Coming Home: Uncovering the Foundations of Psychological Well-being Book Review
Author: Dr. Dicken Bettinger & Natasha Swerdloff
Book Review By: Jena Brune
“Deep within, waiting to be uncovered, is your wisdom. It exists beyond anything that you are thinking” – Bettinger & Swerdloff, 2016, p.15
Sydney Banks was a middle-aged Scottish welder plagued by insecurity when his entire worldview was blown open by the statement, “You are not insecure, you just think you are.” Through this experience and a following epiphany, Sydney’s approach to self and to the world was radically changed. He articulated his realizations about the nature of life through his Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought and went on to share these principles through writings and lectures for the next forty years. Inspired by his teaching, Bettinger and Swerdloff collaborate to offer their understandings of Sydney’s work and the potential it holds for our individual and collective well-being. Coming Home speaks to the relevance and potency of a coach accompanying a coachee to become aware of their meaning making, unearth their limiting beliefs, and try on thoughts that expand their understanding and their possibility. Just beneath the words shared in this book, a coach can also recognize the power of “switching channels” to support a coachee in getting out of their own way and quieting their comfortable narratives in order to open their “seeing” and move forward from their wisdom.
The Three Principles: “The instant your thinking changes, your experience changes.” p.37
The Principle of Mind speaks to the unseen source of life that is with each of us at all times. The divine intelligence that guides cells to become beings, plants to emerge from seeds, and snakes to shed their skin. The Principle of Consciousness is our awareness, our senses. Consciousness animates our thoughts and activates our feelings. The Principle of Thought is our capacity to assemble perceptions, experiences, and emotions. Out of this power, our personal thinking is born (our unique interpretations of the world) as is our ability to exercise free will in how we will act/not act on our thinking.
These concepts are somehow so simple that they feel complex, or slippery, like something you can only hold onto only briefly before it slides away. However, as it relates to coaching, it seems useful to anchor the idea that we are all connected to, and through, these universal principles of being. Every one of us has access to these forces of life AND each one of us is generating a unique reality based in our personal thinking. It is here that we can take agency and come to recognize that how we choose to attend to our thoughts creates our reality. A coach can hold the space for both the realization of this truth and the process for stepping into that agency.
Principles in Everyday Life: “Your thoughts have no power on their own, only that which you give them” p.75
Bettinger and Swerdloff walk us through these big picture principles and ground them in examples of common questions of how these truths can be useful in our day-to-day struggles and ambitions. They acknowledge that thoughts, experiences, circumstances will march on, but the difference lies in our choice on what/how we engage with our thoughts and what to notice and simply release. This framework asks us to take responsibility for our experiences and our feelings about them. This is not to say that a person actualized in this way of thinking will be free from harm or struggle. Rather, the authors suggest that working with these principles can support our resilience, help us choose to act on behalf of our own well-being and values versus expending energy on blame, attachment to stale narratives, or any external forces we can deploy to blur our own agency or peace.
Key to stepping out of our patterns and projection, and into our innate wisdom, is the ability to quiet our stories. This is where the support of a skilled coach could be incredibly useful while a coachee is building their muscles of noticing, curiosity, and trust in true self. A coach’s choice of powerful questions, exploring second attentions and meaning making, and use of different channels to approach an inquiry has incredible potential to break through the familiar rhythms of our habit and performance. From this place there is room to shake loose our limiting beliefs and space opens for new thinking to emerge. It also creates room for a coachee to acknowledge and interrogate their feelings rather than burying or rationalizing them. Through this exercise, these feelings, even when complicated or uncomfortable, can become informative guides instead of roadblocks in the path forward.
Coming Home: “Just by increasing your level of understanding, you will bring more love and wisdom into the world.” p.103
The book concludes by illustrating how we might recognize living into these principles, or catching glimpses that support wellbeing for ourselves, others, and the world. The authors remind us that this quiet and wisdom is always there if we choose to notice and be with it. They suggest that we can begin to see our own insight in the simple shifts and intuitions that arise, the thoughts that “come to us vs those that we think”. They share that we will wonder “what is ego vs deeper knowing?” and point out that our wisdom will lack tension and urgency it will simply feel expansive and true; that walking with this acceptance releases our attachment to judgements, blame, and outcomes. We learn to become present with ourselves and those around us. Through all of this, our minds and hearts will open both modeling and making room for a different, and more loving, way of being in, and with, the world.
There is much to learned from Coming Home about supporting a coachee or client. There is also a great deal of insight here for a coach preparing to settle into a session and releasing our own attachments and stories in order to be present and move with the client rather than leading, or assuming, best paths forward. The power here, is in trusting essential energy moves through us all (Principle of Mind/We all have gifts and talents), knowing that our awareness goes beyond the surface of what is said and seen (Principle of Consciousness/Creative approaches can reveal deeper answers), and believing that we can impact our thinking (Power of Thought/our ways of knowing and doing are rooted in the stories we tell ourselves and those can change). Learning to work with this and to recognize the sensations of presence, of acceptance, and of agency will not only benefit clients as they strive to work from their place of wisdom but also the coach as they step into their role to do the same.