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February 12, 1986

 

 

CARL ROGERS AND RUTH SANFORD

"IN CONVERSATION" at UCT Capetown

 

ROGERS: I'm Carl Rogers and I want you to know my colleague and friend, Ruth Sanford. I want to say just a word about how pleased I am to be here in South Africa at this time, in this place. I feel this is a critical, almost a desperate time and yet it's also a time of change and it's a very

exciting time to be here. And I'm deeply privileged to be here.

 

SANFORD: As you already know, my name is Ruth Sanford. I find it a great privilege and a great learning experience to be here. I feel, too, that the winds of change are blowing in South Africa; they're blowing all over the world, but particularly here. And I am really grateful to be a part of that. My main background early on in my professional life is in education, first as a teacher, then as a counselor, then as an administrator. My first venture into this kind of open approach to education was as a counselor when I became intrigued with what it is that dulls the edge, the inquisitive edge, the creative learning edge of young children and how could we nurture that creativity again in the classroom. So I spent seven years in research on that and have found it very helpful since.

 

Since 1972,1 have known Carl and increasingly have worked at home and the Center for Interpersonal Growth on Long Island, part-time teaching at the university, at Long Island University and a small private practice of my own, I have become more and more interested in the international visits which we've taken in Mexico, in Hungary, in Ireland and in various places in the United States. So that's a little bit about me and I guess, Carl, they'd like to know a little more about you.

 

ROGERS: I might simply say that for nearly 60 years I've been working with people who've had problems, inner conflicts, problems in their relationships with others. I was deeply interested in individual therapy and that's where I really began to learn about how people change and what the conditions are for change. And I suppose I'm enough of a scientist to feel that if I've learned anything that is true in a field, the principles ought to apply to other related fields. And so, it's been a fascinating thing to me to see that some of these central points, some of these major elements that seem to be true in psychotherapy in helping individuals change also are relevant to the learning process.

 

I've been much interested in more student centered point of view in education.

Somewhat to my surprise, a great many people in business and organizational

development have found the same principles useful in management and in business

enterprises. The field of pastoral counseling has drawn heavily on my work. Then I became involved more and more with intercultural and interracial groups. I began to be particularly interested in groups where antagonisms existed or rather where tensions and conflict, not only within individuals, but between individuals. And so, I and some colleagues worked with a group from Belfast, Ireland, militant Protestants and militant Catholics, some in between, and the Englishmen. That was fascinating.

 

 

 

 

As Ruth says, we've worked with an interracial workshop in Hungary. We both worked with black/white groups in this country and the United States. So I've been increasingly interested in the way in which principles learned in a one-to-one relationship seem to apply to tensions and conflicts that affect society. I think that's enough about me, but we might get into the question of why am I here.

 

I'm here because we're invited back. As Ruth says, that is a pleasure. I'm here because I'm fascinated by the crisis that this complex country is going through. I've been learning a great deal, hope to learn a great deal more. I hope I can contribute some things too.

 

I'm here too because we were invited back long ago. We began planning this in 1984 and we finally decided that if a group of mixed races could be brought together, if they would be interested in facilitating groups because that was one of the main questions we heard in 1982, how can I learn how to facilitate better communication between groups? So if we could get together a group interested in learning to facilitate communication of mixed colors and races and classifications, if they could have a chance after a brief, intensive workshop to also be the service facilitators in some other situation, then we certainly would come. And all that has come to pass in Johannesburg and is coming to pass here.

 

SANFORD:†† One thing that I feel quite important to make very clear so far as I'm concerned at the outset and that is that I have not come, I can say safely we have not come, with the idea of bringing any solutions. We are here to learn, to understand but we also feel that in our work over the years, we have learned certain ways that work to make open communication possible. And if by sharing what we have learned in that way, by seeing diverse groups coming closer and closer together and able to express themselves openly and freely to come to a closer understanding through many times a very painful way of being together, then I think I can say that I have never yet met with a group in which I did not feel that at least part of that group went away more ready to listen to opposing views, more open to understanding the other person and respecting the other person's divergent views and feeling more sure and secure within him

or herself than when he came.

 

So it's a matter of sharing and learning also from groups here, and from individuals, ways in which we may change and expand and deepen our own understandings of the skills with which we work.

 

ROGERS:††† I think that one way of stating our purpose and what we're here to do is that we seek to initiate a self-determined process of change in attitudes and behaviors, and I want to say just a word about each aspect of that sentence. What we endeavor to do in the group is to initiate something. We start a process of which we cannot know the outcome, but we really trust the group, trust the individuals, trust the group's outcome will be constructive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we can initiate that process, it is a self-directing process. It's true of individuals; it's true of the group as a whole. People don't quite believe, but it is true, that we approach a group without specific aims or goals. We simply know that if the group is willing to empower itself, to take charge, to begin to express themselves individually and gradually in more collective terms, they will ooze into a process which is constructive, which makes for

change in individuals and in group behavior and it will be a constructive outcome. Then I would stress again the word "process." People these days are eager for a quick fix or to get things done right now, what's going to happen immediately. This is a process. It's a process which starts during the time we're in the group but it also continues afterward. I often think that probably more goes on outside of the group than in the group and sometimes very powerful things. So, that's a little bit of what we try to do.

