This week we dig into the core of living authentically with Matthias Hartmann. Matthias founded emBodhi Life Coaching to help people get in touch with their core selves and shares his methods for finding your authenticity, mentally and physically.
Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human
Alex: This week on Uncover the Human, we are joined by the founder of emBodhi Coaching, Matthias Hartmann. Matthias has one of the most frank and straightforward explanations about the importance of authenticity, how we hide it from ourselves, and how we can get the most out of experiencing our authentic selves. That's the core of this entire show. I actually enjoyed this conversation so much. I think I threw him off a little bit by smiling a little too much on the recording. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did.
Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.
Cristina: Whether that's with our families, co-workers, or even ourselves.
Alex: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
Cristina: This is Cristina Amigoni.
Alex: And this is Alex Cullimore.
Cristina: Let's dive in.
Alex: Let’s dive in.
Group: Authenticity means freedom.
Authenticity means going with your gut.
Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself. Not just the parts you think people want to see but all of you.
Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.
It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep rooted and true.
Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.
It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.
Alex: Well, hello, and welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are joined this week by our guest, Matthias Hartmann, who comes to us from Amsterdam, is it?
Matthias: Maastricht in the Netherlands. Maastricht in the south.
Alex: Great. Okay. That's awesome. So we're coming across the pond here this morning. We are here to talk to him because he is the owner and founder of emBodhi Life Coaching, which is a unique approach to both using your body and finding your authentic self, so obviously a good fit for what we love talking about here. Welcome, Matthias.
Matthias: Thank you very much for having me.
Alex: So you've done a lot of work around in coaching, getting towards your authentic self, and you have a whole emBodhi coaching practice that you work on. So what in your opinion of the link between finding your authentic self and some of the approach that you've developed?
Matthias: Alex, a lot of customers and clients, I should say, come to me with tons of different subjects and issues and problems. Interestingly enough, all of them somehow show up in the body. It shows up in your breathing. It shows up in your posture. It shows up if they have tension or tingling or the body talks. However, the body doesn't speak English, so it's a slightly slower approach to get the clients into the body. But all issues clients bring to me show up somewhere in the body.
The second question that most clients bring to me is “I no longer know how to be myself”. For them, being their authentic self is something about knowing. They use their minds to know about their authentic self. For me, it's being your authentic self. So I focus on the being part, not on the knowing part. My clients are highly challenged people, mid-career professionals. They’re focused on their mental activities. They tend to ignore the body. It’s a difficult subject for them to actually feel and to really feel the resistance to become closer to the authentic self. I still use their mind and intellect there. The focus is on the body.
Alex: I love that approach because we kind of tend to think of emotions as this thing that only exists in your head as if it's somehow separate from the body that has created your mind in the first place. So it always ends up being some kind of physicality, but we are definitely not always in touch with that. I really love that. You also have a great metaphor for explaining authentic stuff. Do you want to explain a little bit about the sun idea?
Matthias: Yeah. I love the sun and the clouds metaphor. For me, the authentic self is the sun, and the sun is always shining, and the sun is always there, and you can't develop the sun. In other words, you can't develop your authentic self. Everything in between you and your authentic self, those are the clouds. So my approach is focusing on the clouds, not trying to develop the sun, which you can't do anyway. So I focus my emBodhi coaching approach on the clouds, and there are two major categories of clouds. One of them is suppressed emotions, emotions we don't want to feel. The other ones are those internal characters.
I’m pretty sure everybody's familiar with the people pleaser, with the victim, with the avoider, with the rationale. All of those people, those internal characters, I call them. Both of them, they're closely linked, and those are called the clouds, which are clouding you from being in touch with your authentic self.
Cristina: That's a great metaphor, and it touches on two key things that you mentioned, the emotions and internal characters, which we all have. So when you have these individuals that come to you, which, as you mentioned, they think very much with their heads. They think everything is about knowing, not being and emotions. As WE know, it's about being, not knowing. It's about understanding but it's about being. How do you get them to start embracing that concept?
Matthias: I ask them. Obviously, they come with a subject. They tell me about their frustrations or their aspirations and what is under way. Then I ask them, “How do you feel about this?” Then they say, “Okay. I'm frustrated. I'm angry. I'm sad.” I said, “Okay. Let's focus on that frustration. Let’s focus on that anger. Let’s focus on that sadness. Let’s focus on that emotion. Okay. Why don't you close your eyes? Okay. Where do you feel that frustration? Where do you feel that anger?” Then I slowly, step by step, I have to focus or move away from the mental thinking about my frustration at work or whatever it is and actually enter the body, and access the body, and feel that frustration. Whatever that problem does to you, try to feel that in the body.
