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Earl R. Smith II. PhD

(Read More From My Blog)

As we begin, let me set the stage. It’s our first session. We’ve dispensed with the preliminaries and I’ve decided to take you on as a mentoring client. You’ve thought through things on your end and decided that working with me is a good way to begin to change the direction of your life. We are ready to take the first step on your transformational journey.

Let’s say we’ve decided to have our first working session at a comfortable coffeehouse that I know. We’ve settled in with the wonderful aroma of well-made cappuccinos wafting up from the table. After the initial pleasantries, I ask the following question. “How many people are at this table?”

You pause and look confused. Clearly the answer’s two. There’s just you and me. Perhaps you think that it’s a trick question. But, upon quick reflection, you see no point in the question at all beyond the trivial. So you smile, look back at me and say “Clearly there are two people”.

“Is that so”, I ask? “It would seem to me that there are many more than two. In fact, I count five or six.”

What I’ve just described occurs fairly often during my initial mentoring sessions. As I continue describing the conversation, I think you’ll come to see that the question is far from trivial and that the answer I offered is quite profound. Indeed, the answer to this seemingly innocuous question is the gateway through which we must necessarily pass so that mentoring can begin in earnest.

So now let’s go back to our initial session. If you’ve decided that working with me as a mentor is worth the time and expense involved, you’ve also probably come to the conclusion that I’ve been down roads that you need to travel and understand things in ways that could help you on your journey. A mentor is, after all and if nothing else, an experienced guide. So you give me the benefit of the doubt and accept that I am not sending us on some trivial journey. “Okay,” you say “tell me about the five or six.”

“Well,” I offer “there’s the person that you are and who is sitting in front of me. When you came to me, you said that you were feeling that the life you are living was not the one that you were meant to live. As we talked about it, you said that you were concerned that you had become someone other than who you should be. You wanted to find that authentic person and build the life that you were meant to live. So the first person is that authentic person who you are and are trying to get in touch with.”

“Then there’s the vision that you have of yourself which you use as a mask to display to the world. This is the person which you have manufactured and the one that concerned you enough that you sought out my help. Your feeling of inauthenticity rises from the concern that this vision – which I will call your “self” – does not represent the person that you are. Further, you suspect that this virtual representation of you is damaging your ability to live a fulfilling life.”

“This virtual representation – this “self “- is a mitigating buffer that you have constructed between the person you are and the world out there. It serves multiple purposes. The first, and most obvious, is that it’s a representation of who you want the world to understand you are. It’s encrusted with clichés and positively value loaded descriptions. It contains the illusion of the ‘good’ and masks the suspicion of the ‘bad’. In that sense, it’s a mask. Later on we’ll deal with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ you constructed that mask but, for now, it’s enough to understand that this virtual representation – this “self” – is a creation of your perceived necessity to insulate your authentic self from the world.”

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