Doug Silsbee is a masterful coach who has done some really great work in the somatic realm, making the connection between our body, actions, and thinking. His most recent blog post, for me, captures the very essence of why coaching carries so much power to shift lives, as coaching serves as midwife to the birth of new awareness and new ways of Being in the world, beyond old habits.
I am posting his essay here, and you can also read it on (and subscribe to) his blog at http://www.dougsilsbee.com/blog/authorship
We humans like to think we’re in charge.
We like to think that we’re making decisions, charting the course of our lives, being creative.
In fact, most of what we think, say, and do is driven by a level of habituation that we can scarcely imagine. We are, fundamentally, an extraordinarily complex collection of conditioned habits, laid in through a combination of genetics, culture, and psychological shaping. Everything we believe about the world, what is worth doing, and how to respond in life is embedded in physiology. As such, every perception and interpretation is a manifestation of particular groups of neurons biologically entrained to fire together. How we lead our lives is constrained by this truth: we can only take actions that our nervous systems allow us to take.
Meanwhile, an infinity of possibilities lies just out of reach… available to us in principle, but inaccessible because of our hard-wired predispositions.
Our favorite TV show, Brothers and Sisters, features basically likeable and good people engaging in behaviors that are both destructive and astoundingly predictable. We watch them on screen, practically leaping out of our seats: “Stop! Don’t do that! You have a choice!”
We all do such automatic behaviors; the main difference between them and us is that we get to watch them on TV. If this sounds grim, I apologize. While I’m not actually a proponent of determinism (the belief that our lives and destinies are set,) the truth is closer to this than most of us imagine.
Yet, we do have choice. It’s just that most of us are asleep at the wheel most of the time. The trick is to learn to witness ourselves, to watch ourselves on the screen of our awareness as we move through life.
Human development can be seen as a process of waking up to the choices that were there all the time. When we witness the nature of our habituation, when we open to the possibilities that our habits previously screened out, we have a moment of real choice.
As we develop, we see that we are the only person we could be: the perfect and inevitable product of the conditions that gave rise to us.
And, we are the author of our own lives. As we wake up to this choicefulness, we become less and less driven by our habits, and more able to consciously author.
We live in an extraordinary time, in which the fundamental structures of the environmental, social, and economic fabric that supports our culture and very existence are shifting in significant ways. We are also authors of the world, in the midst of this shift; every action that we take or don’t take affects the whole in a chain of causality that is inconceivably complex. A special responsibility comes with the recognition of this authorship; giraffes and slugs presumably also author the world in their own ways, but are not cognizant of it.
EcoSomatic Leadership requires that we awaken not only to the nature of our own habituation, but also to the global context in which we are living. Living in this awareness, we are connected to ourselves and to the whole living system of which we are a living expression. We become increasingly at choice about how we author. We evolve into living in a set of commitments that are relevant to the world that we choose to bring forward.
This is the fundamental work of our time.