"CONTINUING THE EVOLUTION OF THE PERSON-CENTERED APPROACH: A WAY OF BEING"
An Open Forum
Greece July 6, 1995
Ruth Sanford: I hope that we are extending the boundaries somewhat here tonight by trying to make it possible for everyone who has a thought and wants to express it, to be able to express it in the easiest, clearest way possible. If you cannot understand what I'm saying, I wish you would tell me. If you do not understand English and are taping this session, with the hope of taking your cassette home and having it translated, then I say you have taken a real step in the whole process of communication and I applaud the courage of someone who says, as my neighbor here said, "I do not understand English but I enjoy being here."
I'm trying to put myself in that place in another country and I think I would not have the fortitude. If anyone objects to having a real name attached to your contribution, I hope you will tell us because very frankly what we have here are several tape recorders of people who are wanting to make a record of what we talk about tonight. It would also help a great deal if you can remember, and I know this is not easy, saying your name when you have a comment or a contribution to make.
My part in this introduction will be brief, I hope. I have asked some of my friends that if I begin talking too long that they shut me down and tell me I've talked long enough.
This is the second time that we have addressed in a group the subject of the "Continuing Evolution of the Person-Centered Approach: A Way of Being." It's continuity and change that we're talking about and the way it first came to my mind, and it's been stirring around there ever since, goes back to a session in Mexico City in an afternoon session at the Ibero Americana, the university where Alberto Segrera is.
A woman asked a question there after listening to various psychotherapists from different schools of thought and practice. She said, "what is the person-centered approach doing to reach out to the millions of people who need therapy or need the help of a therapist if there were enough to go around? Many of the people who need it most would not have the money. What are you doing in person-centered approach to respond to that need?" And then to my utter surprise she addressed the question to me.
I had to pause because I was completely taken by surprise and these words came into my mind, "elitism, elitism. We must go beyond elitism." That was the beginning of a stirring for me of the need to find ways in which we can continue this evolution of what began as a theory of therapy and which during Carl's lifetime, evolved with him leading the way and continually reaching out. It evolved into what became known as the person-centered approach in significant relationships or what is the person-centered approach in education? How does the person-centered approach reach out into the wider community of neighborhood, the world?
Another step which I feel, and I'm not trying to be the "star lecturer" about it because I am not one of those people who grew up literally beginning back in the forties and followed personally the development of client-centered psychotherapy and then into the person-centered approach and so on. Other people have done more of that than I have. I came rather late. I came in 1975 and was a part of a good deal of Carl's reaching out to foreign countries, along with many other colleagues in different parts of the world. So, what I'm referring to now is the evolution that I know about. It is fairly recent excepting for what I have read and I have tried to make myself knowledgeable about those early years.
But I find that Carl first came upon this concept which had developed later through very thorough and careful research into the theory of the client-centered psychotherapy. What we have lacked a great deal in recent years is a continuation and an evolving into different kinds of research that will establish as clearly the effectiveness of the person-centered approach applied in much broader social fields. That is one of the evolutionary steps which I'm sure we are now experiencing in different parts of the world and I hope to hear more about what is going on in research. I hope we can share a bit of that tonight.
I also hope that each person here who is in his/her own way finding a different way to practice the person-centered approach, not preach it, but practice it in everyday life in the work place, in the family, in other intimate relationships, in other significant relationships and can share with us how they are exploring and how they were able to reach out into broader and broader circles.
The pebble in the pond has been referred to as a good example. I'm not going to take a great deal of time tonight because I want everybody here who has a thought, an idea or a contribution to make about what is happening in your workplace, in your country, what is happening in you, that helps this way of being to become known to and enjoyed by and used by others. I could say a great deal more but I'm going to depend on the people who are here from South Africa, from Russia, (when we were there it was the Soviet Union. That was in 1986. Already that's an expression that's out of date) and all the people of other countries who are here.
I hope you will identify yourself and that we will have the time to hear you out and if you need to speak in your own language and there is somebody here who can translate for you, that would be fine. If you cannot speak English, don't feel that you cannot take part. I hope you will feel as relaxed and as much a part of this as if we were sitting three or four of us together rather than a larger number. I don't know how many are here and it doesn't matter but this is an invitation to think together, to share together and as Jules Seeman said in Tampa when we had an earlier open forum on the "Continuing Evolution of the Person-Centered Approach," "I offer you an invitation to dream and to talk about what you envision as steps beyond where we are here at this particular moment."
