In Greek Mythology, Chaos was the first created being, later giving life to Gaia, Tartarus, Erebus, and Nyx. Gaia is quite well known as the Earth, personified as a princess or, more recently, as Mother. Tartarus had a stake in the underworld, where the wicked suffered for their misdeeds. Erebus was the son of Chaos and he was the god of darkness. Nyx shared some duties with Erebus, for she was the night personified. So, according to the ancient Greeks we were at something of a disadvantage right from the beginning. Almost all creation stories begin with turmoil of some sort. Science has its Big Bang. Philosophers describe chaos as part of the Human Condition.
Is chaos a bad thing?
There are two layers to chaos. The first is the chaos that is inside our minds. It is a result of fighting against our personal reality. We all want to be in control. But life disagrees. Life doesn’t care who wins. It cooperates where cooperation benefits it, there is some wriggle room at the edges of that. So, a lot of personal angst is actually self-inflicted, coming from a struggle against reality
On a larger scale there is the Chaos that has no single source. It affects us, but there’s little or nothing we can do or could have done about it. Bushfires, active volcanoes, tidal surges, the cancelling of Joss Whedon’s magnificent ‘Firefly’ television series.
Is chaos really necessary?
It is, even though at times it can be uncomfortable. Chaos is a foundational factor in creativity. It is generative because it causes change. For the purposes of this article we’ll focus on negative chaos. That is, a breakdown or breakaway that is experienced as unwanted, limiting, or unfavourable. Everyone experiences it at some time and the reasons are uncountable.
How do we help ourselves and others overcome avoidable chaos, and deal with unavoidable chaos?
There are many opinions, and many of them are in conflict with each other. It has been recently estimated that the self-help industry turned over 11 billion dollars in 2019 in America alone and is expected to grow by 5.6% in 2020, although the coronavirus pandemic may well see that figure surpassed. That represents a lot of people looking for answers. Often, what the individual thinks is the problem is not the real problem, or is only a partial understanding of it.
We are in an age of widespread emotional dislocation and it plays out in many ways. Expectation is high and resilience is low. A persistent sense of loss or fear of potential loss seems often to be present in a diffuse way. That makes the genesis event, the issue powering it, difficult to pinpoint and therefore difficult to overcome.
‘Accountability’ is the new catchword, and the coach is seen as someone who will ‘keep the client honest’ – a sort of personal trainer for the soul – in meeting the timing and activities to achieve their stated goals. This may well do for those people who really just need a little push in the right direction, but it probably fails many others. There are many people who don’t know why they do a thing that repels fulfilment, and many who don’t know why they don’t do a thing that would lead them to a more satisfying life. If the true answer is not in the conscious mind, then it is probably lodged in the subconscious. And it’s in the subconscious that better answers may be found.
How do we really make a difference in the world?
If we are not university trained in the psychology and pathology of human behaviour it can be difficult to assist those who seek out a coach. That can leave the coach open to offering advice that, while well-intentioned, may be very wide of the mark.
History suggests those who will succeed and prosper will be those who study. Fortunately, the Internet has given rise to pockets of sophisticated e-learning through short courses. There are excellent and insightful courses on Future Learn, Coursera, and Udemy. Many are free and require only a few hours to complete. As an introduction some of the courses can be invaluable.
For those who prefer to self pace or learn in a less regimented environment, there are many books that help the layperson understand the basics of human dynamics. Jung and Freud can be impenetrable to many. Alfred Adler, at the time psychoanalysis was in its infancy, was considered to be the third father of that sphere of study.
Adler was, to some, the runt of the psychoanalytical litter. His writing and conclusions are easy to understand and quite persuasive. If nothing else, they offer an alternative opinion to those of his colleagues. There is a 5-book bundle here. The first three in particular are both interesting and insightful.
Perhaps the first and most basic steps are to read into Adler and others, to get a worm’s eye view of personality dynamics. They can be a useful means to inform and educate. Short online courses, some of which offer a certificate upon successful completion, can be chosen by interest, intention, or new understanding.
Emotional Freedom Techniques
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) also known as tapping, is a worthwhile self-help technology.
Unfortunately, tapping has become bloated with diversions and at times misused or mischaracterised by entrepreneurial salespeople, so rather a lot of the publicly available information has become misrepresented and useless. In its best form, though, it’s still a powerful tool worthy of being looked into. In the hands of a capable practitioner, it can be formidable.
If you’re curious about EFT and some of its powerful and workable derivatives visit Steve Wells at www.eftdownunder.com. Wells is a qualified therapist who, years ago, stumbled across EFT and was fascinated by its potential. He went on to develop three derivatives: PET (Provocative Energy Techniques), SET (Simple Energy Techniques), and IEP (Intention Energy Process).
Consider which technologies and information resonate with your interests and, importantly, offer your clients a means to self-manage. For a coaching tool to be helpful to many over an extended period, it must be stable, reliable, and repeatable. It may have an element of personal faith attached but it should also have been empirically researched, and withstood the rigours of methodical testing. It should equip the user to help themselves. Hand-holding is a poor long-term strategy. It should be used with integrity.
So, to encapsulate:
- If you’re in the business of helping others, you have an unwritten social contract to be informed. This requires commitments to open-mindedness and learning.
- Find technologies that work and employ them.
- Practice integrity.
- Understand the broad nature of chaos. Not all of it is bad. A little scouring of the soul
occasionally can be a good thing.
In parts of historical China, the barefoot doctor would be paid by a village or villages to keep them healthy and well. If any became sick they stopped paying the doctor until they recovered. That concept runs so counter to ours, and yet there’s a charm and sense to it. Look out for your own interests but in a professional capacity look out for your client’s interests just a little bit more. As new industries such as life coaching mature, there is historical evidence to suggest laws will be enacted to protect the client, ensure minimum educational standards for practitioners, and codify standards of practice.
Life coaching can’t and shouldn’t only be based on the lived experiences of the coach. The “How I Survived and Thrived After (Insert Chaotic Experience here)’ conversation is crowded and doesn’t always work as hoped. Somewhere between the ‘Life Story’ coach and the recognised therapist is where successful future coaches will exist. They will be the nexus between the well-meaning amateur and the expensive therapist.
I hope these ideas help you manage your chaos a little better.