The Great Illusion of the Self

A series of surprising articles titled The Great Illusion of the Self were featured in last weeks New Scientist magazine. Topic covered included:

  • If the moment in time we are supposed to be inhabiting turns out to be a mere construction, the same is likely to be true of the self existing in that present.
  • There are flaws in our intuitive beliefs about what makes us who we are…
  • Our brains create our own version of reality to help us make sense of things. But this means we’re living outside time…
  • Your mind isn’t as firmly anchored in your body as you think…
  • Our perception of our self might be an illusion, like free will…

What surprised me most was how these concepts were presented as relatively new thinking. The truth is these concepts have been central to transformational coaching practices for some time and have existing in one form or another for 1000’s of years.

For example, I’ve coached many people who’ve expressed an underlying sense of being “not good enough” which holds them back, undermines their confidence to take action and prevents them from making things happen. This identity level belief is neither true nor false – it’s just what the person makes it, as in only they can decide what judgements they make about themselves. What is true is that for them to have such a concept means, at some level, it must be true, even if they are rarely aware of it consciously.

Fortunately, the ability to change identity level beliefs is inherent in the human condition. You’ll recognise this as you watch young children at play. It seems we become less familiar with this ability as we get older.

One way to change these beliefs is using a process of guided realisations. Individuals often describe a sense of letting go of old ideas that have been holding them back, a sense of freedom and improved confidence, and the ability to succeed where they had previously failed.

You can read New Scientist articles for yourself here (you can register for free)

… and if you’d like to, you can find other examples at

Best wishes,

Paul Burden MSc
Personal Performance Coach
PerformWell – Professional Performance and Health

By Paul Burden – Performance Coach & Director at PerformWell

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