And, so I wish to stop at this point. I may have other comments to make like any other participant but this is an open invitation. It's an open forum. It is not a series of formal presentations but I hope that when you have something to say that you will take the necessary time to say it and if we have to stop before we finish, so be it. That is the way it is with life. We are only getting a start here and each person will continue it in her own way, in his own way, when you go back home.
And now I hope to hear from anyone who is ready to speak. I have asked certain people if they will share a part of themselves here, a part that I know something about and maybe they are willing and are ready now to pick it up from here and I will ask for a microphone only when I have something that I need to say.
Beate Hofmeister: At this moment we've known one another for quite some time. I've used my life to bring the person-centered approach more to life in Germany. It has been changing lately. There are political changes. I'm in a situation now where my material life is being threatened because of my involvement. But even so I want to let you know that we are happy to tell you that during this conference we happened to contact our Japanese friends and plan to have a training session in two years, a joint German-Japanese training session and this gives me a little courage. But I also need more energy from this group to go on doing what I have been doing and facing the material dangers that I have to face because of my engagement with the approach. I want to let you know that this German-Japanese gathering might happen now. That's all.
Giovinella from Italy: I work for a public institution. We are trained by a social Catholic organization. People say I have never felt so free. I have never felt so understood. It is possible to do good psychotherapy even if the client can't pay.
Trevor Chisholm: My name is Chizey. I live in London. I work with clients in a relationship but also I work outside that relationship too as a human being. When I walk through society and I see human beings that are suffering I help them out. The essence of that relationship outside of the therapeutic relationship is human beings and a human being relationship.
Ruth: You're speaking now about practicing everyday a way of being and not necessarily talking about it, but practicing it.
Chizey: Yes, Ruth, yes. When I see the suffering of a person in society outside the therapeutic relationship, I help them out with that suffering. I would like to tell a short story of a person I met. I was traveling along in society on my bicycle and I pulled up at some traffic lights and I heard a voice from a human being cry out to me. The person said, "Don't do it!" I turned around and I said, "What?"
He said, "Don't get married." The man was in pain. He had tears in his eyes. He was very angry and I could feel his anger and I helped him out as another human being outside the therapeutic relationship.
Eric from Chile: We have been doing research, mainly. We have been working in health education in large populations in Santiago, Chile concerning ways of living for the poorest people. We have made some research. We have been of great help for the government to introduce reforms in politics for the homeless. Anita has contributed through research the person-centered approach in the school of medicine at the University of Chile. And now she is one of the persons supervising people all over the country using person-centered approach in real contact with the homeless through medical attention and in populations. I have been working especially in colleges of teaching and my work has been mainly to try to give teachers a better way of connecting with the students. It has been hard work and we have made research to which has been the basis for the future reforming of education in Chile. So I think that when we think of person-centered approach we usually try to include many of the important research which has already efficiently in different parts of the world worked a change in conditions of living for many people. So I think that's important now perhaps that emerges a kind of review where everybody who is making researches around the world can report those researches because it would be quite encouraging for many of us to see that many people around the world is influencing clarity for better conditions of living in person-centered approach.
Cecil Bodibe: A fellow South African by the name of Len Holdstock, the man who introduced person-centered approach to South Africa invited Carl Rogers and in 1982 and 1986.
Ruth: It was Shirley Shochot who brought us there in '86.
Cecil: In '86 but the outcome of this whole thing was shifting this whole concept of the PCA beyond the classroom to the real life situation, a way that involved whole classes of people in South Africa talking to one another as a way of absorbing conflict. Then Len's book on education
began stressing, not only education to teach kids the PC way. And more presently in my own way I'm trying to look at how they teach us less. Some people call them isangoma. I'm looking at too the principle that deals in therapy and I'm looking at my experience with working with these figures that they have person-centered healers. But they don't say I am looking at your core conditions, that you are congruent, you are empathic, etc. but manifest in their way of working, but once these core conditions are met they not only preach, they practice on this way of healing for most values, most South African people still use a Western trained therapist and they also still hold with these healers who highlight the fact that these healers are effective when they use their PC approach.
Ruth: Cecil, I'm glad to hear you going back to the history in South Africa. I would also like to say here, and I don't want to take it away from you, that Cecil has been one of the people who has brought most clearly to my attention that it is very important to enter into the culture of those with whom we are working.