However, that takes a bit longer because if you’re completely disconnected from your neck down for years, decades, especially men, it takes a bit longer for them to access their body. I said, “Okay. Where do I feel this? Oh, I feel it back in my throat, or I feel like a stone is in like the heart, or I feel like a constriction in my neck or whatever, or temperature changes.” Or I look at their posture. I look at their breathing. Then that's how we can identify where a certain emotion is located physically in the body. For them, it's a big surprise.
Alex: That makes sense — definitely — I think I was first introduced to some of this idea by Brené Brown talking about some shame responses. She would feel like sweaty palms or things like that. I started to notice and think about that in my own life. There's definitely things I feel stress in my neck. I feel – You can feel when your stomach suddenly turns or you know some physical symptom of something is coming up. But I love your expression earlier that it doesn't speak English.
Matthias: They don't speak English. Nonetheless, all of those symptoms, we don't like to feel. So how do we feel better? Why don't we just have a drink? Or why don't we just like do some binge shopping or watching or whatever it is? We don't like those physical sensations that kind of interfere, we think, with our mental activities. I need to go into a meeting. I don't have time for this. No. I can't focus on the block in my stomach. I can't focus on the tension in my heart. I need to do this and that. So let's pop a pill and let's carry on.
Cristina: What happens when they don't make time for that?
Matthias: At one point of time, it completely backfires because the body can only take that much. So after a while, the body just says stop. In the worst case, it comes to burnout or worse a heart attack or physical sicknesses once we ignore the body for too long.
Alex: I like your categorization of there being two kinds of main areas. You've got painful emotions that people tend to avoid and you've got an internal character. Is there a link between these two, if these might be related?
Matthias: I think there’s a big link between those two, and let me just start with emotions. There are emotions which are really painful. Think about abandonment. Think about rejection. Think about shame. Think about feeling worthless, feeling powerless. Those are strong emotions, and we tend to then come up with an adaptive behavior in order not to feel rejected, not to feel ashamed, and not to feel powerless or worthless, whatever it is. This adaptive behavior allows you to actually function again.
Let's say you are – Let me give you an example. You feel rejected. In order to not feel rejected, you realize, “Oh. If I please people, I don't feel rejected.” Then the people pleaser is being created in you because you realize, “Oh, I don't feel rejected when I please people,” or, “I feel safe when I avoid conflict,” or, “I get praise once I'm a hyper achiever. I'm accepted once I'm perfect.” All of those things then take this adaptive behavior. It creates those internal characters. Another word for internal character would be like ego states or personas. Yeah, sub personalities. It's a different word for an internal character, but they are closely linked.
So the emotion, the painful emotional experience creates those internal characters, and those internal characters will then allow you to not feel the original emotion. Because once you are a people pleaser, which is being created by your fear of being rejected, then this people pleaser protects you from feeling the emotional pain of being rejected. That's how they are linked.
Cristina: That's so powerful. It's interesting because just hearing you talk about those emotions made me feel in my body. It’s like a constriction of my lungs that I couldn't breathe, which is why I stepped away to take a deep breath and came back.
Matthias: Cristina, thank you for saying that. Because when I give this list to my clients, there's not a single one who hasn’t experienced almost all of them. By the age of six, even if you've grown up in the most loving, caring family, by the age of six, we all have at one point of time experienced rejection, shame, humiliation, powerlessness, worthlessness. Because there's always somebody in school who just shames you for not having the latest iPhone or a bigger brother who just makes you feel powerless or whatever it is. By the age of six, we all have had those experiences, even in the best house of families.
Alex: That's an important number too, age six, because there's not necessarily a lot of memories forming before that point that we can consciously access. But we are still training. The brain is still being trained throughout all of those. By the time we are six or seven, we still have those responses.
Matthias: Yeah, correct. Since we talk about the authentic self here or being your authentic self, once you realize that, “Oh, pleasing people allows me not to feel shame of being rejected,” then you carry on with that behavior. Once you realize that avoiding conflicts makes you feel safe, you carry on avoiding conflict. You actually become successful, being your internal character. The longer it pays off to be your internal character, instead of your authentic self, actually the internal character lends over, shadows your authentic self. If you do this for a few years, decades, obviously, you no longer know what it's like to be yourself.
Allow me just to throw in some interesting facts from neuroscience here. Because once we feel rejected and shamed, we change our behavior in order to get approval, in order to get appraisal, in order to feel secure, in order to get love or care. From the neuroscience scientific aspect, this is interesting. Once you get love and care, oxytocin is being released into your brain. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone. So then the brain makes you feel good. Instead of being rejected, I get love and care, and the body releases oxytocin. Or for example, you feel powerless, and all of a sudden you change your behavior and in such a way that you get praise. The brain then releases dopamine into your brain and the reward hormone. You feel good.