 

SANFORD:†††† I think as a facilitator in groups of this kind that one of the things that one becomes accustomed to is that people will get angry because we're not taking the leadership. My graduate students usually at some point say, "I came here to learn and to take notes and I don't know what you're doing to earn your pay because you're not doing that for me," and people become angry because they have expected something and they're not getting it. But it's

the unfolding of that process that goes on and on for whatever periods of time we have.

Whether it's two or three hours or half a day or a full day or fourteen days, it seems to unfold

in whatever period of time we have to do it. I'm interested too that something of the same

process takes place in therapy. I'm always surprised all over again when a client realizes that

there's going to be a break, now like when I came here six weeks. And how much gets done

in the last two or three sessions before that? And when someone is moving away and we'll be

terminating, how much happens in those weeks between the time of knowing that there will

be a separation and the time when it really happens. I think that's a part of my feeling as Carl

has said about a group. I trust that group not to go where I might have had some

preconceived notions but to go wherever they are ready to go at that time and at their own

pace if I don't get in the way.

 

ROGERS:†††† One thing you said about what happens when time is short and so on brings me to a realization of that's why it's so exciting here now. The time is short and everyone is very much aware of that. The time is short for the country and so we find people thinking about change and

wondering what they can do to bring about change. The fact that this is a crisis has made the

groups we've dealt with go much deeper, I think, in a more profound way than would have been

true if this had been a very peaceful period.

 

I want to say another word or two about what we do or how we go about it. We're eager to set a

psychological climate and it's very strange the way that comes about. I realize it comes about

mostly by our way of being. That's a strange thing to say but what we're talking about is not a

technique. It's not a strategy. It's not a method. It's something that is based on a whole

philosophy of being and it is that that we represent, I think, in the group. There are other

aspects to it. When I'm in a group I really want to understand as sensitively and deeply as I can what is being expressed. I think one of the rarest experiences in the life of anyone of us is to be deeply heard and understood and not judged, simply heard and accepted. That kind of nonjudgmental, empathic listening is something I endeavor to do when I'm in a group and when I'm really sensitive and really understand deeply, it's a very powerful element. I feel that when I can unconditionally accept the other person that helps. That helps the process- That unconditional acceptance is often misunderstood. It isn't something that 1 can feel or I think anyone can feel all of the time for everyone but when there are the moments in which I unconditionally accept you as a person, just as you are right now, that's a very healing, very releasing experience. And when I can be very genuine and real in everything that I'm doing, when 1 can be very present in the group, fully present, without facade, without any white coat, either real or imaginary, that seems to help to initiate the process. So those are some of the things 1 think that are important in setting a climate.

 

SANFORD: I feel that underlying this whole philosophy of a way of being, putting primary value on the person, the person is what is valuable. The person is what is important, not a goal that I have

in mind and that means when I say person-centered, meaning putting value in the person, it

means that I put value in the other person but I also put value in myself. And if I don't have a

trust and a regard in myself then 1 can't genuinely feel that for another person and unless that

trust in the other person that she is trustworthy, that the human organism is a trustworthy

organism, that given the climate which Carl has spoken of, the psychological climate, can

reach toward the full potential, becoming a more fully functioning person as a whole person.

Unless 1 really have that trust, I can't fake it. If I have that trust in the person and I know that

that person knows better than I know where he is going, where he needs to go, what he needs to

do, then it doesn't work. 1 will have to make a confession here. I have a very real indifference

with the word "training." Somehow it doesn't fit and yet I don't know a better word for it and a

group of people say, "I would like to come and work with you for a period of time because I

want to be able to facilitate groups in my own community." But it's impossible for a person to

be "trained" in a way of life. It has to be lived first if it's going to have real meaning, so, it seems like a simple way of working with groups, working with another person in a therapeutic situation and yet it is very complex. It is very delicate and it is important for a person to feel it from inside if it's going to work.

ROGERS: I was thinking this afternoon about that question of training. I did think what we should say I believe is that we're involved in the preparation of facilitators. That would be more in line with our thinking.

SANFORD: And working with people who are committed at least to experiencing the approach. Then they can decide whether it's for them or whether it isn't. It's not the way, it is a way which fits for some people but not for all people. It fits for me and that is why I have chosen to work in this way.

 

ROGERS: I think perhaps we've said enough to indicate that facilitating, whether an individual or a group, is a very subtle and complicated function, not a showy function at all, yet somehow enormously powerful. I've been interested in myself in recent years to realize that I think I say less in each group that I'm in. Someone spoke to me about the meetings here in Cape Town and said, "You certainly keep a very low profile." No, it isn't keeping a low profile, it's simply that I find that often if I am fully present, the group picks up facilitative ways of being themselves and if I don't respond to this person, somebody else responds better than I had in mind. It's a very exciting thing to be a part of the facilitative process. Ruth has mentioned that all of this is based on a trust in the individual and in the group and I would just say, yes, and that in turn is based on the conviction in me borne out of long experience that the core of each person is trustworthy. I've dealt with a wide variety of individuals that would be classified, I suppose, as normal, neurotic, psychotic, schizophrenic, etc., but it has been my experience that if I can get through the various layers, if I can get through the shell, if I can get to the core of

the person, that core is constructive. It's positive, it's forward moving. In every sense it is trustworthy and I think that's one of the primary elements on which this whole approach is based.

