My love-hate relationship

I think I am coming around to the realisation that a doctorate is a love-hate relationship. Something I enjoy and at the same time frustrates me as well. I can hit the depths of ‘what the hell have I been doing for the past 18 months’ and the highs of, ‘wow that’s a real insight that’s popped out of being made to think about this for 18 months’. So, I hate being held to account on a pin head and yet love the result that that gets from me. Although I am working on alleviating the frustration and having more of the love moments.

I am in the process of moving to a new university, UWTSD, and one which I wish I’d found at the start as they are more structured in their approach and I can relate to them and the way they think. Overall, I feel they care about me and I am not just a means to an end. However – big however, this does mean that I have to get my research approved all over again as their process doesn’t quite align to Middlesex’s. I thought it might be relatively straight forward but I am now understanding how open the Middlesex programme was and the consequences of that. I think it would have caught me out in the end so I am glad to have hit upon it now and I think the end result will be more robust and meaningful. At least I am not going round in circles, as it’s a spiral, so I’ve been here before but this time it has shifted me to a different level.

They are still in academia and can have interesting ways of putting things. So, when I got asked to ‘situate my research in relation to existing coaching practices’, I blew a slight gasket and had a teenage moment of asking if they could put it into plain English then I might be able to do that but currently I didn’t have a clue what that meant. It turned out they meant  is quite simple and I probably should have been better at answering it a long time ago but it seems to have fallen off my radar when it should have been centre stage! The question is “what is the specific situation in your coaching that you really want this research to actually help you with? How will the research outcome help with that and enhance your coaching?” (The pin head). I’d moved on from here a long time ago when it appears I am supposed to use this as my anchor point. At last the Research proposal and the Project proposal make sense as I wondered how they differed.

Three days later, two very late nights, ten pages of scribbled notes from various ah-ha moments during my waking hours (I carry it with me now). And I eventually crafted my response: In a nutshell, I have some coachees who logically get what actions they need to take to make the change they say they want to but actually do very little towards it – they are very hesitant about the changes to be made. If I could develop a model of what mechanism is acting to maintain the status quo then I would have a chance of helping those coachees make the changes and get to where they’d like to be. Then I realised that the coaching assignments where this happens are really pushing into territory coachee’s might view as changing ‘who they are’, the Self, rather than more congruent, although stretching, changes. Given ‘who we are’ has been designed to help us navigate life safely and securely I might be a bit hesitant about changing it as well.

Yesterday I decided to listening to the AC’s latest webinars and Aboodi talks about coachee’s being “attached to their structure of interpretation”. So now I am tuned to looking at my research from a different place I am suddenly noticing different things that are relevant – or maybe I’ve just stubbled across them – a theme in this level of research I feel.

I really hope synaptic plasticity is true because mine must have been working overtime this week – hopefully in all ways. Yes, I didn’t realise that it happens in so many ways. We rave a lot about this and yet it is happening all the time. By the time you’ve read this your brain has already changed – synapse by synapse. Maybe one less-used presynaptic terminal died as it doesn’t get enough nourishment. Some post-synaptic terminals will be stronger and more effective at firing which can happen in a number of ways:

  • The pre-synaptic terminal creates more neurotransmitter or it releases its neurotransmitter for longer.
  • The post-synaptic terminal:
    • The receptors on it move to the part of the membrane closest to the pre-synaptic terminal – they gather together.
    • Receptors become more sensitive to the neurotransmitter so it is more effective.
    • It creates more receptors and sends them to the membrane edge. Also, these are held firmer by the ‘scaffolding structures’ so they stay at the membrane edge for longer. Signals are sent to the neuron’s nuclei such that more receptors are made. Having ‘tagged’ which dendritic spine needs them, they travel back to it. Overtime, this can lead to the postsynaptic terminal dividing into two followed by the presynaptic terminal, thus creating two separate synapses.
    • Also, there are silent synapses which become active.

All of this creates ‘long term potentiation’ – enhanced effectiveness which lasts for a long time. It makes me think that practising is really important within coaching as it starts to create and embed some of these changes. Serotonin is mentioned a lot so I am beginning to think about how I can affect that. When we talk about how important the relationship is in coaching, I think that is because it tends to support serotonin release which appears to enhance learning and inhibit the amygdala – makes it feel safer.