomena . By saying this. etc. emotions and other physical sensations.such as feelings. Damasio (2000) came with a ground breaking discovery. memories. including the psychological aspects of consciousness and 9 unconsciousness.
an aspect that . decisions. organize. Damasio (2000) states that consciousness goes beyond the mere subjective awareness. set up. some of the main aspects that coaches facilitate their clients to explore. Solms & Turnbull. or Feeling of What Happens (Damasio. plans. choices. research confirms (Siegel. In fact. He scientifically describes the conscious process as consisting of “fluctuating couplings of the current state of the self with the current state of the objective world” (Solms and Turnbull.Neuropsychology and Coaching parts of the brain. 1999. Emotions are especially related to coaching in regards to how clients can consciously evaluate different options and situations (both internal and external) in their lives.92). As Solms and Turnbull say “Consciousness is not only what you feel. it is what you feel about something” (Solms & Turnbull. working as a functional system. p. 2000) is hence connected to the whole underlying subjective and emotional processes of evaluation (“good”. Looking a little bit deeper into the neuropsychological (objective) aspect of emotions. including the underlying dynamics of 10 evaluation and motivation. The Role of Emotions and the Significance of Healthy Interpersonal Dynamics This insight into the physical aspect of “states” of consciousness taps into very significant aspects connected to the present subject of coaching and its subjective and inter-subjective processes. visualizations. values and goals.92). clarify. by assessing how they are “feeling” about these various situations. brain and interpersonal relationships. meaning-making. p. I’d like to further explore the concept of meaning-making. For instance. 2002. these findings highlight the objective aspect of emotions and their fundamental role in the process of conscious thoughts. being actually the integrative bridge between two worlds: external and internal (AQAL’s Left and Right Quadrants). 2002. “bad” and “in between”). Connecting this idea to the coaching process and dynamics. and act upon in the world. 2002) the pivotal role that they have in developing and shaping both the mind. This “feeling sense”.
[Emotions thus have] … a central role in creating our subjective and our interpersonal experiences. . coaches can help them to simultaneously re-organize and re-balance their emotional states and dynamics in healthier and more integrated ways. as well as other related bodily functions as described by Damasio (2000). goals. “emotions represent dynamic processes created within the socially influenced. In the words of Daniel Siegel 11 (1999). 6) In this way. As they facilitate that. 1999. decisions. etc.) by making use of skillful emotional communication and expression. (p. learning and relationships: The way the mind establishes meaning – the way it places value and significance on experience – is closely linked to social interactions. 123). “sympathy”. clarifying. the skillfully guided interpersonal experience provided by the coach (as an example of skilful social interaction). evaluations. Coaches can help their clients to selfregulate and take responsibility for and charge of their emotional states (and hence motivations. the whole functioning and patterning of the brain also changes. can provide clients with the opportunity to not only re-organize the emotions and restructure meaning-making patterns (accomplishing subjective and behavioral changes and results). but to facilitate biological transformations at a neuronal and hence biological level. By working with the client in terms of discovering. one of the pioneer psychiatrists in the field of neuropsychology and an important authority in the areas of human development. “mirroring” and “attunement” (Siegel. This connection between meaning and interpersonal experience occurs because these two processes appear to be mediated via the same neuronal circuits responsible for initiating the emotional process. value-appraising process of the brain [italics by author]” (p.Neuropsychology and Coaching brings “heart” to the clients’ processes of evaluation and choices. through acts of “empathy”. organizing and reframing some of the values and meaning related to their emotional and subjective lives. As Siegel (1999) says. choices.
and not only help them to move into temporary states of consciousness or emotion (a common AQAL’s States vs. behaviors and actions. Furthermore.a concept often referred by the developmental psychologist and integral thinker Robert Kegan (1994). Stages distinction). Neuropsychological insights and coaching As I said in the introduction. coaching can help people to integrate different self (or emotional) states and stabilize new mental and brain (bodily) patterns. By doing that. 2000). the field of coaching is an emerging profession that lies in the intersection between different areas of human growth and development. In my view. more integrated and emotionally meaningful evaluations and decisions about various situations in their lives. “the organization of the self is dependent upon the manner in which emotion is regulated” (p. This is especially true in regards to clients’ goals related to 12 self-management. A whole stage of development starts to unfold when clients become more aware of how to deal with their own emotions. coaches can support their clients to either “translate” themselves better in the stage (AQAL’s Stages) they currently are in. 156). “the mind’s creation of stable systemic coherence across … different selfstates is one of the central goals of emotional development and self-regulation” (p. and focus more strategically towards their dreams.Neuropsychology and Coaching p. goals and achievements. As Siegel (1999) affirms. clients can take better. 238). inner balance and structural changes involving reframing of values. beliefs and worldviews . filling an inter-disciplinary and social gap.and their associated plans. organization.148). taking deeper responsibility for their emotional processes and even “using” them consciously according to their own needs instead of being constantly “used by them” . This is a fundamental aspect related to most (if not all) aspects regarding the success of certain coaching outcomes. With this developmental unfolding which can be certainly facilitated by coaching. or to “transform” themselves towards higher stages of development and growth (Wilber. After all. coaching covers this gap by exploring and integrating the internal .