So the brain then reinforces through biochemicals, neurochemicals into your brain, your behavior. So we basically hardwire your internal character, which then clearly overshadows your authentic self. That's what's happening.
Alex: I like what you said that the internal characters and the emotions become these clouds around the sun, and that becomes your reality. It becomes so shadowed by it, and that's a good extension of the metaphor too. But I also want to highlight quickly. You talked about not being able to develop the sun so much. Do you want to elaborate a little bit on that? Like you've got this self that's always there.
Matthias: Correct. The self is always there. Your authentic self is always there. There is no point trying to develop your authentic self. That's why I have a big issue with the whole idea of self-development. For me, that is simply a contradiction in terms. You cannot develop your authentic self. Your authentic self, that's it. That's who you are and how you are. That’s why I have a big problem with this self-development idea. What's happening or how you should classify, it's actually the internal character development. That's what's happening. Because imagine you are a perfectionist. You are full of self-doubt. So then this is your main character. You are a perfectionist. When you then go on to develop your authentic self, what is happening? You will develop the shortcoming of the perfectionist, and that's what's happening.
This is actually quite dangerous. It’s a big word. But by balancing off the shortcoming of the perfectionist through self-development, you make that perfectionist even more acceptable. You make that internal character even stronger. The stronger it becomes, the more difficult it is to actually see and feel and be your authentic self because you actually now reinforced the internal character in such a way through self-development that you say, “Okay, that's me.” When I speak initially for clients that come to coaching, they say, “Well, I'm a procrastinator. I’m whatever. I'm a perfectionist. I'm obsessed about this, whatever.” I tell them, “A part of you is procrastinating. A part of you is shy. A part of you is whatever.” I focus on that.
That’s how I try to unblend the two. That's how I try to separate the authentic self with not procrastinating or not whatever in the internal character. Simply by saying, “No, you don't hate. A part of you hates your job.” That makes people think, “Okay. Oh, I never thought about this,” because they just completely identify with their internal character. They are no longer in touch with their authentic self. They think, “I'm a perfectionist or I'm a rationalizer or I'm a victim or I’m a people pleaser. I’m an avoider.” Whatever it is, they completely identify with internal character. Initially, I try to just unblend. Take those two apart.
Cristina: So let me play devil's advocate here for a second. Let's say my internal character is people pleasing, a totally random issue chosen because I've never experienced rejection in my life. So that's protecting me, and it's working for me. I think it's working for me because it is protecting me. Why should I change?
Matthias: If you are completely happy being a people pleaser, that's fine. However, your people pleaser was created at one point of time, Cristina, in your life, when you experienced emotional pain, and your people pleaser protects you from not feeling that emotional pain. The people pleaser in you has a positive intent. However, at the end of the day, the people pleaser protects you, as I mentioned, from feeling that original emotional pain. So you do everything possible to not feel that pain again. If you want to be your authentic self, you would have one point in your life faced up to the fact that “I'm actually suppressing rejection, shame, worthlessness, powerlessness”, whatever it is. If you find not being your authentic self and being a people pleaser for the rest of your life, good for you. I have no problem with that whatsoever. But then we will never work together because once we would work together, I would actually unblend you from your people pleaser and make you feel that original, painful experience. That's why people shy away from that experience. It's easier not to feel.
Alex: So what does it look like on the other side of having experienced the pain? If you dive in, you take your approach, you'd go feel that painful experience, what happens on the other side of that? What value do you get out of going through that?
Matthias: You use energy to not feel, a lot of energy. You resist yourself. A lot of energy is being spent not feeling all aspects of who you are. Once you accept and integrate, let's say, the shame or the rejection, you can actually release that energy and use it for something more positive. It's a very painful process to actually be in that space and being that emotion. But that's why coaching is not always a pleasant experience or fair, because I make you feel what you don't want to feel.
Alex: We don’t feel that. We're basically exercising death by 1,000 paper cuts. We're doing just tiny, very subtle wounds to ourselves to feel better for a little bit of time, while never experiencing just one.
Matthias: That's where emBodhi Coaching comes in because I created a safe environment for you to actually be with your emotions. You don't want to feel. You have been suppressing for decades. It’s a process to be in that space and it's unpleasant. It's painful. But your nervous system then realizes, “Wow, I'm not dying. I carry on breathing. My life carries on.” People feel lighter. People feel an expansion like, “Wow, I'm still around. I just integrated this now. Wonderful. Now, let's go and do something with my life.” It doesn't hold you down anymore. You don't spend energy suppressing an important aspect of who you are. That's beautiful to see. You see also physically the shift. But when the tension grows, tension allows you not to feel. Once you can let go of that tension, my goodness, you should see it in the clients’ faces.
