an Integral Enneagram of Consciousness; a model of consciousness, including
all aspects, for designing practical
paths of personal development and evolution.
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in the background while you file, exercise, ride to work, etc.
Recently I was asked why I emphasize linguistics and communication so
much in my work as a coach, and I was struck by how that question hadn’t
really occurred to me. When we’ve been at something for decades, we
often take certain things for granted and move on. One of the most
valuable things about teaching is that it yanks us back to “Beginner’s
Mind,” and we’re forced to re-examine our assumptions and ways of
This is especially true when we’re working with very different kinds of
people with different backgrounds. What both connects and divides us
becomes how we say what we say. So why do I emphasize
communication? The first thing that comes to me is that language and
words are the mortar between the bricks of every interaction we have.
This includes the thousands of interactions you have every day with
yourself. Have you ever thought about how much you talk to yourself in
your own head? Have you ever thought about how you talk to
yourself? This incredibly important activity we’re engaged in 24/7 (yes
even in our dreams) is described by the study of Cognitive Linguistics.
A simple way of looking at Cognitive Linguistics is that it’s the
two-way dynamic where how we think about something determines the
language we use, and our language determines how we think about things.
It’s kind of amazing that we rarely spend much time thinking about
something that’s practically the basis of who we are, and how we
function in the world. This is another one of those things we take for
granted, and don’t take the time to examine, unless of course we have to
explain it to someone. When unconscious, it’s as dangerous to our
psyches and those around us as operating heavy machinery unconsciously
would be to our physical surroundings. We step on a lot of toes,
including our own.
Before I ask you to get introspective about this, let’s look at a simple
example of the power of Cognitive Linguistics. Think about how others
talk to you and how they treat you. Do you see a connection? When they
talk to you in a supportive way, how do you feel? How do you do
whatever tasks are in front of you? How about when they’re harsh or
critical with you? How do you feel? How do you do whatever tasks are in
front of you now?
Maybe it’s not surprising that we tend to internalize the voices around
us especially when we’re young. If we heard criticism a lot, we took on
that communication style in our heads, and tend to criticize ourselves,
without anyone even being around. If we’re really sensitive to
criticism, and aren’t paying attention, we might project this on others,
and hear them criticizing us, even when they’re not. That kind of
projection is more common than you might think.
Another common dynamic is what I call “narration.” People talk to
themselves as if they’re doing the “voice over” for their lives all day
long using language they absorbed from another time and place. What
they’re not noticing is how this is often not a very nice voice, and
might be beating them up a bit. Some people even have a kind of “inner
drill sergeant” barking at them all day long. They’re not taking into
account how this makes them feel, do work, or interact with others, but
I bet you can guess.
If we’re criticizing on the inside, we’re criticizing on the outside,
and vice versa, regardless of how aware of this we might think we are.
The more we bring it into conscious awareness, the more we can
intentionally change the nature of that communication. We can speak to
ourselves in a more loving, supportive tone, and observe how much more
we get done, and without mistakes. We might also notice others
responding more positively toward us as well.
The Words Themselves
place we can probably have the most impact on ourselves and those around
us is in the actual word choices we use. My friend Peter and I did a
workshop a while back where we looked specifically at words as
metaphorical bars on self-made prisons. There are so many ways that we
limit ourselves and discourage ourselves merely by unconsciously using
certain words. We talked about how when we repeat a kind of story long
enough, we start to believe it, and this can be incredibly restricting.
Those stories tend to have the familiar, “I can’t, I never, I wouldn’t,”
limiters, and of course mask the deeper “I’m not enough” type stories.
Merely by taking the pre-decided endings off these unfinished stories of
our lives, we open the gates to new ways of approaching everything.
Maybe I never was able to “get math” before, but that doesn’t mean I
can’t learn math in my future, anymore than what you see in your
rear-view mirror is exactly what’s going to be in your windshield. This
is especially true when you really take the reins on going where you
intentionally want to go.
By changing our language and how we describe reality to ourselves, we
can literally change how we think. I’ll give you another example, and
yes, this will be all too familiar with those of you who know me or have
worked with me. We’ve all heard that “try” is a limp noodle of a word,
and we need to think “do or do not” according to Yoda among
others. Here’s the Cognitive Linguistic reason that you’ll literally
feel the difference in your body.
the words “I’ll try” to the words, “I will do the best I can.” The
replacement phrase contains three strong cognitive messages: a
commitment (I will) a goal of quality and action (do the best)
finished with an affirmation (I can.) You’ll truly feel a
physical difference. Virtually everyone’s posture improves. If that tiny
shift can make you feel that differently, imagine the hundreds of shifts
you could experience, and how good you could feel. Our internal language
works like instructions; we’re always building who we are from within.
When we can identify our internal language, we can correct the “bugs” in
the program, and consciously re-write to align with our positive
intentions and desires.
Want to learn more about how to become the best you possible?
Come visit the
or better yet,
contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.
- Ian J. Blei
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Institute for Integral Enneagram
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