When I first went to South Africa in 1982, I could not really enter into the experience of individuals because I could not enter into the experience of their culture and that has led me to the present time to thinking that when we reach out to another culture, to people in another culture, I'm speaking for myself now, it behooves me, it is important for me to take the time and the caring to sufficiently immerse myself in that culture so that I can be empathic within the culture, that I can then be prepared to enter into the experience of an individual who lives in that culture. I can't go all the way but I can reach across a chasm there and I believe that this is an extension of the concept of empathy or empathic understanding for the individual. I believe that if this concept, and I gained a good deal of this from Cecil, can become a part of our thinking and our practice, that we will be able to establish it as a way of being an extension of what we already consider one of the four conditions. So I hope I haven't taken away from what you might have wanted to say on that issue, Cecil.
Alberto: I was thinking of how could I say what I wanted to say. I could use speaking in the first person and share with you something of what had been my own evolution in this. I started as a clinical psychologist. My identity was a clinical psychologist and client-centered therapy is what I felt in common with. For me it has been all to have an evolution in my identity. Clinical psychologist is one thing, to be a therapist, to be a counselor, to be a facilitator and there to see myself as a holder of human development which is not kind to the psychology profession. That's one trend in evolution. Another one was from thinking that the theory was occurring to a theory of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. That's what I feel that this is the core of Rogers' ideas and not only Rogers, the person-centered, the inter and intrapersonal relationship including the social which is not only in the group but group, nations, humankind and I could say the whole universe in the sense of the formative tendency. Another trend would be to accept that I learned from different points of view what I would call internal and external humanist. If I don't agree with most of what someone says it's good to learn from him. I started by reading things in the client-centered/ person-centered fields that some people would say, "well that is not client-centered" and it went into really different dissidence.
At this moment what I feel is that it's not that person-centered should stop being psychological but as long as it is only a psychological theory it's incomplete and it's not a question of saying which psychologists are going to tell philosophers, or engineers or administrators or academicians or practitioners how we can deal with things. We can learn from having architects help us about space, philosophers tell us about the philosophical meaning of a lot of things and other people want an input. The person-centered approach for me is an interdisciplinary body of knowledge that we will try to encompass as much as possible contributions and I insist upon an equal credit. I have also had to stop thinking that I would be a traitor to the person-centered if I would work not as a helper but as whatever I am. An example that I already mentioned, at this time I am a union leader at the university. So that could be seen as a labor thing or as a political activity. Yes, I do want to be political. I feel that I have responsibility for the community that I am part of, for the country that I am part of and for whatever it is the whole world is going toward international relationship. And that I don't think is only as a psychologist, no, as a social being, as a citizen I have to achieve. I feel that I am committed to achieve with a person-centered approach which is very different from being a helper. I think that it's not a question of not having healthy relationships but it would be nice to helping professions, it would be nice to be treated to all professions in helping a better world. I would like to hear more from people who are not psychologists, not having less psychologists but maybe having more parent groups where we could have sociologists, philosophers, administrators, and we would be on an equal level at that moment when it happens and we would engage in social activities, political activities and whatever kind of activities shade together. The day that happens I will be a lot happier.
The day that happens I am going to feel a lot better. I need that. I yearn for that.
Ruth: Alberto, I very much appreciate your reference to the result of your becoming involved as a labor leader. Was it for the first time there was a vote on was it the budget so that what you did was help bring about participation of members of the union in what had formerly been the authoritarian decision of a very few?
Alberto: Yes, you're referring to we have a union versus the union. All employees of the university from faculty to those who would clean the floor, are members of the union, the union as exists for about nineteen years now. It's written in the bylaws that the budget has to be approved by the general assembly of this which is everybody could get it. We decided that to sweep it into bylaws was the best way to do it and that we're going to present for the first time in nineteen years the budget to the general assembly and it was voted at the general assembly of the university union. I think that that is what more people who assume responsibility and to empower people in a very different way than a complimentary way from what as a psychologist I could do and I must say that I am not very good at it. I am ignorant in many things that I'd like to learn from doing it. I've made a lot of mistakes and my friends with me.
Shoji Murayama: My topic is not directly connected with
similar. I would like to now speak because I feel now very excited because when I came to this PCA workshop I met my German friend, Beate, and our mutual understanding and developing some idea of practicing PCA and that after two years later, we are going to come back with Japanese writing students and German students in a cross-cultural workshop. Mutual understanding through PCA is a very important part to power, to growth to actualize our project. You mention about first in this session today or any similar we want to practice PC approach. When I approach here in growing up that it is very positive.