Alex: I keep thinking about the metaphor. I like that tension metaphor. I think that's one of the best explanations I've heard of why because I was thinking about it. I've had good moments where I feel like I've reintegrated pieces and I feel some of that freedom. But that was a really good succinct description of what that feels like on the other side, and it makes me think of the tension metaphor of like a muscle that's in tension. You can't use it to its full expression until you've resolved that. You won't be able to have your full flexibility of motion, whatever you want to do with that until you have some of that release. I think that's a wonderful way of describing it. Energy-wise, that definitely feels true when you realize how much energy you have put into keeping that mask on, that internal character up.
Matthias: Yeah. Alex, 10 out of 10 clients of mine are tired. To be in character, to be in your internal character 24/7 is tiring. Imagine you’re a people pleaser. You're not your authentic self. Imagine you're a people pleaser, like Cristina is a people pleaser here in our exercise. Cristina is people pleasing 24/7 for years and decades. Or she is a conflict avoider at work from Monday till Friday. Or she is just a perfectionist, whatever. It's tiring to be your internal character from Monday till Friday or for months and years and even decades.
People are tired of being an internal character and because it just takes energy to please people 24/7. It takes energy to avoid conflict. It takes energy just to be perfect. It takes energy to be a hyper achiever. If you do this, you're no longer in touch with your authentic self. You basically completely blended with your internal character and you play that internal character for decades, that's tiring.
Cristina: That energy, as you said, we feed on – If we use it to avoid, to repress, to be our internal characters, we can't use it for other things like creativity, innovation, new ideas, open-mindedness, collaboration, change, anything like that. All of that goes out the window.
Matthias: Yeah, correct. I completely agree. I just feel bad for people coming to me completely tired because they are 100% a hyper achiever or 100% a perfectionist. They no longer know what it's like to be their authentic self because there's been so much energy on their internal character. I just want to make sure that people understand that the internal character has a positive intention. That behavior which we have adapted based on the original emotion which was painful, that internal character allows you not to feel.
For example, I'm a punctual perfectionist. I don't care about being punctual. I care what it feels to be late. A high achiever couldn't care less about hyper achieving. A hyper achiever cares what it's like to fail. A people pleaser couldn't care less about pleasing people. A people pleaser cares what it's like not to be liked, and that’s not to be liked is so dangerous for the system that they just prefer to please people because not being liked is just a terrible feeling. Not being liked is just one step away from feeling rejected. The people pleaser allows you to not feel that rejection again, and it does it by just telling you you’re feeling it. If I'm not liked by people, that’s terrible. So I’d rather please people you liked for you not to feel original rejection. So they have a positive intent of internal care.
Cristina: Well, if we stick to the people pleaser example, eventually you're going to be rejected and eventually you're going to be not liked. So now you're in this conflict where, “Well, but I'm doing everything that I should be doing to people please and be liked and not be rejected, and yet it happens anyway.”
Matthias: It happens anyway. But certainly, we feel rejection and we are pleasing people and we’re being rejected often in our lives. But how intense was the original rejection experienced by the age of six? That kind of time could have been even traumatic. So depending on the intensity of that original rejection, of that original shame, original feeling of worthlessness, of powerlessness, if that was intense or even close to traumatic, you carry this with you for the rest of your life. That determines your behavior in the latest stage of your life.
Alex: You really got to redefine the term self-limiting belief in that way. If you think about the metaphor of the sun, you've got this sun of the self. You've got your mental characters and emotions clouding this and unable to access that. That really does identify why this is self-limiting. You put these in the way. You are now putting obstacles between you and the sun. Then to blend in the energy metaphor, the sun really is there to give you a lot of energy. When you can move those clouds aside, you can feel a lot more flow towards other things. If you can't, like I see your point. If you're going to experience rejection anyway, now you've used your energy on a self-limiting belief like people pleasing. Then you've now felt the negative emotion anyway when life inevitably will still create other rejections.
Matthias: Alex, I agree with that one, but just allow me to make a distinction here. The self-limiting belief is different. If you are rejected and you think, “Okay, nobody loves me,” and you feel rejected again, “Oh, nobody loves me,” and it happens a lot, you create a belief I'm unlovable. If you were shanked a few times, you create a belief I'm not worthy. If you felt worthless a lot in your life, you think like, “I'm not good enough,” those are the self-limiting beliefs you carry with you. Not you, your authentic self, because your authentic self has no limiting beliefs. It is the internal character which believes I'm unlovable, I'm worthless, I'm not good enough, I can't do this.
