By Chris Chittenden
To my knowledge, the distinctions set out below are not referenced in either the Newfield Network and Newfield Institute approach to ontological coaching.
Do we always have the same way of being?
To answer that it is useful to examine our way of being in a temporal context. Think over how you feel on any given day. No doubt there will be periods when your energy levels vary; sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Those shifts in your energy level denote a shift in your physical being at that time. Using the ontological distinctions, we can be see there is a different way of being as a direct result of your energy level leading to different predispositions. For example, many people find themselves in a mood of irritability when their energy is low, whereas they are not so predisposed to irritability when they have a higher energy level.
Another aspect of our physical being that is constantly shifting is our posture. We sit, stand or lie down. We sit with one leg over the other or feet apart or cross-legged. There are so many different postures we can take and they have an impact on our way of being at that moment in time.
Based on this, it can be said that our way of being is dynamic through time and so are our predispositions.
However, human beings have a propensity for seeing patterns and so we see patterns in our ways of being. Based on our observations, we generate stories about ourselves which in turn establishes what we see as possible and what we are likely to do. We generate stories about others that we use to predict how a person might behave and how we might relate to them.
It is our observations of our patterns of being that underpin our sense of who we are and our identity to others and theirs to us.
Creating New Patterns of Being
One way of looking at personal growth is as ego development and a greater capacity to see the world from more perspectives. Developmental psychologists such as Jane Loevinger, Jean Piaget and Robert Kegan have identified this as a general shift from an egocentric to an ethnocentric to a worldcentric worldview. Such shifts see a broadening of our Circle of Concern and the development of our self-awareness thereby allowing us to more readily identify a more grounded understanding of our Circle of Control and Circle of Influence. This allows us to see more options and to take more effective action in life.
Many of our more traumatic breakdowns in life are associated with transparencies that have been with us for many years. To resolve these underlying breakdowns involves the creation of a broader worldview leading to new and more effective transparencies and patterns of being.
Human beings’ sophisticated use of language is the key to achieving this. We can use language to explore other points of view and anticipate the future. As such, our linguistic capacity allows us to understand our patterns of being and that of others, and look to the future to design and create new and deeply rooted, or embodied, coherent ways of being. In other words, we have to distinguish things in language if we are to create change in any of the four domains – body, mood, emotion and language. This idea can be seen as creating new transparencies and habits and is fundamental to the ontological approach.