Last week we saw in some detail how the approach developed by Carl Rogers was applied in his guided inner search (our ‘secular meditation’) and how it resonated with Teilhard’s insistence that the personal core within us was a manifestation of the cosmic uplifting of all things, the energy of God working within us. This week we will see in more detail how Rogers observed the finding of this inner core and participated in the person’s emerging ability to cooperate with it.
What Rogers Saw in His Clinical Experience
In Rogers’ clinical experience, he conducted many psychological surveys in which he observed the following changes taking place in his “clients” as they undergo therapy:
– The individual becomes more integrated, more effective
– Fewer of the characteristics are shown which are usually termed neurotic or psychotic, and more of the healthy, well-functioning person
– The perception of himself changes, becoming more realistic in views of self
– He becomes more like the person he wishes to be, and values himself more highly
– He is more self-confident and self-directing
– He has a better understanding of himself, becomes open to his experience, denies or represses less of his experience
– He becomes more accepting in his attitudes towards others, seeing others as more similar to himself
Rogers saw the role of the therapist as “facilitating” these changes, fostering them by way of offering the client a relationship in which the client can feel safe enough to discover the value of the person that Kierkegaard believed “to be that self that one truly is”.
Rogers used the results seen in his clinical experience to delineate the steps which the client experiences as he becomes more aware of himself and increasingly ready to cooperate with energies of his life. He saw the following things happening in such a person:
– Feelings evolve from being remote, un-owned to fearlessly experienced in the immediate present
– Experiences evolve from very remote and meaningless to immediate, and as an acceptable referent for accurate meaning
– Congruence between experience and awareness becomes more complete as experience becomes safer
– Communication becomes clearer as the internal connection between feelings, experiences and awareness improves
– Problems become recognized, understood and owned
– As experiences are perceived as a trustworthy guide to his behavior in relationships, the danger perceived in relationships is lessened
The Person that Emerges From Psychotherapy
In general, Rogers saw the maturing person as
– Increasingly open to his experience, which permits him to become less defensive
– Increasingly “existential”; living more fully in each moment, in touch with experiences and feelings
– Increasingly trusting of his own organism, able to trust those feelings and experiences
– Increasingly able to function more completely
So against the Freudian belief that man is basically irrational, and that his impulses, if not controlled will lead to the destruction of others and self, Rogers saw the human person as capable of becoming freer, less defined by the past and more open to the future as he grows. Since the basic nature of the human person is constructive and trustworthy, as he matures the person will become more creative and live more constructively.
The relationship that Rogers sees as necessary between the client and his therapist is very like that seen as mature love between human persons. Rogers comments,
“There seems every reason to hypothesize that the therapeutic relationship is only one instance of interpersonal relations, and that the same lawfulness governs all such relationships.”
Every human relationship touches on some aspect of the characteristics that Rogers identifies in the process of “becoming a person”. In all relationships, from the most intimate to the most fraternal, such skills as management and expression of feelings, owning of experience, congruence between experience and awareness, clarity of communication, responsibility for problems and honesty manifest themselves in patience, empathy and tolerance. In all relationships, when we are welcomed into an accepting environment, we are able to move a little closer to “being that person that we are”, and when we welcome another in the same way, their own “becoming” is invited.
Existentialists and Teilhard
The new perspective pioneered by the existentialists can be seen in the light of the “Teilhardian Shift” (29 Nov-11 Dec, 2014)), which itself comes from the concept of general evolution in human thinking precipitated by the scientific discoveries of Cosmic “size”, “duration” and “unfolding”. To begin to understand everything as “in the process of evolution” can be interpreted as seeing everything “in the process of becoming”, since each step in evolution comes from something to something new, and the new something which results is more complex than its precedent.
Since the human person can be seen as simply the latest manifestation of this fundamental cosmic process, we can expect the same dynamic to be working in our lives. Every day offers us the opportunity to grow from the someone we are to a someone new. The new aspects of our person which emerge, if this growth is authentic, are consistent and congruent with the forces of the universe. They are well articulated by Rogers and consistent with the positive expectations of the existentialists.
The Next Post
Next week we will recap where we have got to in our search for the ‘Secular Side of God’