Those are the self-limiting beliefs, which those internal characters carry and in coaching are also true. A part of the coaching approach is, first of all, to identify the internal character, gain trust. Because they do have good intentions, they protect me from feeling the original pain and also then to unburden them from the self-limiting beliefs I'm unlovable and worthless, I don't belong here, I'm not good enough, whatever it is. Again, also, obviously, those self-limiting beliefs, they also carry a power and cost you energy to run around believing this. How successful can you be in life when you just walk around saying, “Well, I don't belong here. I'm unlovable.”? It’s sad to see that they, again, go together, the self-limiting beliefs with the internal character, and both of them protect you from feeling original, emotionally painful experience.
Alex: I like that distinction.
Cristina: Very good distinction. Do you ever have clients who don't believe in internal characters?
Matthias: Yeah. That's why I also don't really try to explain those internal characters at the beginning. I just coach them in such a way that at one point of time, they realize, “Oh, yeah. He's talking about me having different minds and different internal characters here. Internal characters help to explain hypocrisy or ambivalence. It's easy to explain to people like, “Okay, yeah. Shall I go and eat Italian food tonight, instead of Greek food tonight?” One character likes this and one character likes this. If you have only one mind, how does that work that you have a certain preference for this, a preference for that?
But when it comes to my clients who are mostly unhappy at work, they have one character that says, “Well, get rid of the job tomorrow.” Another character says, “Well think about the financial consequences.” Another character says, “Well, you're selfish.” Another character says, “Well, what about my trip I was dreaming about?” Instantly, I can introduce a couple of characters, and they say, “Yeah, I hear that voice. Yeah, I hear that argument. Yeah, that makes sense.” So very quickly, they realize, “Yeah, I actually have many different characters in me with conflicting messages.” Once you feel aware of those conflicting messages but you don't act, then you feel stuck.
Okay, yeah, I'm unhappy with the job, but I need to be aware of the consequences. Other people depend on me and so on. Back and forth, all the arguments out there, you don't do anything. You feel stuck. That's how I talk about those internal characters and multiplicity of mind. I try to patch this all together and make it coherent. That's why you’re completely confused because people think, people are completely confused about the I, which tries to patch all of this together.
Alex: That brings up a really interesting point. How do you start to distinguish between all the voices and the voice that you should be listening to or the voice, the true self?
Matthias: People come up with whatever frustrations they have in their lives. I simply ask the question, how do you feel towards that? If they say, “Yeah, I feel compassion for this part of me, which wants to quit the job or I feel curious learning more about the part of me which wants to quit the job.” Those kinds of qualities are qualities of your authentic self, so that makes it quite easy just to check with them. How do you feel about this? If something negative comes up, there's definitely a part interfering here. But if something like curiosity, compassion, what else is there, a sense of clarity, connectedness, all of that, if that comes through, I see the authentic self is here.
Then we can just do the further unblending and just like, okay, this authentic self who feels compassionate about the part of you who is just sick and tired of your job. Then we can help the internal character, at one point of time, give up the protection and allow us to work or come closer to the emotional painful experience that internal character carries, including the self-limiting belief, I'm worthless, I’m unlovable, and so on.
Alex: So you've approached this a lot. You talked about, like, in the beginning, you get people to ask. You ask people, where do you feel that in your body, where are you feeling that frustration, how do you feel that. On the other end of things, when you have that clarity, do you find ways to access the physicality of essentially the opposite, the non-tension, the lack of – When you feel that clarity and authentic self, is there a lot of physicality you can coach there too?
Matthias: No. It’s just like trying to develop the sun. That doesn't work. Once you are in your authentic self, let’s say you are confident, you're compassionate, and you see this, how people and people's body postures. You see it in how people articulate themselves. You see it in their reading pattern. People are just calm, think clearly with a compassionate, open, connected view on the world. Then I can see exactly how they are in their authentic self. There's no internal character intruding here or overshadowing the authentic self. So I don't really coach the authentic self. I focused on the clouds. I focused on the suppressed emotions and the internal characters. I can't really coach the authentic self. The authentic self is perfect.
Cristina: That's funny because that reminds me of, and I'm going to have to bring this up, the Euro Cup final yesterday, watching the goalkeeper and the penalty kicks the Italian goalkeeper, how when he caught the last two goals, penalty kicks, which is unheard of, the two of them get blocked in a row. But then the thing that everybody that I've seen articles on and people talk about is his calmness, how calm he was throughout the whole thing. I truly believe it's because that was his job. That's his authentic self, and so he didn't have to figure out who to be or how to do something that was uncomfortable. It was his moment. That's what he was there to do, and he did it.
Matthias: Wonderful. Calm is a quality of the authentic self. He was just his authentic self and he did his job perfectly.
