Personal Position Repertoire method, developed by Hubert Hermans in cooperation with Els Hermans-Jansen, can be used in individual coaching as a means to investigate the content and organization of one's I-positions. It helps to understand one's self better, define directions of personal and professional development. It allows for exploration of inner conflicts and ways the person relates to others.

A PPR investigation gives an insight in the complexity and contradictions as part of one's self-organization in the context of relationships of the person with significant others.

The basic idea of the PPR procedure can be explained by the metaphor of stage (Hermans, 2001). During an investigation the stage is entered by a number of internal I-positions (or characters) from the left and by external I-positions (or characters) from the right. Internal I-positions are appropriated by the person as belonging to himself, (e.g. I as a perfectionist, I as a mother), while external I-positions refer to persons or groups in the environment that are experienced as “mine” (e.g. my mother or my sport club). Also important aspects of life (e.g. my favorite art or my professional work) can be seen as external I-positions. The method assesses the extent to which particular internal positions become prominent in relation to a series of external positions. On the basis of this framework the client investigates the way the internal domain of the self is related to the external world of significant others. Insight in these relationships forms a starting point for the formulation of appropriate action plans. Below you will find the article by Hubert Hermans about this method

The similarities between the relationship with the other and with yourself are striking. How is your relation with yourself?

The Personal Position Repertoire (PPR) method is used by coaches, counselors, trainers and clients to investigate and better understand their identity, emotions and social relations. Imagine your own self as a stage where different characters come together and interact. From the left backstage, characters belonging to the internal domain of yourself come to the fore, for example, ‘I as a fighter,’ ‘I as an optimist, and ‘I as a pessimist’ (you can take you own examples). From the right backstage, characters belonging to your external world come to the fore, for example, ‘my colleague John,’ ‘my father’ and ‘my mother.’ As soon as these internal and external characters meet on the stage, they create particular combinations. These combinations are important patterns in which a person functions in his relations. For example, ‘I a fighter’ becomes particularly prominent in relation to ‘my colleagues,’ as I’m working in a very competitive organization. ‘I as an optimist’ is evoked primarily by my father, because he used to smile in the most difficult circumstances. On the contrary, my mother appeals to my pessimist side because she used to warn me of all kinds of risks and dangers. This example is quite simplified because in reality there are more internal characters (or internal I-positions) and more significant others (or external I-positions) than described here. But it shows that on this stage of the self, internal and external positions meet, form particular combinations and become engaged in different kinds of interactions.

  • I as fighter – is activated in relation with my colleagues
  • I as an optimist – is activated in relation with my father
  • I as a pessimist—is activated in relation with my mother



The same procedure can be followed when we consider emotions. My anger is particularly evoked in relation to my brother with whom I always disagree on political matters, while I often feel anxiety when I think of the future of my children. Imagine that there are more emotions and more significant others and you see a host of possible combinations and interactions.

Access to unconscious positions


Probably the most intriguing aspect of the PPR is its entrance to the less conscious layers of the self. Imagine that a particular internal position (e.g., I as creative) is stimulated very strongly by my colleague Frank with whom I cooperate in a challenging project; it is stimulated to some extent by my girlfriend Anita and not at all by my action-oriented sport mate Tim. This combination of ‘very strong’, ‘to some extent’ and ‘not at all’ represents a profile of an internal position across a larger set of external positions. As each internal position has its characteristic profile, the profiles of different positions can be compared with each other. The computer program does this by calculating ‘correlations’ between all the profiles of the investigation. Precisely there, unconscious connections are to be discovered.

For example, in an extensive case study by Hubert Hermans and Els Hermans-Jansen (Hermans, 2001), a client, Nancy, had a prominent position of ‘I as recognition seeker’ because she was striving for visibility in many social situations in her life. It was an important discovery to her to see that her need for recognition was originating from ‘the child in myself’ that always wanted to be in the center of attention in a very egocentric way. But there was more to discover. There was another position, ‘I as jealous,’ which showed a very low prominence because Nancy could not easily accept this side of herself. The more desirable recognition seeker had a much higher place in the prominence order. Apparently, undesirable positions like the child in herself and her jealousy, which is attributed a lowplace in the prominence order, had high correlations with a desirable figure (the recognition seeker), which is high in the prominence order. This specific organization of the repertoire suggests that the undesirable positions function as ‘shadow positions’. This means that these positions, although they are pushed to the background of the self-system (therefore receiving low prominence), accompany and even influence a more acceptable position (recognition seeker) that is assigned a place in the foreground of the system. From the perspective of authenticity, it is important to realize that, although shadow positions are less conspicuous and prominent, they may be very influential from a background of the repertoire.

The same procedure can be followed when one wants to investigate a particular external position in the context of other external positions. For example, it may be revealing and significant to a client to know the place of his ex-wife in the context of other external positions in his repertoire. When the highest correlation is found with his dominating mother, then this may result in the insight that he feels attracted to women who, on a lower level of consciousness, are associated with his dominating mother, to whom he always felt a stubborn resistance.

What is the benefit of the PPR-method?

The method has the following benefits:

It shows the relationships between your internal self and significant others so that you know the meaning of others from the perspective of the different sides of yourself. It reveals important patterns in which you relate to others.It makes clear which internal positions are most prominent and which are least prominent so that a person gets an insight in his or her identity organization. The same occurs with external positions. It shows what other people mean to you and what place you give them in your personal and professional life.It gives access to the less conscious layers of the self and in this way deepens self-insight and stimulates self-discovery.