 

Well, we could talk a little bit about what happens in the groups that we worked with. We haven't talked this over very much but I think we're drawing examples from various groups that we've worked with not only in this country perhaps but elsewhere, trying to give a little picture of what this process is like. Ruth said that people often are critical because they feel enough leadership is not being given. I think of the groups we've held here. There's certainly been

individuals who've been highly skeptical, who have come to the group feeling "it's too late for talk in South Africa, This is ridiculous. There's no use trying to make any effort for blacks and whites to communicate. This is futile." I think of one man who not only felt that way but sat outside the circle of the group and then the only time he spoke up was to say that when

something was mentioned about acceptance, he said, "I want it known that I cannot accept anyone who is not anti-racist, anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist," which put him in a pretty fairly definite position I felt and so we've had a variety of people coming into the group and white people who feel that it's too late for talk also or who are definitely wedded to the system that is.

 

SANFORD: I'm thinking too of a period which quite often comes when there are groups of really sharp differences when they begin to look into themselves and to hear other people and they begin to realize how far apart they really are. They begin to realize how deeply the prejudices are. They see that in themselves and they are terrified. "This is a part of myself which I hate. I didn't

know it was there but there it is." And then it may be that those persons in dissident positions begin to get frightened about the group. They say, "Oh this is worse than it was before. We're really polarizing here in this group and I really wish I hadn't come because I'm feeling worse than I did before." But if we can ride that out, if we can accept that that's where people are, then they make their own way back to an understanding and communication and a deeper level

than they were before. Not everybody but some people will realize it six months from now.

 

ROGERS: I think that when these initial differences are expressed, when they find that those are understood and accepted, then it's no longer so necessary to defend them and then they venture further into deeper feeling. Then they begin to talk about their experiences. I think of many of the things we've heard recently. I think of that one black mother who told how she had her child in

a private school. She'd go to pick up her daughter. The child would take off her uniform and conceal it in the car and then when she'd go back to the township, her heart would just be in her throat whenever she saw a group of youth that perhaps they would stop the car, perhaps they would search it, perhaps they would be mistreated and abused. It was a terrifying experience for her. Or I think of another mother who sent her boy to a boarding school in another city and was very fearful that someday some of the youth would come to her house and say, "Where's your boy? Why is he in school? Get him out of school. Get him back here. We want liberation before education. If you don't get him back here, we'll burn your house." And so she was terrified.

 

 

 

 

 

And then there's the fear of what will be done to them. One father was home in the township when there was a death in the street next to his, the death of a student. I don't know whether it was accidental or natural or what. But at any rate a crowd began to gather and then the police came in and the troops and the children were running for safety and he opened his house to them and there were children coming in his house, hiding under the bed. Some other people closed their houses and didn't want the children in. But for children to be exposed to that kind of thing and then a 14 year old boy, whom he knew very well came in. He had been trying to come home, been caught by the situation, was brutally beaten, so, he experienced all kinds of things and that comes out in the groups.

 

The pain and hurt of the blacks and the fear and anger oftentimes on the part of the white and the rates of bitterness that exists sometimes on both sides is really a part of what we've experienced.

 

SANFORD: And the feeling of guilt which can paralyze and burn up the energy that could be used positively. I found that that was one of the things that many people in the workshops have had to deal with before they could begin asking the question, "What can I do? How can I use my energy in a positive way and use my talents, not feeling that I have to take the whole burden on myself but what can I do in my little piece of the world where I do live and have contact?" I

think whatever my feeling this time and this is one of the things that I've learned, I never before have come face-to-face with real caring, warm, intelligent, honest people who ran such risks as the people I have met since I have come to South Africa this time. 1 cannot conceive what it would mean to put my life on the line when I do take some action which could ordinarily simply be an everyday act of living. And so I feel very humble in the face of that. I think I'm a more compassionate person, a more open to learning person than I was when I came here.

 

ROGERS: I think of one other issue that often comes up in the groups and that's the question of power. Some people feel oppressed. Some people feel guilty because of the power of the system of which they are a responsible part even though they haven't been an oppressor.

 

 

There isn't much that we can do about that in the external world but one thing that is important in these group experiences is that the facilitator can grant equality to each member of the group, equal power, equal trust, equal respect and that comes about simply by listening with people, care to people of very diverse opinions, skin colors and so on. It means that for this moment, for this period, all of us are equal here and that comes out often in astonishing ways. I remember one black man who was silent for a long time in a group but then spoke up and said, "This is the first time I've ever said anything to a white person except 'yes, boss, yes, boss,'" and somehow that really struck home for me and then he went on to say other things. And on the other side, often whites

have said, "I have never had the opportunity to speak to a black person as an equal," and so that's a new experience, to really converse and communicate with people of another race as equals and that's been a part of our experience.

 

SANFORD: I think one of the things that troubles me deeply anywhere that I've felt it, I feel as if everything is amplified and intensified in the South Africa that I've seen this time - all the feeling, positive, negative, destructive, constructive, the whole gamut. But the thing that

troubles me deeply is that I firmly believe that the essential need of every human being is sometimes, somewhere in her life/his life to have had a significant person, it doesn't have to be a parent, hopefully it would be, but a significant person somewhere along the line who could accept another person, that person, without putting conditions on it. It's so easy for parents to give the impression, whether they say it or not, that "I love you when you're good," or "I love you better when you do as I say." For a teacher to show approval and real affection and regard for a student who is a good student and gets the right answers and to leave the other person who is not quite up there, to feel inadequate, judged unacceptable. So, all through life there is that need and I feel it's as great a need as the hunger of the body is for food. An individual denied food cannot grow physically. An individual who has never had the experience of being deeply and unconditionally accepted by some person important to him cannot become a whole, healthy, growing human being that he might otherwise have become. My feeling is that the people who have been denied that nurturing, that food for the spirit, for the emotions, are very likely to be the warped people who commit senseless crimes, who do violence to themselves, to other people. And so I feel when there is a large part of the population that somehow has been made to feel that they're not as good as other people, that simply underscores that dilemma and that problem. I think that's probably the deepest troubled feeling that I have in this visit this time.