Alex: That definitely makes sense, especially in the idea of not developing the authentic self where it really is that comfort, and that's why you have so much more energy because you have no energy spent on not feeling calm, feeling comfortable. You have that connectedness. I like that description of it. It feels connected.
Cristina: How do you see the way that your clients or anybody, because clearly even people that don't come to you are walking around with internal characters taking over? How do you see them impacting their lives with other people, so how do they relate to others when they're constantly fighting this armor or taking on the armor to show up?
Matthias: Conflictuous because they're not their true selves, and it just creates friction. We've already covered the aspect of spending too much energy. But if you're not in your authentic self, basically you are inauthentic. When you are inauthentic at work or at home or with your friends, obviously this has negative results on your friendships, on your relationships at work, on your relationship with your spouse. So the ideal is to be obviously in your authentic self. But if you are in character, even with your best friends, you're inauthentic. In the bundle of time, I just wonder if they realize, “Why is that person our friend? Why did we just spend time with him because he's inauthentic? He's just trying to please. He's trying to be perfect. He's just trying to hyper achieve. He’s trying to perform.” Whatever it is, whatever internal character wants or does in order to not feel the original pain. So it’s toxic for the relationship between people.
Alex: Definitely makes sense. I like what you said about how there’s no room to develop self, and that self-development is a tricky and conflicting term. How do you see the world of self-help books? There’s a lot of self-development, self-improvement content out there, and this is something that we like to talk about as well and ways to help improve that, which I think falls more back to like ways to get out of your own way. Much more ways to like get rid of or reduce the impact of things like internal characters. How do you feel about just the state of the content and the self-help out there?
Matthias: I’m not a big fan, to be honest. When you look at the bestselling self-help books on the planet, titles like how to improve self-confidence, how to think more positively, how to be more highly efficient, whatever it is, my question to you is who is reading that book? Is it your authentic self who needs to learn about how to make true friends, how to be highly efficient, how to be self-confident? Your authentic self doesn't need to read any self-help book. So when you grab yourself a book from the shelf and are convinced it is an internal character that grabs that book because the internal character wants to off-balance the shortcoming. Because if you're a people pleaser, you're not good with conflict, to give an example,
A people pleaser will pick the book or be more aggressive, let's say. So the internal character likes to be obviously more functional, more accepted in society, at the workplace, whatever. So the self-help book is being read by the internal character, not by the authentic self. So that's why I'm not a big fan of those self-help books. To make matters worse, once you allow your people pleaser, your avoider, or whatever internal character it is, and you allow that internal character to be more acceptable and offset any shortcomings, you even more identify with that character. The more you identify with your internal character, the more you are removed from your authentic self because, again, your authentic self does not need to read about how to be more efficient, how to overcome self-doubt. It doesn't. Your internal character does.
That’s why I'm not a big fan of self-help books because I find them even dangerous because you just reinforce the internal character, and you completely blend for 100% with that character, and you cut the connection even deeper further with your authentic self. That’s sad. It’s just sad.
Cristina: It’s a very good point. As I was listening to that, it reminded me of the fact that, yes, I mean, we have to do the work. You can't do the work for me, even as my coach. Yet if we're stuck in this vortex of internal character and authentic self and all of that, how can we help ourselves by ourselves? It's almost a contradiction.
Matthias: You can't because you're busy suppressing the original, emotionally painful experience for years and decades. You need to have somebody holding that space for you to go there. You can't do this by yourself. You certainly can't do it with a self-help book. It's where, yeah, a life coach comes in to offer the space for you to feel safe for your nervous system, to feel safe for your internal character, to allow you access to the part which it's busy protecting. You can't do this by yourself, Cristina.
Cristina: I highly agree.
Alex: I like that answer. So you talked about if you let these internal characters get away for long enough, you can go. Obviously, you can eventually get to extreme physical symptoms like heart attacks and or hypertension, things like this. Or on the more internal side, you can also get to the point of things like burnout, which you mentioned earlier as well. You can get to a point where you're burnt out. You don't feel like you can access it anymore.
We've also talked about how it can be a painful experience to go through this and get to that connected initial emotion where this started from to work through these protectors. If you have a client who comes in and they're already burnt out, how do you go about easing them into what will be a bit of a painful process to release these?
Matthias: I would have them feel, first of all, the physical sensation of whatever issue they're having; the frustration, the anger, the sadness, whatever they experience in the body. That would be the very first step. Another step would be to identify the dominant internal character. What are they? Are they a perfectionist, people pleaser, avoider? What is the internal character, the dominant one, because we have multiple? Then the next step would be to gain confidence of that internal character because they do something positive.