Ruth: I hope that the rest of the world will be able to hear what happens at that joint workshop two years from now. I hope everybody will be able to hear about it and I would like just a moment. I'm going back to Eric to say I did not comment about the work with the poor people in your city and about the way your work has extended into teaching, education and your research and also into the medical profession and I hope too that somehow that will be made available for people around the world who will gain encouragement and inspiration from what you've done. I'm sorry someone is waiting to speak.
Chizey: I think I mentioned earlier before outside about the therapeutic relationship, how I stretch my love and my care to another human being in society, thinking and feeling about the situation, it didn't seem complete and it seems to be also that I stretch out my love and my care to animals too - animals, plants and to trees. Those things seem very important to me, not only just to people, but also animals and trees.
Ruth: Is Arnon here? That said something to me about the animals and I associate you with dolphins children and all human creatures.
Arnon: Yes, Ruth, I'm here.
Nana: My name is Nana. I'm from Athens, Greece. It's my first time that I speak in this workshop. I wanted to tell you that what I believe in is the quality of the PCA way we have in Greece. Polly Iossifides, as you may know, founded the institute of PCA in Greece and she is trying to spread the ideas of the PCA. While the activities we've had last year were just across the room, we were working for one year, once a week for four hours to train nurses of big hospitals in communication ways. We were able to communicate enough to their colleagues, nurses to find ways to communicate with doctors who in Greece the countrymen are very old-fashioned. And of course the family members are all family after this very heavy work we extended.
Ruth: So, you have been reaching out into the medical profession in another way.
Arnon: I would like to focus on another type of poverty that each of us has in his country, although we have not spoken about it so much. When we speak about poverty we mean financial, economical poverty but there is a psychological and mental poverty and I think that people who are placed in hospitals, old age homes, institutions for mentally retarded people sometimes in very deserted areas, sometimes helped and taken care of by staff who are sometimes working there for many years without change, without taking in the modern point of view of humanistic ways of treating people, some doctors in a stagnant way of treating people. This is very powerful work and what they are doing in Greece working with nurses should be blessed but I think the problem of our homes, of our centers that shows that we are not working enough with those people in the person-centered approach. I was happy to see today one of the responders has written about working with groups of people in a mental hospital who were not treated for years. It was their first experience to start speaking about themselves as human beings because we forget sometimes them as persons, as human beings but they are blind.
So I think that maybe we can contribute in the future each home with the hope that each part of the population can do something and maybe exchange people from countries for a few months and we should focus on these populations. Because aren't we all these people? Thank you.
Colin: Several things have already been said that have stimulated my thinking but particularly in terms of this particular evening I wanted to share two experiences that I had recently that were very exciting. Last year I wrote an article in a much known British counseling journal suggesting that as therapists we need to come out of the office and as therapists we need to work in community. I think this is very critical of anything in a counseling journal. As a result of this article I received a letter from a group analyst who works in the psychoanalytic tradition and said he was very excited by my article. Could we meet? I went to London. I actually went to a meeting where there were five group analysts and started feeling a bit outnumbered! I was very hospitably received. We had a very stimulating discussion. They are very concerned about such issues and have also been doing lots of work on large groups. They also have a tradition of trying to make sense of large groups. They have a different theoretical position. But nevertheless that position is trying honorably to understand what is happening with strife. As a consequence, though I am not sure that I have the time, unfortunately, or energy, to cooperate with other countries, they have invited me to participate in other countries elsewhere and I keep saying that I'm not an analyst! I'm not trained as an analyst. I'm not this. I'm not that. And they just keep saying, "Please come with us. Please join us." It sounds extremely exciting and an extremely open invitation. They offered it very generously. This embracing of the concern rather than sticking within theoretical ideologies excites me.
The other exciting experience that I had last year was to be invited to a French workshop which was stimulated by a professor of geography and a Roman Catholic priest. It was called "To Live in the Same World." I was the only nonFrench speaking person there and I was invited to speak for 15 or 20 minutes. They have had five weekend seminars where people have come together and they have deliberated on issues like love, power and work. They have one planned next year. It is to be on the "transmission of knowing". I wasn't sure that I could speak much to the subject they invited me to address when I went, yet I did have the opportunity of speaking about the very process that we are engaged in by just trying to communicate the influence and importance of PCA ideas. Their efforts seemed to me to be very healthy to those who were engaging, redescribing, and trying to make sense of how to live and how to work. These were priests, journalists, people, ordinary people, people very impressive, professionals, etc. And that's really very exciting. As persons in the world both groups I have mentioned are attempting to contribute to the well being of humanity.