 

ROGERS: All of the things we haven't touched on that gets expressed in a group are prejudices and I think I'd like to tell a story which is relevant to the point you just made. Jane is an attractive blond woman (that's not her name but I'll call her that) who at the beginning of a group said that she

was not political at all. She was not interested in politics. She had a satisfactory life and she simply did not want to get mixed up with politics. It did trouble her that when she drove downtown these days there were many more blacks than there used to be and sometimes she wished they would just disappear but she felt that she wanted no part of the discussion of racial issues. Then as some of the black members of the group brought up their situation and their anger and their feelings, it brought back to her a memory that she had really forgotten. She and her mother had lived together in an apartment building with neighbors all about them and one night her mother died quite suddenly. Naturally this was a big shock to her and her neighbors in the apartment building expressed their condolences and "if there's anything I can do, please let me know," and "I feel so sorry to hear the newsĒ and "I regret the tragic time you're going through," and so on but she didn't feel particularly consoled at all.

 

And then her cleaning woman came (a black woman) and within 60 seconds when she heard the news, she was embracing Jane and comforting her and Jane said that then very shortly other cleaning people from other parts of the building (she doesn't know how the message got to them) they came into her apartment. They consoled her, they comforted her, they massaged her they held a little ritual for the dead, they were'with her in her grief. She had never felt

such compassion. She couldn't understand why they would be doing this for her. It was so astonishing because people whom she really knew in the apartment had been so inept in their attempt to console her and here these people whom she really didn't know were so compassionate and so much with her in her grief. But then as the years went by she forgot that and as I say she wished the blacks would disappear and she just didn't want to get involved. Then the more she heard of their stories, the more deeply she felt her own prejudices. She expressed a number of them but one of the most particularly painful to her and to the black people who heard it, she said, "I wish someone would convince me that it was not true that the blacks are lower on the scale of evolutionÖĒShe said, "I've been taught that. I've read that. It somehow becomes so ingrained in me that I feel a deep prejudice about that."

 

 

 

Somehow to hear that coming from the lips of a white person they felt was friendly to them was quite shocking to the blacks who were there and it helped to result in some polarization of the truth. Then as the group went on and got deeper and deeper, Jane came to realize that her prejudices were being swept away but also she felt a great deal of remorse for having hurt members of the group, she felt that some of them were definitely superior to her in compassion

and capacity for intimacy in some aspects of human relationships and she felt that she learned a great deal. she also wondered if perhaps she had really hurt the group by letting them know some of her prejudices.

 

But we have heard of a lot of prejudice on both sides and gradually that has been dissolved in the expression of feeling and the acceptance of feeling. So that's one of the things that has happened in the group.

 

I'd like to say a little bit about some of the outcomes that take place in these groups then I will throw it open to your questions and comments, positive or negative.

 

We've seen a great many changes take place and one is that as facilitators have worked with us briefly and intensively, have gone through a process of change themselves, then they've had the opportunity to facilitate a small group in the following weekend and have found it very, very exciting to discover that they themselves can facilitate the same kind of process through which they've gone as persons and that's been very fundamental in their learning.

 

 

That reminds me. There's one aspect of the story of Jane that I forgot to mention. She said toward the end of the group that she felt changes were going on in her that were deep shifts in geological plates. She was talking about the plates of the earth's crust and she felt as though some of these

fundamental aspects of her were just shifting inside so that change goes on internally, change goes on then in behavior.

 

I find that people are interested in getting together in groups of youth, for groups to initiate the same kind of process in each other's homes, visiting first a home of a white member of the group, then a home of a black member and so on so that they will continue their interchange of feelings and attitudes and the possibility of reconciliation.

 

SANFORD: One of the things that I've been feeling very strongly -1 feel it in groups I work with in the United States, felt it in Hungary, in Ireland. I'm feeling it more strongly probably because I think things are intensified here since coming the end of last month and that is that no matter how much I try, no matter how deep and sincere my wish is to be able to enter into the experience of the other person as if it were my own, I always have to keep in mind that it's not my own. I am my own and I can come back to myself but I realize that no matter how hard I try or how deeply I can become a part of another person's experience, there is an essential loneliness in the healing condition. I can never really know. I can have a knowing of but I can never really know what it is to be that other person and I recall an experience with a young client of mine, a young woman about 16 at the time I came to now her, who had a dreadful time trying to maintain intimate relationships with anyone and finally she had formed a very deep and warm attachment for an older woman for which she was much criticized and was terrified that she was seeking out rather than a young man, who was very attentive to her. She was seeking out an intimate relationship with this older woman and she knew that most people wouldn't understand it but she had come to believe that I as a therapist was the only person who really

completely accepted and understood her. And then one day, she was telling about a difference that she had had with this very close friend others, this woman, and she said she finally told me that we would have to terminate the relationship and Shaila was devastated because here again she had failed to maintain an intimate relationship which was very rare for her which she

