One of my favourite things to work with in coaching is the idea of the Inner Team or even better, the Inner Zoo. The Inner Team is a personality model by the Hamburg psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun. The plurality of the human inner life or parts of the personality is represented in it with the metaphor of a team and its leader. This is incredibly helpful in problem solving and provides the prerequisite for clear and authentic communication to the rest of the world.
Your inner team leader is the superior „I“ who listens to the different voices, possibly also moderates the inner dialogue, but in any case, should lead the communication to the outside.
Most of these inner parts already show up in our everyday language be it as metaphors, idiomatic expressions, or nicknames. (You have met the Inner Martyr recently…) From the busy bee to the bull in the China shop, from being a sloth to the madness of the March Hare – language is rich with material to choose from in naming your inner parts. Try it: look inside yourself and try to isolate the different voices, giving them names. It can be a well spent afternoon for you, funny, entertaining, and enlightening.
It is entirely possible to have seemingly contradicting inner voices. This is a frequent problem that makes decision-making torture for many.
Being a lazy sloth, a disrupting gadfly, and a lone wolf works quite well together. As does being a card shark, a peacock, and the black sheep of the family. But neither the former nor the latter would like to be a lark. Much more convenient for them to be night owls. On the other hand, if the night owl is a busy bee and workhorse, you can already imagine the burnout looming in their future. The cougar might well be a scaredy cat. And if the peacock meets an outspoken wise owl, he probably turns out to be a chicken.
No matter who they are – the most important thing is to get them all around the table.
Sitting down and taking your time (alone or with a coach or a well-meaning other), imagining, naming, and inviting all your inner parts to the big conference is not only enriching and enlightening, but also strengthening and helpful for future moments of confusion and doubt. (You can gladly integrate any totems or power animals you already have and love into this new framework!) Once you have spotted the troublemakers, or the antagonists and inseparable friends in your team, it is easier to manage them. Knowing your inner cheeky monkey enables you to keep them calm in important serious situations. Knowing of the busy Beaver and the night owl can motivate you to be adamant about your evening routines.
Knowing your inner zoo can make your life healthier. And funnier.
Apart from the conscious dealing with the inner parts on a day-to-day basis, the knowledge can help you figure out your best options in any complicated decision-making process. Understanding why you feel yourself attracted to a risky decision while at the same time quaking in your boots is so helpful. Learning about your inner lioness, that will always fight for you, is so reassuring. Deciding when to let the busy beaver lead the way, and when the sloth gets to take over is more than relevant! It might feel weird to be haggling with your inner parts, but the more you know yourself the easier it will be to build a life that is authentic to you.
The goal is not to let neither your inner chicken nor your inner daredevil take the lead without consulting with everybody else.
If you are into pro and con lists, try attributing a personality to each bullet point: the courageous lion says, the fearful chicken objects, the snuggle bunny feels, the cunning fox thinks, the ant feels like a tiny part of a big organism that says …
And if you do not find any more animals, do not hesitate to throw in a mad Prof, a daredevil, a rake, a Vulcan, a Klingon, a witch, an accountant, Godzilla, or a Queen! Welcome the clichés, the overdramatised and the ridiculous – they will serve you well.
I wish you much success and incredible fun in this experiment – whoever lurks inside youR Inner Zoo, they will all do you good. The main thing is that you hold the reins, losely.
Heartfelt, wherever you might be right now,
P.P.S.: Let me know which part of the Inner Zoo I should invite as a guestblogger…!