I recently did a webinar for Fielding Graduate University’s Evidence Based Coaching program on how coaches could use Archetypal Imagery to prompt clients to contact their deep wisdom. It seemed to work really well. Participants liked it. These were my topics…
- defining archetypes,
- leading imagery,
- picking an archetype, and
- using an archetype to find wisdom for daily life.
I started with a story to show how the mind is full, flooded with perceptions, reactive from buried emotions, worries and more. Because of this, coaches’ clients can’t connect their deep wisdom. I often use the story of the six blind man and the elephant to emphasize this. In the story, there are six blind men. They are asked to feel what’s in front of them and say what it is. One by one, they say the following after feeling:
the side, a “wall”;
the tusk, a “spear”;
the ears, “fan”;
the tail, a “rope”
the trunk, a “snake”;
the leg, a “tree”.
Not one could perceive the essence of the elephant.
In day to day life, coaching clients only perceive a small portion of reality. However, coaches can help clients contact their deep wisdom so they can see clearly. Archetypal imagery can do this.
An archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a given characteristic. Usually one recognizes an archetype right away. The characteristic just pops out right away. For example, the Greek goddess Gaia conveys PROTECTION. In Gaia’s story she protects life even when her mate, Ouranos, tells her to kill their deformed children the one-eyed cyclops, or when her son, Cronos, wants her to kill his son Zeus because of the prophecy that Zeus will take over Cronos’ throne.
In its quest for stability, the ego keeps consciousness tied up with a busy mind. But the ego likes archetypes since they are part of a natural psychodynamic for organizing personality. Visualizing an archetype quiets the ego to open the mind to deep wisdom. Wisdom is lifeability, or making one’s life work. Coaches can help their clients gain this lifeability to solve problems.
It is not complicated to help coaching clients find an archetype, since it can happen in a playful and intuitive way. I have an archetype quiz on my blog, quizzes in my book, and cards available. Also, a 13-minute pod cast on the front page of my web site leads a person on an imagery exercise to find an archetype.
It is particularly powerful to image an archetype. Imagery is a magical way to relax the mind. One participant at my webinar asked, “What do you do with clients who think imagery isn’t the thing for them?” I think sharing data on its physiological effects is the way to encourage a client to try it. According Martin Rossman M.D
“Whether it’s for relaxation, problem-solving, healing, or self-development, learning to use your imagination skillfully can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make with your time.”
After choosing an archetype a client can work with it. Psychologists like me call this amplifying an archetype. Coachees can draw it, find stories about it and tell the coach its main characteristic.
Then, the coach can prompt the client to imagine a current stressful incident. The coach asks the client to tell about the incident in detail, telling about perceptual details of the scene, describing the scene blow by blow. Eventually the coach prompts the client to find the main feeling that the scene evokes in the body. After the feeling is named, then the scene is repeated, this time the client is asked to bring in the archetype. What would happen in the scene, if the person embodied that archetype’s characteristic? How would things change? The coach then has the client check in with their body again and see what has happened to the feeling in the body? What insight emerged? What wisdom did the client bring to the situation?
To show how this might work, I had the webinar participants pretend that their archetype was “The World.” Its main characteristic is fulfillment. I asked the participants to imagine a recent stressful situation in detail. Then I asked them to imagine that they embodied this characteristic -fulfillment. What might they do differently, or how might they shift their perception? What might they do in a similar situation the next time?
Archetypal imagery can be a powerful tool for coaches to help clients contact their deep wisdom for transformation.