Tethered Souls

How we’re all loosely coupled as variations of ourselves – a different perspective of Michael Singer’s Untethered Soul.

In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer says he’s asked countless people, pointing at them, “Are you in there?” He says the answer is always “Yes.” He then asks “Who are you?” and goes on a fascinating exploration of how we see ourselves.

It came to me that if Michael were to ask me “Are you in there?” pointing at my head, my first instinct would be to reply “No, I’m in there.” Pointing at his head.

I don’t know the total number of times Michael uses the word “you” in his books when trying to help us recognize who we are, but it’s a lot. The Google Books search only shows a few pages, but they are littered with the word you.

My premise, to the person asking “Are you in there?” is that who I am to them exists in their head. Further every living entity that knows me has a slightly different image of who I am. Just imagine the notion of who you are as described by your ex as opposed to yourself or your current partner. I suspect you’ll recognize there are three completely different versions of who you are and yet to each, there is a very clear, unquestioning understanding of who you are.

It is like living in multiple parallel universes where there are slightly (or largely) different versions of you (and every other entity) living a slightly (or largely) different life.

Singer helps us explore how we see ourselves to become self-aware. I postulate there is also great value in appreciating that who we are exists in many variations inside the minds of those that interact with us. Also, we may choose to believe that our perspective of who we are is the most accurate; however, is it not possible that we also hold the greatest incentive to be biased about how we see ourselves as based on the patterns our experience has taught us to look for and then associate attributions?


P.S. There’s a great HBR article on this topic:

What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)

I wrote the above before reading the article and have added what’s below after reading it. The author postulates:

“Self-awareness isn’t one truth. It is a delicate balance between two distinct, even competing, viewpoints.”

I would argue the number of distinct truths is more than 2x the number of people that have an opinion about you:

  1. There is how you see yourself,
  2. there is how each of them sees you,
  3. there is how you believe each of them sees you and
  4. there are multiple combinations of how one external person imagines another external person views you (e.g. how does a second line manager believe an individual contributor sees their first line manager, or how does a promoter believe audience members perceive a speaker they are promoting (Brené Brown has some good stories on that front)

P.P.S. When I’ve coached leaders in work environments in the past, I would often start with a 360 survey that was a combination of various leadership attributes the coachee was curious about that were a combination, their manager felt they could use help with and questions I thought would be of value. The thing that often proved the most insightful was that I created three variants of the survey:

  1. How do you see yourself with regard to various leadership attributes?
  2. How do others you work with (colleagues, reports, higher-ups) see you?
  3. How do you believe they see you?

Often, the most fascinating and helpful conversations resulted not by looking at different responses but rather exploring the discovery that three distinct perspectives often exist…

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