Ruth: You're finding that they seem to be hungry for someone with whom they could talk and who may be of some help by inviting you the way they did.
Colin: I hope so, Ruth because it was a great compliment to be invited. I'm grateful.
Ruth: But it was an effort on their part to reach out and ask for what you could contribute and I think that's the thing that sometimes surprises me, that people say. "Well, this is the first time I've had an opportunity to talk with someone about this. This is the first time someone has listened to our problem."
Colin: Yes, in both cases.
Venya: My name is Venya. I am Russian. The PCA is very close to me, both personally and professionally. For me, the process of making acquaintance with the PCA was like discovering some clear truth of life - truth of being human. It's principles were recognized by me as reflecting and corresponding to the most deep, real and highest experiences I have had in my life, my relations with people.
Professionally I accept the PCA as a basis for my practice, as a counselor and as an educator.
It is worthwhile to say several words about the dynamics of the wide-spreading of the PCA in Russia. Historically, after the thirties and forties in the former Soviet Union, psychology was developed as a mainly academic discipline: a lot of theory and research, and a lack of practice. That situation became more and more disappointing for our psychologists in the seventies and eighties. There was a great wish to build psychological practice on a humanistic background.
Making acquaintance with the ideas of PCA in that situation and the coming of Carl Rogers and Ruth Sanford to Russia were accepted as a platform for building psychological practice, consulting, and providing psychological help.
I remember the inspiration of Russian psychologists, which accompanied and followed that visit. The reason for it were, on the one hand, the situation in Russian psychology I have just described, and, on the other hand, for the first time such a prominent figure of world psychology as Carl Rogers had come to Russia.
As I've already said the PCA was accepted by many Russian psychologists as a basis for their practice in the eighties. Talking about the present state of PCA in Russia I would like to underline two very important circumstances. First in Russian psychology today we have a situation where different psychological theories and practices are available for study and use. Second, the present economic, social and cultural situation in Russia often puts people in concurrent relations. In such condition the PCA as a theory and practice in providing psychological help to people in education, business and people's relations has to prove its adequacy and efficiency. It is not easy at all, but I and many of my colleagues believe that because of its real qualities and because of its correspondence to the cultural peculiarities and values of Russia, the PCA has a great future in Russia.
Ruth: I'm sure, Venya, that we will follow that with a great deal of interest and will want to hear how all of this unfolds for you and for the others with whom you're in contact in Russia.
Mieke: I would like to say something to all of the people here. Ruth, I'm Mieke from Holland. There are three things I want to say.
First, when I met in my first international conference and workshop in Szeged the person-centered approach not in book, but in human beings, I was astonished and there was a turbulence in me because I had so many things to learn from my own impatience and I thought it was very, very good for me to learn all those things. Carl said to us when Cor and I told him that our school was based on the ideas of the person-centered approach, "It is based on your principles." And he said, "I hope that you will change the principles in your own way so that you can use them."
We were working at that time since 1957 in a secondary school. We came there in 1966 but that school was working with the ideas of realness as we called it. Realness and unconditional positive regard, giving the pupils as much freedom and responsibility as we could. Still the school is struggling. Still we are struggling because even in our school there are many teachers just coming and going and teaching because of their job and not really knowing about those basic things. Maybe they know in theory but in practice it still gives some trouble.
The third thing and I'm very glad about that, is what follows. Last year the government of Holland has conducted again new ideas for education and teaching like it did before but with other names. One of the main points is the view to give the pupils more responsibility. Let them plan more, make their own choices and teach them to be able to plan in time and speed. That's like in the sixties, when our school was very often visited by other school administrators and teachers because they wanted to see how we practiced. There came a time when we didn't get so much attention because the no-nonsense era had come. But then favour returned to ideas of responsibility to the pupils and planning and choice of the pupils. There is growing now much more attention and again schools come to see how we work and that I think is a start for our own colleagues to be aware of the real main things, in my opinion, to have the attitude and not the kind of brute organization but to have the attitude to be with the pupils and to let them find their own solutions.
