“Self-help” is a popular and dominant framework for thinking about and through what it takes to achieve sustained personal change, growth, improvement and transformation. In its most helpful form, self-help programs and practices provide clear and concrete tools to unlearn old trauma responses that no longer serve their purpose or recognize and shift toxic and harmful belief systems and their attendant behavior.
Maybe if this was all self-help models and programs did, they would then prove to be on the whole more helpful and beneficial than they are in practice. On closer inspection, many self-help ideologies, books, programs, and practices contain a virulent strain of rugged individualism that overtly or implicitly invests in the idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”
The problem with such beliefs, on one hand, is that they simply are not supported by empirical realities. Whether we are talking about actual scientific research or take the time to merely observe the world around us, we quickly learn that our lives are complexly and infinitely intertwined not only with other human lives, but with all life on this planet.
Our existence as a society, species, and ultimately as a planet is founded in and governed by radical interdependence. As a species we have been created and evolved to be highly social with and dependent on other humans while simultaneously being embedded in and dependent upon other living organisms and the ecosystems we share with them. If life itself is not possible in a vacuum, then why do we rely on theories of growth and transformation that present positive personal change as an insulated process that has nothing to do with the environments, communities, and ecosystems we are located in?
Not only is rugged individualism and bootstrap ideologies not supported by the facts, but it also has the tendency of justifying toxic and destructive beliefs and practices that places our own individual wellbeing above the wellbeing of other people, communities, countries, and species. This is fueled by the illusion that happiness, health, security, and success are finite resources that must be acquired through competition over cooperation and maintained via domination instead of mutual aid and reciprocity. In short, such an approach to growth and life rationalizes “me first” behaviors that undermines the very change we often seek.
In place of “self-help,” Soul Support Life Coaching adheres to the idea and framework of “self-work.” This is different from “self-help” in that self-work, like work in general, occurs in a specific context and is not seen and understood as separate from the dynamics, forces, and energies in which it is taking place.
Self-work incorporates the notion that personal growth and transformation is a co-creative act. We work with ancestors, families (both of origin and choice), and communities to build the life and world we need and desire.
Self-work recognizes the worth and value of the individual, but it does not see that worth as being separate or different from the value of others and the whole. Sustained personal growth and wellbeing, yes, starts with an individual intention, but almost always is achieved, and most importantly, sustained through community and collective support.
Thus, Soul Support Life Coaching seeks to work with clients—whether individuals, groups, or communities—to identify a clear vision for the transformation they seek and develop strategies for co-creating this change. All with the understanding that what is ultimately good for any individual, must also be what is healthy for the collective, and vice versa. When done harmoniously, self-work invariably has a ripple effect. When we set out with the intention to be better, in any way, we are simultaneously being invited to co-create a better reality for everyone and everything else.