In that sense, I actually don't like what the coaching world makes of those internal characters. They call them saboteurs or internal critics or obnoxious roommates or whatever they call them. It's always negative. However, the internal character has a positive intent. It protects you from feeling that pain. So you mentioned how you completely blend it with an internal character, and you call this internal character, oh, my obnoxious roommate, oh, my internal critic, oh, my saboteur, oh, my grandma, and all this coaching wording, which is being around, which prevents you actually from creating a positive relationship with this protective internal character. That's why I don't use the words like internal critic.
Granted this internal critic or the internal character prevents you from living your dream, prevents you from fulfillment, prevents you from going out and being your authentic self because this internal character loves the status quo. They don't want change. They prevent change. It's why they're called inner critics or saboteurs. They sabotage any change. So I get where the word is coming from, but what I don't understand is why this internal character has such a bad reputation because it actually has a positive intent. It protects you.
So then in the third step, we try to get the confidence of that internal character. Then the fourth step would be to allow us to come closer to that emotional experience, that painful emotional experience, to feel the shame, to feel that rejection, to feel the powerlessness and worthlessness, to feel abandonment. That’s when at a point of time I just keep quiet in the coaching and let them be with it. That's when, yeah, they jump. They’re just jumping off the cliff, and they’re just with that emotion for minutes or half an hour. Once in a while, I'm checking in, obviously. But the beautiful thing is the nervous system realizes, “Wow, I'm not being overwhelmed by emotions. I'm not being – I carry on breathing. I carry on living.”
Then you see the shift. Then you see the release of the energy, which was like we used to actually keep them contained. I want to make sure the very important point is that the nervous system could not care less about us being our authentic self. The nervous system is just there to keep us safe and to keep us alive. But it's a different thing. What we need to survive is different from what we need to live. The nervous system just needs fear and pain to keep us alive. If we can't feel pain, we’re going to die. If you cut your finger and you're not thinking it's painful, then you're going to carry on cutting it, and then you die. So we need the pain.
We also need fear because we need to learn that this was painful. So our nervous system’s interest is keeping us safe, keeping us alive, and it needs the pain and the fear to do its job. The nervous system couldn't care less about our authentic self. But what it takes to live is we want to live without fear and without the pain, and that's the flip side, and that's the in between. Our nervous system just needs pain and fear to keep us alive, and we don't have any fear and pain from living, so we need to balance in between. We tend to focus on the side. I don't want to feel pain. I don't want to feel fear. I don't want to feel shame. I don't want to feel guilt. I want to feel whatever. There comes the binge watching, and the binge drinking, and the therapy shopping, and sex and porn, and I don't know what it is, and drugs. You name it because we want to feel good.
But who says what the authentic self, who says that we need to feel good 24/7? Being your authentic self means accepting pain, accepting fear. People think, “Well, my authentic self is ideal. My authentic self has only positive aspects.” No. If you want to be your authentic self, accept pain. Accept fear. It was a long answer. But this is the last step, Alex, in the coaching process. Just for the clients to be with that feeling. However long it takes just for the nervous system to process being with that emotion, being with that shame, rejection, whatever it is.
Alex: I really love that distinction and I love the idea of the nervous system being there to protect you. I think it's a very worthwhile thing to highlight, again, because we get wrapped up in the idea of like, “Well, how could I possibly be doing things that are essentially making me unhappy or making me feel hiding away or in more pain, essentially, through coping mechanisms, whatever?” I like that distinction because it's a good reminder that there are multiple parts of your body. Your body's there to try and keep you alive, and the nervous system is there to keep you alive. That it is not at all predicated on being fulfilled. That's something we can accomplish if we're willing to go through the work of it, and both are very much worthwhile so that you can live while you're surviving.
Matthias: Yeah. The nervous system couldn't care less if we live our authentic self Couldn’t care less. It’s not meant to be caring. It's just there to ensure our survival and about feeling safe. That's what it does. It has those neurochemicals at hand to produce those feelings, which I mentioned before. That's how we learn. That's how we adapt our behavior. Okay, that was painful. Now, we create fear. The fear is the emotional part. Okay. Now, we learn. Okay. Cutting my finger with a knife, that hurts. Okay. Now, I have a fear that it’s coming too close to my finger. I'm learning. I'm adapting my behavior based on pain.
Now, we created the fear. However, the fear doesn't feel good, like many other emotions don’t feel good. So what do we do when we come across emotions that don't feel good? We just ignore it. We suppress it. We put it away. Where is it being stored? In the body. It’s like I just can't imagine not dealing with the client's body.
Alex: There's so much potential left on the table if we don't appreciate that portion of it.
