The practice of Life Coaching arose out of athletic coaching in sports and is broadly defined as a collaborative process of helping someone improve performance or satisfaction in some aspect of their lives. In contrast with psychological counselling or therapy which is often focused on pathology rooted in past experiences or flawed thinking processes (cognition), Life Coaching is focused more on the hear and now by working towards improving the present as well providing guidance and tools for achieving future goals in a client’s professional, relationship, creative or even spiritual aspects of life. Although distinct from the field of counselling psychology or psychiatry, Life Coaching is still fundamentally grounded in models and approaches from psychology and so the evolution of Life Coaching is closely tied to the evolution of the science’s behind human psychology and flourishing.
When we consider how the field of psychology has evolved since it was formally recognized as a distinct science in the late 19th century, we can recognize four major milestones or what are called “Forces” which reflect new or expanded understanding of human psychology and behaviour. These Four Forces mirror the growth of scientific, neurological and psychological knowledge as it relates to our evolving understanding of mind, consciousness, wellness and human flourishing. These Four Forces of psychology (broadly defined) have evolved through the following stages:
Although this is a very broad categorization with a great deal of overlap, one can see an expanding view of human psychology and wellness evolving first through a focus mainly on pathology and materialistic models of mind (Psychoanalytic and Behavioral), followed by happiness and wellness (Humanistic) and now integrating the holistic, spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience (Transpersonal). This relatively new (since around the 60’s) Fourth Force of psychology called the transpersonal, integrates aspects of the mind, body and spirit into a broader and more holistic view of human wellness and flourishing. What makes this latest evolution of psychology so unique, is that alongside the traditional neurological, cognitive and other approaches to understanding mind and consciousness, transpersonal psychology embraces science, research and approaches to wellness common to Eastern wisdom traditions as well as peak, mystical, near death and awakening experiences which include altered states of consciousness and self-transcendent states.
At least as far back as the beginning of recorded history and described in religious or spiritual texts from many traditions – particularly in the East – we find evidence that human’s have long had the capacity for powerful altered states of consciousness which break through the restricted boundaries of ego and produce profound alterations in our relationships to self, other and the cosmos. These self-transcendent “awakening” experiences have typically been identified with religious, mystical or shamanic contexts. However, as a result of various studies in transpersonal psychology, we now know these profound states of psychological transformation are far more common than we first thought and tend to occur most often outside of a religious or spiritual context 2. Hence the term “awakening experience” (as opposed to religious or mystical experience) is now preferred and more accurately represents the secular (non-religious) and far more common expression of these profound transformational and psychological experiences.
A person’s psychology, perspectives on life and sense of self all tend to change irrevocably following such awakening experiences. Individuals who experience these transpersonal awakening experiences tend to become aware of their fundamental interconnectedness with all life which often leads to shifts of perception and changes in behavior where they become more compassionate, altruistic and often re-evaluate their goals, careers or personal values.2 Perceptions of self and ego expand to include other people, all life, and even the cosmos. Some have even speculated that these awakening experiences are not only far more common than previously thought, but universal to all human’s and the capacity is simply dormant, awaiting the right situation or experience to be revealed and one day along our evolutionary path, may become the way we all experience the world all the time.
“… awakened people may be prematurely experiencing a state that is latent in many other people — and in the whole human race collectively — and that will become more common as time goes by, and will one day become the norm.” 3
No doubt these powerful and transformational self-transcendent experiences shed light on the higher functions and potential of human consciousness. Therefore, the practice of Life Coaching would be remiss and incomplete, to ignore the transpersonal (spiritual) aspects of human psychology. Fortunately, these transpersonal aspects of human psychology and transformation are showing up in coaching programs and practices around the world.
“Transpersonal Coaching empowers people to transcend the ego states, mindsets and behaviours that inhibit their personal, professional and spiritual growth.” 1
(1) Dangeli, Jevon (2017). Transpersonal Coaching: An Introduction. Retrieved from http://authentic-self-empowerment.com/transpersonal-coaching/
(2) Taylor, Steve (2012). Spontaneous Awakening Experiences: Beyond Religion and Spiritual Practice. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 44(1).
(3) Taylor, Steve (2017). The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.