The Origin Of The CoreSelf Mapping Process and its Application in the Workplace


“Over 40% of Americans report increases in mental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving employers with their own crisis, resulting in increased absenteeism, negative impacts on productivity and profits, and an increase in health care costs,” said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of the nonprofit National Business Group on Health.

Now more than ever, "Employees are looking to their employer to provide support on all areas of well-being—not just physical health programs focused on losing weight or understanding health risks, but those designed to help employees meet their financial, mental, community, and social health goals.”

Many organizations are turning to tools and corporate programs like CoreSelf Mapping and Positioning to help their employees thrive during and after the pandemic.

Effective Tool for Best Next Steps

Because of CoreSelf Mappings unique origins in the psychology of individual and family unit well-being, and recent neuroscience-based insights, it represents a simple, effective, and scalable tool that can be used in employees’ professional and personal lives to align and reinforce energy levels, values, and thoughts to arrive at best next steps.

Jonathan Thomas’ training as a mental health clinician began more than forty years ago. He writes, “I was fortunate from the beginning to learn from supervisors specializing in two areas:  child therapy and family therapy. CoreSelf Mapping has roots in both”.

Children often intuitively hide their intense negative feelings; dangerous reactions from angry adults are often an actual threat. As I watched my clients’ facial expressions when they were deciding not to speak, I asked myself these questions: “Where do they put those troublesome feelings to keep them out of the way? How do they keep them there? What happens to the feelings as they are blocked from escaping? And what happens when they finally escape?”

Defining the Bottom Circle

The “Bottom Circle” on the left side of the CoreSelf Map began as the “safety deposit vault” in which a child could attempt to stash potentially dangerous feelings. That diagram became more complex over the years as I explored the tension between vulnerability and criticism and the equally challenging polarity of the impulse to rescue versus the need to escape. Working with adult clients struggling with anxiety and depression, I recognized that compartments constructed in childhood were still in place; I began to share cartoons of the polarities. It became a mini-breakthrough for a client to be able to say: “Part of me is feeling X and part of me is feeling Y.”


A Mapping Process To Help Those Feel Less “Stuck”

Over the years I came to realize that sharing that map of feelings with clients helped them to feel less stuck. “Part of me is feeling angry, part of me is feeling sad,” can be a revelation to both self and others when those words feel safe to say.

I learned through the mapping process that many adults have a very hard time distinguishing between emotions and thoughts. Responding to a distressed partner with thoughts about a technical detail when they are awash in vulnerable feelings is guaranteed to spark conflict. Similarly, the difference between a thought, which is debatable, and a value/belief which is deeply held and non-negotiable, can create a terrible emotional distance. Visualizing the relationship of  emotions of the moment, long-held values and practical questions about necessary next steps on a single 81/2” by 11” sheet of paper became my challenge. I have practiced that exercise hundreds of times with individuals of various ages, with couples, many of whom are parents, and with whole families. Advising clients as they learn to complete their own maps is an application of CoreSelf Conversation that others may want to explore.

Years of Research to develop the CoreSelf Map

I have been consistently influenced over the same span of forty years by the work of Murray Bowen, MD. Dr. Bowen studied triangular patterns of family relationships over multiple generations. When meeting with his patients he worked against a backdrop of their three or four generation family diagram. That map became a key element in the conversation about any particular issue or challenge the family presented. Patients learned to point to the map as they observed their own interactions in a larger context. I often follow Dr. Bowen’s method.

The “4S” entries on the right side of the CoreSelf Map were developed in a ten year research project in a hospital outpatient mental health clinic. Clinicians summarized their initial meetings with families by sharing their impressions of the “Situation, Strengths, Struggle and Strategies” in a draft letter to the family. The revised letter was a collaborative effort including family members’ input. Later the same format became a template for letters between family members as they moved forward with new efforts at more effective and efficient communication.

Today, CoreSelf Mapping is used with individuals to answer the following questions:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?

CoreSelf Positioning builds on the above framework, to answer team questions:

  1. Where are We now?
  2. Where do We want to be?
  3. How do We get there?

Learn More About the Process and schedule an appointment with a Certified CoreSelf advisor today.