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Episode 13

The Transformative Power of Presence

Doug Silsbee
February 19, 2018
54 minutes

How on earth do we actually change? It’s hard. We’re wired to resist it. And yet the only constant in life is change – so how do we cultivate a healthy aptitude for inner transformation in ourselves and our clients?

In this conversation Doug Silsbee explains how to cultivate presence and realization, how to encourage neuroplastic rewiring, and the most constructive attitude we can hold towards change.

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How we change

“Who will you become if you do this the way you want to do it?”

This is the question Doug would ask his younger self, to encourage a deeper listening for the intentions behind his goals and desired outcomes. To foster the understanding that it is not so much what we do, but who we become in the process of doing it, that often drives the choices we make.

So how do we actively engage with change? Intentionality is necessary but overrated – serendipity is also necessary and overrated. There is a fine balance to be found between these two polarities in which we take inspired action but simultaneously remain open to the emerging moment.

Why presence is important

Presence is vital for dealing with change. It makes us smarter and more available to ourselves, to others, to life. It cuts through the delusions that our nervous system generates (stories, filtering, conditioning etc.), and allows us to see clearly what is in the moment.

As coaches it’s particularly important to make ourselves as available as possible and free of attachments. Following that, if presence is a requirement for coaching, should it not also be a requirement of our clients?

Doug purports that it is necessary but insufficient for coaches to cultivate presence. What we also need to do is to learn to support clients in becoming more present, so that presence becomes a coaching outcome for the client.

This means we help them develop the capacity to notice and be more aware of their own behavior, rather than just offering them tools and strategies to modify it.

Presence creates space which allows for choice before action. It has the potential to change everything – for this reason, it’s a meta-competence.

Helping clients cultivate presence

We are always responding, at a psychological and a physiological level to our external context. Our identity or psychological construct will interpret the situation as either good or bad for our ego. Our physiology, or psychobiology will respond in a way that will defend the identity.

In order to intercede in our reactions therefore, we have to create more awareness of the process. Questions such as, “What’s at stake for you in the situation” and “If this doesn’t succeed who will you be” help generate more awareness of our emotional reaction.

We can then move into the soma and ask, “Where do you feel that in your body”; presence in the body leads to much greater resourcefulness about potential constructive action.

Once we help clients build more awareness about their inner states we can then work with them to create increasing congruence between inner and outer identities, or rather, match their outer expression with who they want to be.

What is “realization”?

Realization is the term Doug uses to refer to a felt experience of insight after which reality feels different. It is accompanied by a visceral shift that lets the whole system know that this is something important.

Based on this strong response, the nervous system begins rewiring – the neural universe changes and adapts to this new information. Neuroplastic change comes through having a realization and subsequently directing attention to that realization and allowing it to take root in the nervous system.

When this happens for a client, they are able to see possibilities that they couldn’t see before. That insight or behavior will now be more accessible to them because their neural circuitry has altered in favor of it.

Change can be easy or difficult, fast or slow. What’s interesting to look at and explore is our relationship with change, and how we engage with it.

Resources mentioned:

About Doug

Doug Silsbee
Doug Silsbee

Doug Silsbee is a Master Somatic Coach with the Strozzi Institute, an author and a thought leader in the fields of Presence-Based Coaching, leadership development and resilience. Doug’s ground-breaking work integrates his experience in organizational and leadership development with mindfulness, interpersonal neurobiology, somatics, and developmental psychology, and his two books, The Mindful Coach and Presence-Based Coaching are the basis for a leading edge coach certification program.

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