Cristina: Yes, there is. Well, and I like the explanation about the fact that pain doesn't equal bad. Pain to the point where we die clearly doesn't have a good consequence. But if we think about working out or going on a long hike or any type of physical exercise, which a lot of people I think can relate to, we know it's going to be painful at some point if we push ourselves. But we do it anyway, so it's not bad. It makes us stronger. It makes our blood flow. It makes our mind clear. Whatever the goal is and whatever the consequences, we do it anyway. So we know that pain doesn't necessarily equal bad. Yet for feelings, there's that avoidance of like, “Oh, no. I never want to feel that way again because I don't know that I will be able to survive it.” I love your process of you can survive it, and that's the power. It's recognizing that you can be in the painful feelings and also be proud of yourself when you realize, “Oh, wait. I'm still here. Everything is actually okay.”
Matthias: Yeah. Cristina, something you mentioned was exercising. Instantly, me as a coach, instantly, I think like, “Who's exercising? Is it the authentic self, which wants to be standing on the treadmill or lifting 100 kilos per hour? Or is it an internal character, which wants to have to –” We’ll have to look fit. Are you going to the gym? So who's going to the gym here? Is it your authentic self? Or is it an internal character, which says, “You know what? In order to feel safe, in order to get approval, attention, in order to get care and love, perhaps even praise, perhaps I need to go to the gym.”
Instantly, when I see a behavior, I think like, “Who is doing this? Is it the internal character? Or is it the authentic self?” 10 out of 10 times, it's the internal character. Then I say, “Okay. So this behavior allows you to feel loved. This behavior allows you to get attention. This behavior allows you to get approval. This behavior allows you to get praised. What is behind that behavior? Which internal character makes you behave that way, and what emotion is this character protecting you from feeling?” Once you actually accept and integrate that feeling, perhaps you wouldn't go to the gym.
Cristina: Very good point. Well, this was a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much. So we have talked about – You have talked about the authentic self the whole time on this as being the core of how we get to our sun, how do we show our sun and uncover it from the clouds. What does authenticity mean to you?
Matthias: To be the original YOU. That would be my definition of authenticity. Being an emBodhi life coach, I need to add that just check in with your body. Because once you are your authentic self, you speak confidently. You stand in confidence. You are confident. It just shows everywhere. So if you want to focus on being authentic, just, yeah, check in with your body where you are inauthentic and where you are feeling sensations, which you tend to suppress. That's my definition of being authentic.
Alex: Yeah, I love that. Be the original, who you are.
Matthias: Just let me add the distinctions between the internal character and the authentic self. The internal character has a goal, and the main goal is mainly not to feel the original painful experience. The authentic self doesn't have a goal. It has a purpose. Another distinction is that the authentic self lives by values. The internal characters, they live by our roots. The authentic self, in addition also, tends to act, while the internal characters tend to react.
So if you are busy with a goal, you're busy reacting, and you love your rules, by definition, you are in internal character. If you have the big picture of a purpose, you live by values, and you tend to act, this is your authentic self. You want to be there, you want to be acting, you want to live your purpose, and you want to live by your values. That's how you can distinguish between an internal character and your authentic self. I have an inquiry for the audience. I have asked my clients to be or to have a deep connection with your authentic self. It’s missing in my life. To have a deep connection with your authentic self is a more scary thing I can imagine.
Cristina: That's a great add on.
Matthias: We are in between because people come to coaching saying, “I'm missing my authentic self.” My question is, are you willing to go there because it may be scary. Yeah. Because of all the emotions you’re suppressing. We're just trying to navigate life in between those extremes. I want to be my authentic self. But being my authentic self, oh, no, that's scary.
Alex: That's a really good point, and I loved what you said also about there being so much connectedness and this being a journey that is impossible to do on your own. So in that regard, how do people find you? How do people find and connect with your work?
Matthias: I'm only on LinkedIn. I don't have Instagram or Facebook, anything else. Matthias Hatmann/emBodhi, that’s my LinkedIn profile. Or I have a website, E-M-B-O-D-H-I.O-N-E, one, like the figure one, embodhi.one. So that's my website and happy to talk to tons of people about what we talked about today, about their authentic self.
Cristina: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Alex: Yeah, thank you so much for joining us.
Matthias: Pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Cristina: And thank you everybody for listening.
Alex: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara, and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review, and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas, or questions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others, and always uncover the human.
Matthias Hartmann comes from a career in international sales. In his corporate career he managed and coached Sales Managers in various parts of the world. Matthias gave up the corporate job to focus on the coaching part, became a life coach and is using an embodied approach which enables him to dig deep in internal blockages of change.
Matthias is no stranger to change himself. He has lived in various cities on 3 continents, has been to 74 countries on the planet and speaks four languages fluently. Having given up the corporate job allowed him to direct his journey inwards and to help his clients experience transformational change themselves.
His tagline is: The coach to call when life is calling for change.