had revealed so much of herself and I misunderstood the reason for her deep grief. And when I said the thing that showed my misunderstanding, my lack of understanding after months of being together, she stood up in tears and she said, "I can't stay! I can't stay!" and rushed toward the door. I put my arm around her and I said, "Shaila, I understand you must go now but I'll be

here and I care very deeply." She went and I realized that I had encountered my own limitation. I had missed and it had caused her pain. But for some reason I did not feel guilty about it because I felt I had been there in the best way I could. The next week when she came back, I gave her the written poem which I had written. The end of it (I'll not go into it. It's a fairly

long poem) but the end of it said, "I cannot always go where you would go or stop and stay where you have been, but I can wait beside the path and be there v/hen you come again." And the end of it was, "I can but reach my hand across the chasm of our differences and say with all my heart 'I care.'" But when she came back next week, she said, "I have been working inside of me all week and I realize that you couldn't possibly have been in my skin. I expected you to be

there and you couldn't possibly be." And then she said a very significant thing, "I know now that that is why I have not been able to keep intimate relationships. I put that same kind of expectation on my friends and when they didn't understand I ran away." So I learned that acknowledging my limitations and even that kind of close relationship and still being there had

brought Shaila to a turning point in her own understanding of herself. I think it made me feel very humble and much more ready to accept my own limitation in my relationships with other people.

 

ROGERS: Iíd like to add to that just a little. It has always seemed to me one of the astonishing,

almost a miraculous part of therapy or facilitation, that although our understanding is not perfect, it

is still sufficient to bring about remarkable change. As you say we cannot live in the skin of

another. Iíve noticed this in working with psychotic individuals and yet even the intent to

understand is important to the other person. I think Iíll just say one more thing. In one of the groups

some dreams were reported that seemed to me that even the dreams had political significance

and I want to tell one of those dreams.

 

 

 

A man dreamt that he was on a seesaw. He was on one end of the seesaw and on the other end

was a rather dark and shadowy figure, at least was balancing the seesaw. The dreamer had a

gun in his hand and he decided that he would raise the gun and he might shoot the other person

Look down!Ē So he looked down and underneath him was a bottomless abyss, a pit, and he

realized if he had pulled the trigger, if he had shot the other figure, he would have fallen off

and he himself would have gone into the abyss. He was absolutely terrified of the pit that was

underneath him. He realized there was only one solution and that was to try to move closer

together and so they began to wriggle a little bit at a time and the seesaw was very precarious

but they began to get a little bit closer to one another and a little bit closer and a little bit closer

to safety. And somehow it seemed to me that was a perfect symbol of the South African

situation, that one side could shoot the other but if so it would drop into a bottomless pit and

that dream had real meaning for me. It seemed as though the coming closer together, the

greater degree of communication perhaps represented one of the hopes for this situation.

 

 

 

SANFORD: It may be too late to talk. I know that some people feel that way but as for me, I want

to stand firmly on the side of hope.

 

 

ROGERS: And on that note weíll open it to questions from the audience. Whatever reaction you

have, we would be glad to hear.

 

 

MAN: We in South Africa are now facing the very difficult position and weíve got a very difficult

position of change. I happen to be of a family that is coincidental with the length of time of this

country. We started in 1690, just after South Africa started and just when your America was

started. Weíve had a way of living here and we have had that way of living which weíve grown

up with and it affects both my country and this university and we are on the point of change but

what we have been through with the so called apartheid that the world throws at us on the other

hand now we have the other side of the fence which is acceptance, to accept others as they are

without the group. Weíve got the group versus freedom of choice of who youíre going to be with

which is a very big parting of the ways. Now, do you think I was facilitating this approach of one to

another that we can talk to, letís face it with the numbers we have in front of us. We are

four or five million against another twenty million. Do you think that by means of talk

we are going to be able to safeguard the wonderful history of this country of 300 years

and do you think by talk and understanding that is going to enable us and find a way of

letting us go on without throwing the baby of wonderful valued history out with the bath

water of evolutionary change? Can your talk safeguard them?

 

 

 

ROGERS: Thank you. Thatís a very serious question and I respect it. I would like to say our

groups were not theoretical. They were real. The people who came, came of their own

volition because those people believed in talk, believed that there was hope in

communication. Let me put it that way or it might be hope. Iíd like to respond to your

question this way. I recognize this is a country of many millions of people. I donít come

with a solution. I think what we have done in the groups weíve met with is perhaps in the

nature of a test tube. Itís on a small scale. To me it shows that communication, better

understanding is possible. Now I donít know whether your society or any society, any

culture will decide, well then if itís possible on a small scale, we would like that kind of

understanding on a broader scale. If so, I think it would be possible. I think it definitely

possible to train facilitative people to help them become facilitated but whether your

society or any culture will decide thatís what they want and have the will to do it, I donít

know. I donít know but when you ask, is it possible? Yes, I would say it is possible.

Suppose we put that same amount of time and effort and energy into trying to create

understanding that we now put into military forces to pull things down. I think the result

would be astonishing. So my answer is yes.

 

SANFORD:

I accept that what youíve said so eloquently here is very real for you and I admire and

respect your pride in your country and the history of your country. I have respect and pride in some

parts of the history of my country but not all of it. I think the one condition which determines

whether people of wide differences can come to some kind of understanding is whether theyíre

willing to sit down and try it and when they sit down to try it, will they be willing really to listen to

what the other person is saying rather than trying to think of what I want to say next? Those are the

conditions I think in which it could be possible.