So I am sad that all those beautiful things need so much time but again I just thought for the future (without a thought for the importance of the process). However, I'm 61 and I could retire but I said no, I want to keep at this way of working as long as I am allowed to and that's at least still four years.
Ruth: Mieke, you give encouragement I think to people who feel that they've been working two or three or four years on a project and haven't realized the fruition of it and you're saying that you've been at it since probably 30-40-50 years. The message I get is "don't give up."
Mieke: Exactly. You can put it together perfectly because I'm always afraid to use too many words but I think it's good to tell other people that we are still going strong and so on.
Christine: I'm Christine from Switzerland. I just wanted you to know where I stand and this is why I'm here. I'm not a psychotherapist and I teach singing because singing is what I probably do best and something that I really love doing. I also love teaching voice. I'm trying to find the person-centered approach in my teaching voice. I find myself very often in this dichotomy of being very directive and at the same time trying to be person-centered because when you teach voice, you find yourself in the situation that if I were too nondirective, people will wreck their voices. So I have to navigate between the two. But on the other hand, I think it's like trying to get along this way, I felt myself not being able to not work this way. It's like I also let my people choose the repertoire, what kind of songs they want to sing, and at the same time I feel really I have to set out all the time where am I being too directive and where one wonders and I just gave them the tools for the kind of work you are doing here. And so I thought the intelligent thing being closest to you I think it is very important, really important that they express themselves by their voices and I found out for myself and for my students that they did best in the pieces they really care for and so I believe wholly they really don't like to deal with what is alien, what is strange, formal in the society, so I let musical theatre, pop music.
Ruth: What comes to my mind, Christine, and that is that in a relationship whether it be a facilitation of learning, which yours is, or whatever else, it's the quality of the relationship between you and the other person that determines how effective, even the directive part of it which is necessary, can be.
Christine: Yuh, I wrote my pedagogic diploma paper on the relationship aspect of teaching music, especially of teaching voice. Although I feel that the paper was my experience and I thought either they would reject it or they would not. Actually they did like it and I got the best diploma I could get and this gave me more hope. On the other hand sometimes when I read the paper gosh I'm really up to these things. This is one thing I wanted to tell you.
The other thing is that I have become a member of the board of our local union - a local music teacher's union. I even have a chance of becoming president of the group because our actual president is going to resign next year. And it all seems very vague to me and I doubt if I will make it but I want to apply PCA wherever I can. But I feel that whenever this is going to happen and the question of salary and we have been discussing it and the union group, for years now people have been out of work, I'm fortunate in that I have my teaching but anyway what I can get out of this is what am I paying to do this job. I have a studio. I have somebody to tune me in with the piano I use, I have to have. I have costs, anyway I think my work is worth something adequate. I work in Switzerland. Switzerland is a rich country. People have all sorts of possibilities. I have decided to let them choose how much they can or are able to pay me. And I think I might even be able to raise a little money for those who don't have clients or have difficulties. I don't want people to remain unappreciated. This is something I cannot permit. It's the specificity in my room scales.
Ruth: It sounds as if you also entered into the arena of labor, being political in that sense, along with Alberto. He spoke about his involvement.
Carol: Today I felt I had much more in common with the development that is happening in Russia and in Argentina and in Brazil as I do with my friends and colleagues in the United States of America. I think the issue for me is combining some things that are happening organically in the United States, naturally coming from the grass roots from the very grass under our feet that come up. This is called radical this very afternoon and I believe it's radical. And I think the element that is simpatico with those places in the United States where I think that cooperation is possible is money, gender, power and education and help and all of course go together. Because in the United States women are nurses and women are teachers and childcare workers and many of these things but they are also much more poorer after divorces, after everything. The men get richer and the women can get poorer.
There are a growing number of what we are calling democratic schools and my daughter is a finishing student and in that school there are no required grades and no required courses and nothing is required except for the very end of their time in school, they're 15, 16, 17, whatever they choose, they have to defend a thesis saying they are mature, responsible citizens of the adult world. They also choose the staff. There is no evaluation of the students but the students evaluate the staff at the end of the year. I was teaching there and there would be a questionnaire about whether I was useful, whether I was accessible, whether I added anything to their lives and if I don't get enough votes, even if I started the school, I would be packed up. They have no power.
These schools are developing in many places but it is also very underground. That word was used. So that's happening in an underground way.
