Mentoring and Inner Mentors

The natural process of belief change is also frequently facilitated by "mentors." In Greek Mythology, Mentor was the wise and faithful counselor to the hero Odysseus. Under the guise of Mentor, the goddess Athena became the guardian and teacher of Odysseus' son Telemachus, while Odysseus was away on his journeys. Thus, the notion of being a "mentor" has come to mean the process of both (a) advising or counseling, and (b) serving as a guide or teacher. Mentoring (especially in an occupational setting) emphasizes the informal relational aspect of learning and performance as much as it does the mastery of the task. Mentoring can also include the process of sponsoring and supporting another person by helping the person to establish empowering beliefs, and reframe limiting beliefs.

A mentor has overlaps with, but is distinct from, either a teacher or coach. A teacher instructs, and a coach provides specific behavioral feedback, in order to help a person learn or grow. Mentors, on the other hand, guide us to discover our own unconscious competences, often through their own example. As the example of the mythological Mentor suggests, mentoring also includes the possibility of counseling and guidance on a higher level. This type of mentoring often becomes internalized as part of the individual, so that the external presence of the mentor is no longer necessary. People are able to carry "inner mentors" as counselors and guides for their lives in many situations.

In NLP, the term mentor is used to refer to individuals that have helped to shape or influence your life in a positive way by 'resonating' with, releasing, or unveiling something deeply within you. Mentors can include children, teachers, pets, people you've never met but have read about, phenomena in nature (such as the ocean, mountains, etc.), and even parts of yourself.

We can use the memory of the important mentors in our lives to help us reaccess knowledge, resources or unconscious competences. The basic way to use an inner "mentor" is to imagine the presence of the person or being, and then to take "second position," by stepping into the perspective or "shoes" of the mentor. This allows you to access qualities which are present within you, but not recognized or included as part of your map of the situation (or of yourself). By representing these qualities, the inner mentor helps to bring them alive in your ongoing behavior (when you associate into the perspective of the mentor). Once you have experienced these qualities from standing in the shoes of the mentor, you can bring them back into your own perceptual position within a particular situation, and enact them.

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