Ontology is the science or study of “being.” Now, what is the meaning of being? There is a view of humans that emphasizes what it means to exist and seeks to understand what it means to be me as opposed to being you. This is called our ‘way of being’. It looks at everyday existence as well as what existence or being would be like if we were truly authentic; completely true to ourselves. This being experiences itself, not only as itself, but as a being in relationship to the world in which it exists.
As we understand things within the world, we come to understand their meanings. In the understanding, possibilities are revealed. For example, when I understand the meaning of a doorway, I also create and understand the possibility of walking through it to another space, or closing it to close off another space. So my understanding of the world, my experience of it, reveals possibilities. Possibilities tell us what can be done in the future. As we are experiencing the world we are also influenced by past experiences which leave us with a particular mood or state of mind. This is the effect of the past. And in any present moment we are heavily influenced by the culture in which we live. Mass culture has a profound effect on the way we live our lives, make decisions, and form our values.
Here is the birth of anxiety. Anxiety is a fear, not of a specific threat, but a generalized fear of existence as a human being. This is not a bad thing; uncomfortable, yes, but not bad. It signifies that we are beginning to understand the nature of existing in the world, for within these three parts of being are inherent struggles. Our view of possibility for the future, our state of mind produced by our experiences in the past, and the effect of sharing this world with others and their influences cannot coexist peacefully. Anxiety is a natural and healthy response. The alternative is to resign ourselves (that is to give up our authentic way of being) in favor of the predefined way of being prescribed by society in order to reduce the angst. In this way, the fact that we experience anxiety is a good thing. It forces us to confront the tension between our true selves and the way of being which society and our culture dictates.
Ontological coaching doesn’t use pre-defined methods or remedies for this growth path. It depends on the coach being able to recognize and acknowledge the “being-ness” in the other. The delicate balance between seeing the world of the person being coached in order to come as close as possible to understanding their way of being and the refusal to actually be in that world creates an opening. The possibility then exists for the coachee to examine their way of being from another vantage point. Subject becomes object. The very experience of life, which may have been unconscious in the past, is now in the light for both the coach and coachee to observe.
There is no attempt to guide the coachee in any particular direction. To do so would only replace one influence with another. The goal is to open the coachee’s eyes to create their own path. Answers become less important than questions, deep questions that are allowed to seep in over time.