The other connection is gender studies and I've spoken of this before but there is a lot of work being done by women about reclaiming, making strong and reclaiming the strength of things like nurturance and healing and cooperation and respect, caregiving and trying to make those qualities universal and powerful and so that goes into equity of pay for nurses and teachers and that kind of thing. So I work in education on those many levels of empowering women to reclaim their strength and to act beyond their private strength in the one room of the school but into their school boards, the districts, the larger circle of politics.
In healing, there's a public television series about healing the mind and body and it showed one group that met of people who had cancer and the writer of the program said, "These are the miraculous results. We don't know how just talking creates longer life and better quality of life, sometimes healing. When he said "we don't know how this happened," I thought, "but we do know." So we could need another area to connect and be part of it. I see these as challenges and cooperative ventures that I don't feel like I have much help with but I would like to work toward.
Ruth: Seeing that these patients who were healed "miraculously" had been recognized themselves as human beings and partners in their healing. Would that be true? And that's a secret that we have.
Carol: Just talking.
Ruth: Just talking and being listened to.
Carol: I feel like just saying that Jules Seeman has been in the United States and was working on psychoimmunology and the connection in how do they happen. His point is that you make an intervention into the human system, into the person, into your being. You could enter on a biological level, on a pharmaceutical level, with chemicals, with contacts, with loving connection in the community which is something the African experience is very precious to me for that. The idea that whole community needs to restore the person back into the whole community. This is so important from the African experience I think in many places. That idea is like just a small seed in the statement very different.
Ruth: I think that one of the things I learned from Jules was that he felt that considering the physical, the biological aspect of the whole person as being a part of the fully functioning person and that was one aspect to which Carl never referred directly in speaking about the fully functioning person. So that is just pointing out a bit about what you said about Jules and introducing the biological, the health, and well-being of the individual as a part of the whole person.
Carol: Right and his point is when you make a positive intervention at one level, all the other levels are affected.
Alan: I was thinking along somewhat different lines from most of the things people have said so far, which have been about the spreading of PCA to different fields: different countries, different occupational settings, and so on. The two things I wanted to say. . . I made some notes and have them on my knee. It's too dark in here to read them now but I remember most of what I wrote.
You started, Ruth, with the word elitism and I think that it's really important to move away from that, from associating the approach with an occupation, a group, a class in society or whatever. Time and time again we come back to Carl's phrase "A Way of Being." It seems to me this is really the essence, the summary. I'm retired now, early retired. I've made some efforts in two of the fields that have been mentioned. But now I'm released from that I find that the most important thing to me is my own personal experience, my recollection of how significant to me in my own life contact with the approach was: my experience of very intensive workshops and other contacts with people in the PCA. The most significant impact was in changing my life and turning things around, giving me a sense of personal power. . . Other words come to mind, words like flow and belonging. . . feeling much more alive than I did previously. I believe this way of being is spreading, yet it's quite a subtle kind of thing. It doesn't just appear in therapy or in education; it's to do with the way we go out into the world, the way we are with the neighbors, the way we are in the street.
The other aspect is the ever-growing expansion of networking. The joint Japanese-German workshop - that seems an amazing, promising connection. I believe the networking extends far further than what we see here, but I do value that particularly and I've gained a lot of support, a lot of encouragement from it. By way of example, I was thinking, Ruth, you wrote me a letter a couple of weeks ago and I phoned you last week and we had a little chat. That was just making that connection again. We hadn't spoken for probably a couple of years prior to that. This could happen very easily I think with people who follow workshops. We've got a common outlook, a common value system which crosses boundaries of occupation and nationality. This is very, very important and I believe that it's growing in many, many way . . . So I'm going to shut up and pass the microphone to somebody else in a moment . . . I noticed the way we're developing things like the University of the 3rd Age, if any of you know about that concept. This is a peer type of organization of learning groups for people who are retired. I'm interested that, at least in Britain, it develops not along conventional, organizational lines, which I'm afraid looks like the government, but that it should be very much along the lines we value: struggling to get the right emergent structures and networks and communications rather than it turning into just another organization of the kind we are all probably so familiar with.
Ruth: Alan, a part of what I've heard you saying just now is that you are now recognizing positive regard for yourself and your own way of growing and developing and actualizing or whatever now that you are free from the restrictions of a regular job that took up most of your time and energy before you retired. I just wanted to point that out, say that's what I heard. Am I right?
Alan: Yes, thank you, Ruth. It's a two-stage process or multi-stage. The first, of course, being more liberating when I came into this approach about 17 or 18 years ago. And then another big step was personal freedom upon retiring from work, which fits into what you said.
