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Transpersonal means ‘beyond the personal’ and is a systems approach which recognizes the interconnectedness of individuals, families, communities and organizations.

‘It recognizes and works with yearning ingrained in the human psyche for something beyond the personal, beyond the material and everyday. This may be expressed in many different ways, through religious or ethical practice, through creativity within and outside the workplace, through volunteering, community work and other forms of service’ (Whitmore and Einzig 2006:19)

The approach focuses on the future and the development of potential, accessing intuition and inspiration and exploring higher feelings and values. Attention is paid to the unconscious as much as the conscious. The use of guided imagery is central as it accesses the unconscious and utilizes the imagination to bring about deep change.

Another aspect of transpersonal coaching is the idea that our identity is made up of many sub-personalities. Carl Jung identified a range of sub-personalities or archetypes which are cross-cultural e.g. hero/ heroine, princess, queen, king, mystic, martyr, clown, rebel, teacher, healer, critic, servant, saboteur, trickster, child, victim, rescuer, bully, actor/ actress, judge, artist. One of the limitations of computer aided guidance programes is that they only work with the conscious self i.e. people answer questions according to how they already perceive their selves rather than their whole self, their potential selves. Career practitioners can enable people to reflect beyond these limitations and get in touch with other, quieter or less developed aspects of their personalities. Drama can be used in career education programs to inhabit different aspects of the self, to try out new roles on for size, to expand and challenge the self concept.

Jung explains how the rational, conscious concept of one’s self is like a small island floating on an ocean of the unconscious. If the unconscious is ignored then it can trip us up. Career practitioners often encounter clients who set rational goals and express a determination to achieve them. Away from the session they flounder, their motivation ebbs and their action dwindles. This can reflect the presence of an inner saboteur – anxieties, insecurities and fears, if unacknowledged can hold the most talented and determined of people back from success. Thankfully, through dialogue with others and self-reflection, the unconscious can become more known, thinking patterns changed and trapdoors circumnavigated.

“Reflection is ‘an act whereby we stop, call something to mind, form a picture, and take up a relation to and come to terms with what we have seen. It should, therefore, be understood as an act of becoming conscious.”
(Jung 1942 cited in Jung 1969 p235)

The practitioner coach may ask questions such as ‘which part of you wants this …. and which part of you wants that’, helping the coachee to identify and name the sub-personalities. Then they may ask ‘what would you say to that part of yourself’, which helps the coachee to gain objective distance and engage in helpful self-talk. Skills Development Scotland has developed a coaching approach to guidance which utilizes transpersonal coaching. It has proved very successful with young people who suffer from anxiety. Instead of identifying with that anxious part if their selves, they name it, even using modelling clay to create something that represents that part of their selves. In doing so, they externalize and gain critical distance from that part without repressing it. They are then encouraged to reflect on what they could say to that part of their selves to reassure and reduce the anxiety.

Further reading
Beck, M (2012) Finding your way in a wild new world. Piatkus
Jung, C. (1942) a pyschological approach to the dogma of the trinity in the collected works of C.G. Jung, (1969) Psychology and Religion, West and East.

Whitemore, J and Einzig, H. in Passmore, J (ed)Excellence in Coaching. Kogan Page. ch 8

To read more about transpersonal coaching go to: the institute of transpersonal coaching