etc. as well as evaluation of (external) behaviors. learning and social studies. cognitive and developmental psychology. Furthermore. . as well as neurolinguistic programming (NLP). actions and results. processes and methodologies used by the coaching field. this time from an objective and scientific/biological point of view . most of the current coaching approaches. and goals in life. Moreover. Coaches support their clients to integrate these subjective evaluations in order to “act” in the most meaningful and efficient ways in the outer environment. we can anchors these scientific observations directly into the various insights. goals. Most importantly. interpersonal dynamics. helping us to understand in a clearer and more objective way what is really involved in a successful “day-to-day” coaching relationship. we can understand more objectively how and why coaching works. background and traditions coming from the fields of behavioral. interpersonal resonance or dialogues. By laying down the fundamental neuropsychological ground and insights briefly described in the previous section.) coaches can assist their clients to not only explore and know more about themselves. it becomes much easier now to understand the intriguing and sometimes astonishing mind-body “connections” (which are actually just apparent. plans.not only by means of assessing subjective (interior) feedback through narratives. processes and methodologies designed to measure and track objective results gather their observations from the extensive knowledge. once they are part of the same “stuff” or “essence”) observed by the field of neuropsychology. By supporting and facilitating the subjective processes described above (evaluation. but to go after the achievement and manifestation of their various needs. choices. dreams. values. meaning making. decisions.Neuropsychology and Coaching realms of our subjective and inter-subjective experiences and development (AQAL’s Left 13 Quadrants) to the external realms of behaviors and proactive actions in the world at large (AQAL’s Right Quadrants). consulting.
as well as be aware of the actual physical state of their clients in a deeper and more encompassing way. they would reach a better understanding of what they are actually “doing” to their clients. Therefore. this time from a biological point of view. both subjectively. what they are actually letting the clients do with themselves in terms of changes. It is also my understanding that. This extra information could provide significant knowledge about their client’s history. it is one of my main points here to state that the findings of neuropsychology can provide a substantial contribution to the coaching field in regards to adding the physical (body and brain) aspect as a bona-fide instrument of measuring and tracking not only objective results in a new way. instead of only tracking and measuring the effects of the coaching practice by observable changes in the brain or the “biological side” of the client’s mind (data provided by the field of neuropsychology). and historical data on the same subject (if this is the case). coaches can also start to understand in a more embodied way how the brain (and the whole integrated body system) generally works. corresponding to only one aspect or manifestation of the Upper Right Quadrant (UR) of Wilber’s AQAL model. coaches could use this knowledge to customize even more their approaches to different clients. limitations. although it can be used in any case as extra data to support . biologically and neurologically speaking. as well as achieve more efficiency and success in designing their practices and methodologies. strengths. or better saying. Adding to that. In this way. As an instance of how this joint collaboration of fields could work.Neuropsychology and Coaching 14 among others. a coach could ask a client for a neuropsychological diagnosis of the current state and functioning of his brain. That request may be more appropriate for clients with current or past mental pathology history. planning and strategies related to various coaching practices. but as extra references and insights that could be used for the basic design. patterns. weaknesses and potentials (as well as show objective results as time goes by). planning and methodologies. not only subjective or behavioral.
In many cases. rapport and communication. This procedure may also have some importance in the case of relatively healthy (but resistant) clients that are very objectively or materialistically oriented towards themselves and the world. with the coach possibly needing to have direct contact (and possibly gradual and periodic interchange) with the neuropsychologist or neurologist. neuropsychologists could work side by side with coaches to use the coaching processes and results to feed various research projects concerned with the study of subjective changes and development . – the coach could have access to a significant amount of biofeedback data to support the understanding of the client’s past (if there is historical data). etc.subjective development and growth. habits and patterns of their clients (and their changes in time). In addition to that. and most . design plans and efficiently put in action the 15 discoveries and insights they are having in the therapist coach. With this initial diagnosis in hand added to a possible periodic tracking. By paying attention to specific bodily (brain) aspects related to certain areas being worked on in coaching . In order to interpret the neuropsychological diagnosis and tests.Neuropsychology and Coaching assessments and changes. coaches can have a broader and deeper understanding of certain traits. Likewise. facilitating interpersonal relationships. present. coaches can work hand in hand with psychiatrists and psychologists to help clients envision goals. and hence skeptic about their own subjective transformation and results brought by the inter-subjective dynamics in coaching. improving various skills and capacities.resulting from the interpersonal dynamics developed by the coaching practice . an inter-disciplinary collaboration may occur.and their relation to specific areas of the body and brain. A neuropsychological assessment and tracking could facilitate their trust in the coaching process (and in themselves). and future potentials. as well as identifying and tracking changes and development in areas of strengths (potentials) and weaknesses (limitations). by showing them actual subjective development and changes in a biological way. overcoming limitations and habits.
16 2006) that positive subjective changes can and do alter the metabolism. supporting them to track the processes and results originated from coaching’s subjective and interpersonal dynamics of change and development. From one side. re-organizing or dismantling neuronal connections and patterns.Neuropsychology and Coaching importantly.both fields could proactively complement each other in all the aspects of AQAL that are currently partially covered in their respective areas of expertise and practice. the potential of grounding the coaching practice in a scientific background through the new insights and discoveries of neuropsychology are very promising and fundamentally important for solidifying the future of the coaching practice on many levels. practices and marketability of the coaching field in the culture and society at large. activities and dynamics of the physical body and brain (and vice versa). . this cross-disciplinary approach can be used as a powerful tool towards the improvement of the credentials. with coaching providing an extra support (or even a gradual substitution) to prescribed drugs and medications. Solms & Turnbull. boosting or depriving the immune system. etc. coaches can provide significant data to the studies and research made by neuropsychologists. 2002. 1999. through strategically codesigned experiments and practices.looking at this potential inter-dependent and cross-disciplinary process from a broader and more encompassing integral approach . changing the body’s energy level. I say that based on the holistic point of view already proved by neuroscience (Siegel. On the other side. standards. suppressing or producing hormonal and chemical substances. such as creating. regulating the connection and activities of different bodily systems. Newberg & Waldman. they can certainly work hand in hand with coaches to facilitate the process of healing and growth of their own clients. Conclusion In my view. In addition to that .
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Neuropsychology and Coaching 18 .