Ruth: Well, maybe some day I'll grow up to that stage where you are now because I've retired three times in my life and I'm not retired yet!
Alan: Well, maybe I'll get another job and then I can retire again!
Chizey: I'd like to say something and that is I would love to say but I can't because the room is too hot at the moment. Can we, the air conditioning, can we do something about that?
Bob Lee: This is a little hard for me to say. I see something quite different from what's been expressed. I'm really stressed. I see the way of being as a derivative from simply being. I see simply being as the essence of the person-centered/client-centered approach. It is an actualizing tendency without the self. Hard to go on but it is the actualizing, formative tendency. No self. I see what I'm doing for all of this is allowing, permitting opening to simply being and trusting the process of my way of expressing simply being will take care of itself. So in a billion and one ways of being I see us acting in the world
you may think there are 37 but I think there are a billion and one. And this means simply being open to the laws of man, to nature, to people, completely to the cultures, to the way of God, people, to the ideas. Also expressing myself. I tell my wife, Marion, that one day as I am clearer and clearer inside I will get to say shorter and shorter words more succinctly on what it is I would like to say and it will have a lot of meaning to everyone to energize. There are many facets to this simply being in the derivative of the way of being and so I think there is a little difference there. I think there's a distinction, there's a lot of mind and yes, yes, yes but there's a distinction. I do make it in writing. If you're interested in the writing I do make it in my writing. As I see it, is very vital to the advantage of our work, the evolution of our work and where I've learned this I think it's very precious and very significant by listening to you, I feel just like you, in my daily life and why is that so precious? Pure Carl I'm not surprised that he found what he found by pure listening, two persons to find out only person. I have discovered by simply being, by just continuing that way. Let's be nonconditionally. Conditionally I don't feel that. So unconditionally. Thank you for the opportunity to say this, Ruth.
Ruth: I'm very glad to hear your point of view on that. I feel I'm getting to know you better as a person. I don't understand right now how you felt hesitant about it because it does stir up and stimulate. Thank you.
Harold: Since I have met you Ruth, in Szeged, I am wondering myself whether I could make possible that a miracle would happen, the miracle that all of your concern and all of your heart will somehow live on inside of me, inside of others who share the same concern and I hope this miracle will happen. I'm not sure about it but that will really be positive. So carry on.
Ed: Amen to that. I just want to say something procedural. We have a transcript of the prelude to this of the first forum prior to this in Tampa. We have about five copies, if you would like a copy just sign on the list and we'll get you one. We'll make a transcript of this, edit it and have copies of this.
Ed: I know the first one would cost about a dollar is my guess. So this is twice the amount. It would be two dollars. They'll be there.
Ruth: I'm glad Ed took that opportunity now but we still have a few minutes left. But I don't want that to put a stop to someone else who is ready to speak. I hope you won't feel put off now and that you can enter again into the contributions that people have been making. It has been very, very rich for me. It's touched me very deeply. I don't want to cut it off.
Mieke: Thank you, thank you.
Cor: I think I have heard the way of being is the same as the way of doing.
Alan: It looks as though maybe we've come to a natural ending.
Ruth: We have been working in New York on ways of deliberately setting out to gather a diverse group of people in a workshop which we call "Experiencing Diversity." That means we don't talk about the person-centered approach unless we're asked but we try to practice it to be that way, to be a participant, an active client in the group and our experiences there were most revealing. We found that we were wandering about in the woods because we had to learn every step of the way and we got discouraged at times. But we did find that when we planned the group, the most important part of it was to include the kind of diversity we wanted to experience in the members of our planning group and it was not the flyers that we sent out. It was not the mailing that we did. It was the personal contact by diverse members of the planning group which met all year, which brought to us a great richness of diversity. We're trying again this year to have another one. We're planning it in October and we're hoping that we can reach further into this understanding of diversity and how we can share it together but it takes deliberate planning and quite a different way of approaching preparation for a workshop. So I hope that sometime we'll be able to share with you that we have learned a little bit more during this year in which we are now living.
I feel today that I've had a feast, a feast of oneness and a feast of experiencing real diversity in a way the expressions that those present here, by which they have lived in this world and are being their own selves, their own persons in this world. And so unless there is someone else who has something to say that didn't have the courage to say before. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to stop. But I want to feel that this is not the end of anything. It's the beginning of something more.