 

MAN: A particular one that Iím interested is in speaking to the other population groups that youíve

dealt with in other parts of the world, how susceptible did you find the South African

population to your particular approach?

 

 

 

ROGERS: Response would be that I donít know whether susceptible is quite the word. I found that

the groups we have dealt with here, especially this time, have been more eager for communication,

more eager to find common ground, more ready for change, than any groups I have ever dealt

with anywhere. I feel that because this is a critical situation, people are really searching for

possible ways of avoiding violence and bringing people together so that Iíve found them

extremely responsive. When we were here in 1982, we felt there was a real hunger for

communication but still there were also quite a number of people who were saying, ďThings are

really all right. Just have a little patience. Things are okay.Ē This time I find people saying,

ďWhat can I do to bring about change?Ē

 

 

 

MAN: We have the situation of a conflict and a conflict doesnít arise from nowhere and in each

situation where you deal with a conflict you have to come to an understanding of where the

conflict arises from in whatever discussion you are coming to. And Iíd like to ask where you see

conflict in the situation in South Africa coming from directly.

 

 

ROGERS: I feel that often it is quite possible to deal with conflict without fully understanding the cause. Certainly here in South Africa the causes go back generations. I donít pretend to have a

complete

understanding of the causes but I can understand the present conflict and the present

feelings and it has been my experience that in dealing with the present conflict, it is possible to

bring about a degree of reconciliation even though one doesnít pretend to fully understand all

of the causes because I think those are extremely complex.

 

 

SANFORD: I think itís not so much the cause of the conflict. Itís what people are willing to do

about it in terms of trying to understand themselves and their part in it. Iíve been much interested in

the preconditions for change. If we can find a pattern in individuals or in groups, what is it that

precipitates a change of attitude, a willingness to look at alternatives in a person or in a group

when the group develops a kind of organismic quality of its own? And the thing which seems

to be emerging at this point in my examination of that question is a crisis. Itís usually a crisis.

A person reaches a point in his/her life which is untenable. A person says,, ďI canít stand this.

Iíve got to do something about it even if itís worse than this but Iíve got to try something.Ē And

when that position, a crisis, is reached then usually some real change takes place and I think a

part of my feeling right now is that there is a critical situation in South Africa. I have talked

with no one and my experience has been limited, I know, not truly representative of the whole

population, only little samples here and there, but I have yet heard a person who has not felt

that South Africa is in a point of crisis and if this be true, what Iíve observed in individuals and

in groups, then it would seem to me that itís not only a crisis but itís an opportunity. It can be a

foreshadowing of some kind of shift or change which perhaps no one at this point can be quite

aware of anymore than an individual can be aware of what will happen when she decides that a

change is essential.

 

MAN: Dr. Rogers, I would like to ask you - one of the previous speakers referred to our wonderful

history in South Africa and I think this is precisely one of the things about which Iím quite

pessimistic and I wonder if whether you would be prepared to comment on the weight of the

historical structures of South Africa as opposed to something of the more individual level which

youíre trying to cope with and Iím talking about these historical structures which are constantly

reinforcing certain attitudes that

 

 

ROGERS: There is a good deal of conversation in our groups about whether structures had to be

changed or whether individual change was sufficient. I donít think itís an either or. I think that as

individuals change they tend to change structures or as structures change, they can change

individuals. That for me was a somewhat new learning in our country. When the civil rights

laws were passed for example, people in the southern part of our country who had said, ďNo

black will ever enter this university,Ē all their attitudes changed. They were changed partly

because of changes in the law. On the other hand, an example on the opposite side is that

when we were in the midst of the Vietnam War it was grass roots public opinion that forced

the change of policies and structures and behaviors on the part of governmental leaders. So

that I think change can come about in either fashion and I think that perhaps we make a

mistake to separate too sharply individuals and structures.

 

 

SANFORD: I would just like to take a step back to that situation in the United States which for the

whole period of the south it was impossible for a black person to do many things; attending a

university was only one. But in that particular situation Governor Wallace, with a long

tradition of very strong belief in his position that there had to be absolute separation in

education and many other ways and it was not until the Attorney General of the United

States, with Bobby Kennedy and then later Jack Kennedy, who was the President at that time,

followed up by putting his own personal weight behind that decision that a black man should

be permitted to enroll in a university, so it seems to me that there was on the one hand a shift

in legislation but there was also the willingness of some person in a position of power who

was willing to stand behind that change. And then Governor Wallace a short time later said,

ďI will put my body in the way. I will not let this person in.Ē He was that strong and a short

time later, he was acknowledging the open door in the university and in many other parts of

the life of his fate so it seems to me that what Carl has said is very important. Change in

structure, legislation, whatever, is one but itís also a person with some influence, some power,

some acceptance who is willing to put his power, his political position, his whatever he has to

offer, on the line though its both personal and structural.

 

 

MAN: Dr. Rogers, a thing that worries me deeply about the conflict in South Africa is the fact that

the crisis which can make us change when we perceive it is perceived by so very few people

and it is only those who perhaps live under conditions of oppression or those who live within

earshot of the gunfire in townships who, actually could see that crisis and who may be

willing to come to discussion groups such as you are trying to help us set up here. How

do we get through to the people who havenít perceived their crisis yet?

 

 

ROGERS: We have seen a selective group and I am not sure that I know an answer to your

question. I know in one of our groups one of the white members became quite angry and

then the next day he realized ďwhy was I angry? I was angry because I was being forced

to face facts which I have tried to avoid for a long, long time.Ē I feel that there is no

doubt, although I havenít met a large number of those people, that you are correct in

saying that many people in this country are really unaware of the crisis and I am sorry to

see the single voice of radio and television and so on. I deplore the fact that you donít

have a more varied press so that your population would really know what is going on. I

sometimes still feel that perhaps we know more in the United States about whatís going

on in South Africa than most South Africans know.

 

 

 

SANFORD:†† And I think itís one thing and this is a dilemma. I think this is a real problem and a

real question in my mind. Itís very difficult to answer some of these questions when I know

very well that the people who we are meeting are people who are already somewhat

aware and I guess I have to say I really donít know how to reach people who are not

concerned or not aware of probably their own deeper feelings and I guess thatís

something that people in South Africa are going to have to work out.

 

 

ROGERS:†††† Perhaps a meeting like this is a small step in that direction.

 

WOMAN:††† Dr. Rogers and is it Mrs. Sanford? I have a problem. We live in Bishops Court and

Bishop Lane andwe are particularly so far removed from each other that all the idealism of

facilitative groups and working in an environment where there is empathy and understanding is not

what I need now and my feelings has been with that especially white people have used your therapy

to tell me that they [hear] me and understand me and they damn well not going to do anything else

about it. Theyíve created most of my environment for me. Iíve been discriminated against from

birth and the person in all spheres, education, politics, economics. Now I must speak on an equal

level. Itís unrealistic. Iím very pessimistic about it, especially when I speak to the young people in

high school. Theyíve gone way beyond negotiation or any attempts to understand or want to be

involved with. Apartheid and group areas has been very successful. Iím not sure that

within my lifetime we are going to eradicate any of this. Thank you.

 

 

SANFORD:†† That was a part of my concern. An invitation to speak is one thing but are there

channels by which you can speak to the people to whom you want to speak? After being silent for

so long, is it possible to speak up immediately and take those positions in places which

you feel matter?

 

 

ROGERS:††† I can understand your pessimism and your feeling that it is too late and you could be

right. I just know that as Ruth said earlier, my efforts are going to be on the side of hope but I

am well aware, certainly not completely aware, but well aware of the many, many

complexities in this situation of how far it has gone in many ways, yet Iíll express the voice

of hope. On the other side of the coin that you represent and I really feel very deeply for

the group that youíre speaking for. On the other side of that is the possibility here, this is a

highly diversified society, if by any miracle, you are able to make it to a democratic kind of

understanding of one another and where people really can participate in their own future

and in decision making, itíll be an incredible achievement and an incredible lesson to the

world. You have a much more pluralistic society than my own in my country and we have

our own difficulties and I really do recognize some of the incredible complexities here.

Yet, the amount of goodwill here is also tremendous. That keeps impressing me. People

who have been oppressed, who have every reason to be angry. Thatís one thing about

Jane, the white woman I was talking about. She said, ďIf I had been oppressed the way

you have, I would be much more angry and much more violent than you people have

been.Ē Another man said that as he runs around the block and meets a lot of the blacks

going to work the refrain that goes through his mind is, ďThank God they are a forgiving

race.Ē And at any rate, what I want to say is that there is enormous reservoir of goodwill in

various races and classifications and so on and perhaps that can win out but I know itís a

slim chance and thatís one reason why itís such an incredible time to be here because I feel

the country is teetering on the brink and it may make it and it may not.

 

 

SANFORD: I would like to respond to the young woman who spoke. I heard you speaking perhaps

for a group and some neighborhoods but I heard you speaking for yourself and I want to say to you

that I have just seen you take one of those steps in making yourself as a part of that group heard

and I have respect and admiration for your standing up and saying it.

 

 

MAN: Having been in this country for ten generations, I would like to address this gentleman. I

would like to say I understand his fears having grown up in that environment. I also want to

mention that since my work for many years has been exactly that of promoting communication

between conflicting groups, Iíve come to learn through communication that Iím closer to many

people if I may use them to refer to, people from the larger numbers, Mangosuthu Butalezi, Winnie

Mandela, Nelson Mandela. Iíve learned that Iím closer to them than to many people who are

supposed to be close to me because of the color of their skin. Iíve also learned that I can trust in

these people more to protect those things of value for me which for me is not my white skin or

white heritage. I also would like to mention this process of communication I highly commend. I

share the concerns, and apprehension of those who feel that it is too late. I do not believe it can ever

be too late. I do not believe that communication, the kind of thing with which we are concerned

here in this course is an alternative for other measures. I see it is complimentary to whatever other

actions we take to promote a better society. What Iíve found is that communication is the essential

process to bring an end to conflict and if I put it in simple terms, every war comes to an end

through communication. So, therefore, itís never too late. The more the violence, the more the

oppression, the more the need for communication to assist in the process of bringing that

violence to an end with a minimum or a reduction of violence. So, therefore, if I may speak

from my learned experience and from what Iíve learned from people like Carl Rogers, we can

never have enough of this exercise and this training if we want to build a better society.

 

 

 

 

 

MAN: Dr. Rogers, I wonder if I could make a comment. Iím sad to say that I think weíve missed

the boat entirely tonight. The issue was raised earlier as to whether changes initiated from an

individual basis or whether it comes from a more structural basis, be it legislation or

organizational or institutional change. And the ingredient that was missing which was pointed

by Dr. Sanford was certainly one of power. The issue is much more I think where the power

base lies far more than small, interpersonal negotiations. The example quoted from the United

States was when the President himself actually had the power to back new legislation and if the

power doesnít lie in the hands of the people wishing to encourage change then where does our

resort lie? If the African National Congress remain a banned party, detention without trial

exists and other repressive legislation in this country. The question is surely a question of

where the power base lies far more than small negotiations where we hope to find out how the

other person feels if we donít have that power to actually change anything.

 

 

SANFORD:†††† I think itís true that sitting down and talking, trying to establish deeper and clearer

communication requires that both people who are facing difference need to be willing to sit

down and listen and if that doesnít exist, your true thereís a block there.

 

 

 

 

ROGERS:††††† I was interested that you referred to one example that was given and not to the other.

You may recall that the Vietnam War in the United States came to an end primarily because of

grass roots protest. It was not that someone in power was opposed to it, it was that there was an

enormous tidal wave of grass roots protest and it seems to me thatís possible in this country as

well. It is something that is very hard to disregard.

 

 

MAN: Could I briefly respond? I was a little depressed that all of the intergroup negotiations we

discussed tonight were on a racial basis or on a group basis. Nobody seems to have explained

the idea that perhaps the war in South Africa is a class war and so the analogy of the Vietnam

situation is not quite applicable here because in South Africa we have a class who owned the

world, who owned the means of economic production and hence can be summarized as the haves.

And the have-nots do not have the power and so that analogy of the Vietnam War is not

applicable here because how do we know that those who are in the elite class economically and

politically speaking are prepared to negotiate with the majority class that do not possess the

economic elementary power?

 

 

 

 

ROGERS:††††† I can understand that. I feel that the question of whether the powers that be are

actually willing to negotiate will be tested by time. Thatís why I have some skepticism as you did

but I feel that if the Presidentís message is truly meant and implemented then that might help to

bring about the exchange of views which really might result in a differential use of power.

 

 

SANFORD:†††† I think one of the things that I heard in Carlís illustration of the Vietnam War was

that if a person, and this was the President of the United States and the legislative body of the

United States, if they were concerned about keeping their power and the groundswell was as great

as it was, then it was important that they listen. I donít know whether thatís applicable here or not

but I think that was the point that I got from the groundswell of communication, from people

from all groups in the United States that really brought the war to an end.

 

 

WOMAN:†† Dr. Rogers there was something I, well, two issues that I see to highlight and the one is

prejudice, many times when Iíve been in the States and got into conversations and discussions there

has been the example of what has happened in the United States and compared to here and I donít

think itís a comparable situation. I have a sense that what creates a stalemate in this country is fear

and itís the fear of identity and To pick up perhaps on the first speaker question of numbers is that

there is a fear that the white identity and thatís split into many cautions but just taking it as one

more whole would be entirely lost. So itís not only a prejudice, itís that if I get through the

prejudice, I who I am and what I feel myself to be deeply will be lost. I have a sense of compassion

for people who are trying to also protect that and there should be a right for both sides and Iíd

really like to hear what you have to say on that.

 

 

ROGERS:†††† I think the part I would like to comment on is the part dealing with attitudes in the

United States. I know that many people in the United States feel a strongly negative, judgmental

attitude toward South Africa. My own feeling is that if they could only visit here and recognize

some of the complexities, they would more patient, more understanding. I feel that this is not a

simple problem. There is no simple solution and I regret that many people outside of this country

simply take a black and white (excuse the pun), simply take a judgmental stand without any

consideration for the complexities. As the other, there certainly is much to be said on both

sides. I think that I would just say that the longer the struggle goes on, the more risk there is

that the whites would lose all. If they can only negotiate now, then I think there is real hope

that they would definitely preserve their identity but if the struggle goes on too long, that might

not be the case. That will be my comment.

 

 

 

 

 

MAN: Dr. Rogers, deep down I believe that South Africa is a country with and we hope that they

would look not as white and as black but as people, but unfortunately as many members of the

community which I come from believe, that because a white racist regime has existed for such a

long time, it means that the majority of white people have defined themselves as part of the

problem but we can overcome that problem as was mentioned, I think by

Dr. van der Merwe. It is communication. But what of communication? Deep down I think that as

human beings we have enough life and love in

us, the type of love which is the supreme unifying

principle of life and then to develop that type of unity has got to be free from any prejudice, mistrust or suspicion. Now how to nurture that?

 

From my own experience, what I try to do is that I acknowledge the fact that I canít change the

world but if I can attempt to train my own world, my own thinking, I think that is a starting

point. So that the youth in terms of education as mentioned by the speaker on the left, if we

give them all the hope, rather than despair and darkness, we will slowly move in the right direction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROGERS:††††† Thank you for that very good statement. I think Iíll just make one closing comment and that is that I think it was well expressed by Professor van der Merwe

that what hope there is in a situation like this lies in communication, and

violence, no matter how seemingly sensible it is, must end in communication, must end in

dialogue and the hope of the situation is that perhaps that dialogue can be sooner rather than

later and thatís why I find this a terribly significant moment in South African history and I

hope with all my heart that there can be a coming together which will avoid the explosion that

a lot of people fear.